Herbalgram published 2009 herbal supplement sales, and the industry is going gangbusters, with nearly $250 billion in sales last year.
What’s especially interesting to me is that nearly all the top herbal supplements sold are not herbs. Herbs are leaves. Spices are nearly everything else in a plant (bark, flowers, seeds, root). And plants are food: vegetables, nuts, legumes, fruits.
For the natural foods sellers, the most popular single herbal supplements were aloe, flaxseed oil, wheat grass and barley grass (the latter two are one category, and are the only herbs).
For mass market sellers, the top-selling herbal singles were cranberry, soy, saw palmetto, garlic, and echinacea. None of these are herbs, even as extracted.
I think herbal and dietary supplements can do good, and high quality preparations for memory, weight and immunity can help.
And I also think that food mostly belongs on your plate, as recipes, meals and snacks (putting a snack on a plate makes it feel more substantial, so you eat less and enjoy it more).
If people knew how to cook with cranberry, soy and garlic, or what to do with flaxseed oil other than chug it, they’d be far ahead of the supplement industry. And way ahead on their health.