Popular Herbs in the United States

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Nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States report taking an herbal supplement. A survey identified the most commonly used herbs and the percent of the adult population that uses them, based on estimates from the 2012 National Health Interview Study:

  1. Echinacea - 17.3%
  2. Ginseng - 11.9%
  3. Gingko biloba - 10.6%
  4. Garlic supplement - 11.7%
  5. St. John's Wort - 3.3%
  6. Flaxseed oil/pills - 15.7%
  7. Ginger supplement - 3.0%
  8. Soy - 4.9%
  9. Cranberry supplement - 5.6%
  10. Kava kava - 13%

Other research has identified the most commonly used supplements among certain sub-groups:

  • An intake survey of 146 hepatocellular carcinoma patients conducted between 2008 and 2012 revealed that 71% had used vitamins and 45% had used supplements. The most commonly used supplements were antioxidants (51%), multivitamins (46%), vitamin D (25%), and milk thistle (23%). Hepatitis C patients were more likely to use milk thistle and people with hepatitis B were more likely to use vitamin C.
  • A study examining the results from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey found that children in the United States appear to use herbs or dietary supplements at a much lower rate than adults. Echinacea and fish oil were the most commonly used herbs and supplements among children.
  • A survey of adult dental patients at a dental school clinic in the United States found that out of 1,240 participants, 12.6% reported using one or more herbal products, with the top five used being green tea, garlic, echinacea, ginkgo biloba, and ginseng. 
  • A 2014 review examined herbal product use by older adults and found that the most commonly used herbs were ginkgo biloba, garlic, ginseng, aloe vera, chamomile, spearmint, and ginger. Gingko biloba and garlic were the most commonly used among community-dwelling older adults.
  • A literature review of supplements used in dermatology (using the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey) found that the most popular supplements were fish oil, glucosamine, glucosamine chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids.

A Word From Verywell

It's crucial to talk with your doctor before trying any form of alternative medicine. Many popular herbs and supplements can interact with prescription and non-prescription medications and have other potential adverse effects. Yet according to a study published in the American Journal of Medical Sciences, 47.6% of people who use complementary and alternative medicine did so without informing their doctors.

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