Maca Root Powder

NYBC recently decided to stock this form of the traditional botanical, which has a long history of use and some newer research as well to support its use. Below is our take on MACA (excerpted from our catalog description).

Read more, and purchase from the buyers’ co-op, at


Royal Maca (Whole World Botanicals) Each bottle, 180 maca root gelatinized capsules. Each capsule, 500 mg Royal Maca Root Extract along with 2.49 mcg of selenium. This is certified organic by BIO LATINA in Lima, Peru, which so far as we have reviewed here at NYBC appears to be a legitimate certification institution for organic products from this region.

Whole World Botanicals obtains its root from a farm in the high Central Sierra of Peru. Maca, from the root of Lepidium peruvianum / meyenii, has a nutty, malty flavor and is used in traditional medicine to address hormonal imbalances in both women and men. Consider it for managing PMS or menopausal symptoms, for low energy related to hypothyroidism (low function) and may help improve bone strength. Men also use it for libido, erectile function, mood, mental clarity, focus and energy (especially over age 40).

This product is a fair trade product, according to the manufacturer, however it is not labeled as such (yet).

Suggested use varies. For men, 2-6 capsules every day or every other day. For women, if young and peri-menopausal, 2 caps daily. If needed, increase to 3 caps per day in the second month. For women who are not menstruating, 2-3 caps per day for hot flashes is suggested. Evaluate after 5 days and increase by 1-2 caps per day every five days until symptoms are 80% better. Do NOT take with estrogen or estrogenic herbs (may increase hot flash symptoms!). Also do not take with estrogen or if you have any hormone-related cancer.

NEW! Managing and Preventing HIV Med Side-Effects

To mark its fifth anniversary, the New York Buyers’ Club has prepared a special edition of SUPPLEMENT. In it you will find a concise Guide to managing and preventing HIV medication side effects with supplements and other complementary and alternative therapies.

This is an invaluable introduction to how nutritional supplements can be used to counter those side effects that can make life miserable–or even disrupt treatment adherence–in people taking antiretroviral medications for HIV.

Read about approaches to dealing with diarrhea, nausea, heart health issues, diabetes, insomnia, fatigue, liver stress, lipodystrophy, anxiety and depression.

This FREE Guide is available online at:

On the NYBC website you can also SUBSCRIBE to the nonprofit co-op’s quarterly FREE newsletter, THE SUPPLEMENT, which continues to offer a unique perspective on current evidence-based use of supplements for chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes/insulin resistance, hepatitis and other liver conditions, anxiety/depression, osteoarthritis, cognitive and neurorological issues, and gastrointestinal dysfunction.

Supplements for Depression: Updated Info Sheet from NYBC

We’ve updated our info sheet on Supplements for Depression, reflecting some additional supporting evidence that has accumulated for these applications, plus new references. See for detailed product information.

In recent years there’s been a lot of well-designed scientific research about the effectiveness of dietary supplements for depression. The supplements studied have ranged from the herb St. John’s Wort, which has a long tradition of use, to molecules like SAMe, L-Tryptophan, and 5-HTP, which play a role in the body’s production of neurotransmitters (such as serotonin) connected with mood and cognitive function. Other developments in depression research involve the steroid DHEA and fish oil.

DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone). In a study sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, DHEA was found to be an effective therapy for mild to moderate or severe midlife depression, on a par with some prescription drug treatments. Moreover, the NIMH research showed that taking DHEA promoted both a significant lifting of depressive symptoms and an improvement in sexual functioning. (On the other hand, inhibition of sexual function remains one of the chief troublesome side effects of prescription anti-depressants). Note that dosing recommendations vary for men versus women, and DHEA is not recommended for those diagnosed with prostate problems or cancer.

SAMe (S-adenosyl-l-methionine). First studied by Italian researchers in the 1950s, SAMe is produced naturally in the body from the amino acid methionine. Supplementing with SAMe increases concentrations of the neurotransmitters serotonin and L-dopamine, which are related to mood. Several studies show SAMe having an anti-depressant effect comparable to that of some prescription drugs. A dose of 400-800mg/day has been studied for mild to moderate depression, and 800-1600mg/day for the moderate to severe condition. As of 2007, SAMe was being compared with the prescription drug Lexapro® in a 5-year NIH-funded study. SAMe generally has fewer side effects than prescription anti-depressants. However, it should be avoided in people with bipolar disorder, and should be used cautiously with other anti-depressants, because the combination may push serotonin levels too high. Taking a B-complex vitamin while using SAMe can counter build up of homocysteine, which is associated with heart disease. (It’s best to take them separately.) SAMe also supports joint health and liver function, so may have positive effects for overall health if taken over the long term.

St. John’s Wort is a widely used herb with clinically demonstrated (multiple, well-controlled studies, mostly in Europe) anti-depressant effects for mild to moderate depression – generally without the side effects of prescription antidepressants. High doses of the herb may cause a sensitivity to light (phototoxicity), so avoid direct sunlight or sunbathing while using. Do not take St. John’s Wort with 5-HTP, serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (like Prozac), or with protease inhibitors, as it my affect beneficial liver enzymes. St. John’s Wort may also have activity against Epstein-Barr and herpes infections.

L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP (5-hydroxy L-tryptophan): These closely-related supplements are converted in the body to serotonin and to melatonin. (Specifically, L-Tryptophan converts to 5-HTP, which then converts to serotonin or melatonin.) Their use as antidepressants has been studied, and they have also been found to aid sleep and suppress appetite. (To minimize appetite suppression, try taking the supplement an hour before bedtime.) Mild gastrointestinal side effects have been reported with both. For best absorption, take with water or juice, and separately from protein-containing foods and dietary supplements. Although L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP are close relatives, people may respond somewhat differently to them. Thus, if encountering unwanted side effects or lack of effect from one, it may still be worthwhile to try the other.
The suggested dosage for 5-HTP is wide, ranging from 50 and 500 mg daily. It can be used together with other anti-depressants, in which case an effective dose could be quite low. The best approach is to start at the low end of the range and increase as needed. Like 5-HTP, L-Tryptophan has been used in combination with other anti-depressants, and has also been employed with lithium for bipolar disorder. An added benefit: 5-HTP may also decrease symptoms of fibromyalgia and migraine headaches.

Fish Oil. Epidemiological studies have suggested that populations that eat fish regularly have low rates of depression. More recently, research has found fish oil supplements (omega-3 fatty acids being the significant component) of benefit in treating depression and bipolar disorder. It’s also worth noting that fish oil can be taken with other anti-depressants as an adjunct therapy. Doses found effective in treating depression are quite high, 3 to 9 grams per day, so be aware of potential problems related to the supplement’s blood-thinning properties. Added benefit: as has been widely reported, fish oil can have a beneficial impact on cholesterol regulation and in supporting cardiovascular health.

Christian R. Dolder, “Depression,” in Natural Products: A Case-Based Approach for Health Care Professionals, ed. Karen Shapiro, published by the American Pharmacists Association, Washington, DC (2006), pp. 97-114.
Shaheen E Lakhan and Karen F Vieira. “Nutritional therapies for mental disorders” in Nutrition Journal (2008), 7:2doi:10.1186/1475-2891-7-2. Accessed 10/7/2009 at
Schmidt PJ, et al. “Dehydroepiandrosterone Monotherapy in Midlife-Onset Major and Minor Depression,” Archives of General Psychiatry (February 2005): Vol. 62, No. 2, pp. 154–62.
Hyla Cass, “Prescriptions for Depression,” in Supplement Your Prescription: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutrition. Basic Health Publications (2007), pp. 113-128.

Rhodiola rosea

For a review of the botanical Rhodiola rosea, we recommend “Rhodiola rosea: A Phytomedicinal Overview,” published in HerbalGram 2002;56:40-52 (American Botanical Council).

Known as a medicinal botanical for at least 2000 years, Rhodiola rosea derives from a plant typically found at high elevations in Asia and Europe. Traditionally, the botanical has been used to increase physical endurance, longevity, resistance to altitude sickness, and to treat fatigue, depression, anemia, impotence, and nervous system disorders.

Since the 1960s, Rhodiola rosea has found a place in medical and pharmacological texts, especially in Russia and Scandinavia. It’s described as a stimulant to combat fatigue, a remedy for psychiatric and neurological conditions, and a means to relieve fatigue and to increase attention span, memory, and work capacity in healthy individuals.

The authors of the 2002 Herbalgram review include two practicing M.D.s (Richard P. Brown, Assoc. Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Patricia L. Gerbarg, Assistant Clinical Professor in Psychiatry at New York Medical Center) who have used Rhodiola rosea in treating more than 150 patients with conditions including “depressive syndromes, mental and physical fatigue (secondary to psychiatric and medical conditions), memory loss and cognitive dysfunction from a variety of causes, sexual dysfunction, and menopausal-related disorders.” The authors also advocate additional research to confirm and define the benefits of this botanical for treating depression, disorders of memory and cognition, attention deficit disorder, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disorders (infertility, premenstrual disorder, menopause), sexual dysfunction, and disorders of the stress response system (fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and post traumatic stress disorder). They also note continuing interest in studying the herb’s application to sports performance and aviation and space medicine (enhancing physical and mental performance while reducing stress reactions).

Read the full review at:

See also NYBC’s entry for Rhodiola rosea at

Rosavin (Ameriden)

L-Arginine for sexual function: background and references from Natural Products: A Case-Based Approach for Healthcare Professionals (2006: American Pharmacists’ Association)

The excellent reference work Natural Products: A Case-Based Approach for Healthcare Professionals, Karen Shapiro, ed., published  by the American Pharmacists’ Association in 2006, provides background and references to the scientific literature on the use of L-arginine for erectile dysfunction.

L-arginine, an amino acid required for the synthesis of nitric oxide, has been studied for erectile dysfunction with a dosage of 5g (= 5 x 1000mg) per day. It was also a component in a study of women with decreased libido; dosage in that study was 2.5g (= 2.5 x 1000mg) per day. L-arginine was found to be “well-tolerated” in general, though it has hypotensive (or blood pressure-lowering) effects and should not be used following heart attack.

Citation: “Erectile Dysfunction,” pp. 51-62, in Natural Products: A Case-Based Approach for Healthcare Professionals, Karen Shapiro, ed., (Washington, DC: American Pharmacists’ Association, 2006).