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Certain natural supplements have been proven to have benefits and effects that are as powerful as pharmaceuticals. We take a look at four of them here.

Most supplements haven’t been proven to be effective, and some may not benefit you at all. Still, there are exceptions. In fact, some supplements are comparable to pharmaceutical drugs.

Here are 4 natural, health-boosting supplements that are as powerful as drugs.

Berberine is a bioactive substance extracted from certain plants.

It isn’t well known but may be one of the most powerful supplements on Earth.

It provides various health benefits but is particularly effective at lowering blood sugar levels (1).

These effects are thought to be due to numerous mechanisms. In particular, berberine is believed to reduce glucose production in your liver and improve insulin sensitivity (2).

Studies show that taking berberine can lower blood sugar levels to a similar extent as the popular diabetes drug metformin (3).

In a study in 116 people with type 2 diabetes, the substance reduced fasting blood sugar levels by 20% and HbA1c (a marker for long-term blood sugar levels) by 12% (4).

Berberine is also very effective at improving other health markers.

It lowers triglyceride and blood pressure levels, as well as total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, which may reduce your risk of heart disease (1, 5, 6).

Berberine has also been shown to have positive effects in the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and may protect against inflammation and cancer. However, its effects are still being studied and it has a low absorption and bio distribution compared to pharmaceutical drugs. (2, 7).

If you want to give berberine a try, you can find it in health stores and online.

However, keep in mind that this substance is very powerful and has a range of biological effects, including gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea (8).

Use it with caution and consult your healthcare provider — especially if you’re currently taking any other medications.

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Turmeric is a popular spice known for giving curry its yellow color.

It has been used as a medicinal herb in India for thousands of years.

Turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful substance that has been studied thoroughly in recent years (9).

Curcumin fights inflammation at the molecular level by blocking an inflammatory signalling molecule called NF-kB (10, 11).

It’s so effective that it has been compared to anti-inflammatory drugs in some older studies — without any major side effects (12, 13).

For example, in a study in 45 people with rheumatoid arthritis, 500 mg of curcumin per day was more effective than the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac (14).

Curcumin also has numerous other health benefits. It’s a powerful antioxidant, can improve heart health, and may help prevent cancer (15, 16, 17).

According to one study, curcumin may also help fight depression. In fact, the results of this study found that curcumin performed as well as the antidepressant drug prozac (18).

However, some studies have found that excessive amounts of curcumin may lead to adverse effects on the kidneys, heart, liver, blood and immune system (19).

Nevertheless, curcumin is poorly absorbed, so it’s best to get a supplement that also contains piperine/bioperine, which has been shown to enhance its absorption by 2,000% (20).

These supplements are widely available in health stores and online.

Statin drugs are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the world.

They inhibit the production of cholesterol in your liver, leading to significantly reduced blood cholesterol levels.

Interestingly, an extract of a type of fermented rice called red yeast rice may have similar effects.

It contains small amounts of monacolin K, which is the active ingredient in the statin drug Lovastatin (21).

According to a review of 15 randomized clinical trials, red yeast rice was found more effective than a statin in lowering triglycerides and comparable in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and elevating HDL (good) cholesterol, though it was less effective in lowering total cholesterol count (22).

What’s more, in an older study in 5,000 people in China who had experienced heart attacks, red yeast rice reduced the risk of subsequent heart attacks by 45% and the risk of dying during the study period by 33% (23).

Still, the amount of the active ingredient in supplements can vary up to 100-fold depending on the brand (24).

Due to the potency of monacolin K, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled that red yeast rice products containing this substance should be considered a drug rather than a supplement (25).

Some manufacturers try to evade these regulations by selling red yeast rice supplements that only contain trace amounts of monacolin K.

Therefore, these products may not offer the same benefits as true red yeast rice.

For this reason — and due to potential side effects — you should ask your healthcare provider to help you find a high-quality supplement from a reputable manufacturer.

Garlic is a popular ingredient in cuisines worldwide, but it has also been used as a medicinal plant for thousands of years, including by the Greeks and Romans (26).

The main effects of garlic are due to one of its active compounds, allicin, which is highly beneficial for heart health (27).

Studies show that garlic can lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 10–15%, on average (28, 29, 30).

Even more importantly, aged garlic extract can significantly lower blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, and early death (31, 32).

In people with elevated levels, garlic can lower systolic blood pressure (the top number in a reading) by 8.32±1.93 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) by 5.48±1.92 mm Hg, on average (33).

In one study in 210 people with high blood pressure, garlic tablets were even more effective than the blood-pressure-lowering drug atenolol (34).

Garlic also appears to boost immune function and fight the common cold.

In one study, it was found that supplementing with aged garlic reduces the severity of cold symptoms (35).

You can buy garlic supplements in stores and online. Supplements containing aged garlic extract are available as well.

Supplements, no matter how effective, can never replace a healthy lifestyle with real food, exercise, and good sleep.

That said, the above supplements may aid people who want a natural health boost.

Keep in mind that these supplements are incredibly powerful and should be consumed carefully. Consult with your healthcare provider before trying these substances.