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5 “Natural Cures” That are a Waste of Money

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Perhaps because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are taking more supplements than ever, often seeking relief from a health condition. Unfortunately, science doesn’t back up the heady claims (and internet rumors) surrounding many supplements, which are alleged to cure everything from common colds to COVID-19. These “natural cures” are a waste of money—and some are actually dangerous. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.

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Echinacea

This herb has long been touted as an immunity booster and cold-shortener. But the science doesn’t support the hype. “Reviews of research have found limited evidence that some echinacea preparations may be useful for treating colds in adults, while other preparations did not seem to be helpful,” says the National Center for Integrative and Complementary Medicine. “In addition, echinacea has not been shown to reduce the number of colds that adults catch.” Some studies have found echinacea has a modest benefit for cold symptoms; other studies found no benefit.

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Biotin

If you’re balding, chances are you’ve heard of biotin, which is in many supplements that claim to help restore hair. Unfortunately, it’s a bunch of bunk. There’s no evidence that biotin can reverse hair loss. “While signs of biotin deficiency include hair loss, skin rashes, and brittle nails, the efficacy of biotin in supplements for hair, skin, and nails as a means to remedy these conditions is not supported in large-scale studies,” said researchers who reviewed more than 100 studies on vitamins and hair loss and published their findings in a 2019 issue of Dermatology and Therapy. If you still figure “taking it can’t hurt,” limit your dosage: Another study found that taking large amounts of biotin (5mg to 10mg daily) can raise the risk of lung cancer in men. 

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Multivitamins

Experts from Johns Hopkins say it right there in the title of a bombshell editorial they published in 2014: “Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.” The researchers analyzed studies involving almost half a million people and determined that taking multivitamins doesn’t lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline, or early death. Their advice: Don’t rely on pills for essential nutrients; get your vitamins and minerals from food.

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Kava

Kava is an herb often used for anxiety and insomnia, among other conditions. Some studies show it may help alleviate anxiety, but the data is far from conclusive. What’s worse: Kava can cause severe liver damage, and the FDA has issued a warning against its use. “Kava, which people have taken to help them with sleep, can cause liver failure,” Kathryn Boling, MD, a family medicine doctor with Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, told ETNT Health. “I tell patients it’s not safe to take orally.”

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Elderberry

Elderberry is in a number of popular syrups and supplements that claim to boost the immune system and clear up colds and flu. Rumors even spread online that it could cure COVID-19. (To get that out of the way: It can’t.) And the data on elderberry’s effect on immunity is mixed. One study found it may shorten the duration of the flu by four days. But a 2020 study at the Cleveland Clinic found no difference in the severity or duration of flu symptoms between a group that took elderberry and one that took a placebo.

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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