Safe Natural Enhancements

Herb-packed products promising everything from bigger muscles to larger breasts have flooded the market. But do they work?

| January/February 1999

  • Illustrations by Bill Zaun

All you want to do is to look better. But when you decide to try products whose names imply that they’ll help you slim down, bulk up, or look younger, you get frustrated. You don’t understand the terms, and the labels tell you very little. Do you choose blindly? Do you use the products at all?

When marketed on their own, either as single herbs or in broad-spectrum formulas, herbal body-enhancing products are purported to burn fat, build muscle, improve fat metabolism, increase breast size, or all of the above. In some cases, herbs are included in formulas as supporters of nonherbal supplements such as creatine, chromium, pyruvate, and amino acids.

But if you read books by herbalists, you’ll find evidence of a different philosophy. Muscle-building and bust enhancement are generally overshadowed by topics such as boosting immunity or cleansing and supporting the liver.

So what’s up? Can herbs help you get a better body? Some herb experts think not—at least not herbs alone. This is partly because using herbs for targeted figure enhancement is a tiny slice in the herbal history timeline.

“I don’t know of a single herb for gaining or losing weight that has a solid traditional use,” says Steven Dentali, a natural products consultant with a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences. “The use of weight-loss and weight-gain products is pretty much wishful thinking and is ­market-driven. I think that these are all relatively minor aids compared to what you create through your lifestyle.”

Most herbalists and naturopaths approach body composition from a more holistic perspective, says Chanchal Cabrera, a medical herbalist who practices in Vancouver, British Columbia. An herbalist considers overall lifestyle, rather than offering a product specifically to help a client gain or lose weight, she says.

7/29/2016 3:08:30 AM

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