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Related TermsGeneral Well-being
Principal Proposed Natural Treatments
Other Proposed Treatments
Ashwagandha ; Astragalus ; Eleutherococcus ; Garlic ; Maitake ;"Natural" Thyroid Hormone (T3); Reishi ; Rhodiola rosacea ; Schisandra ;Shiitake; Spirulina ; Suma ; Various Alternative Therapies ; Vitamin B12 ; Yoga
Probably Not Effective Treatments
It is one of the cardinal principles of natural medicine that treatment should aim not only to treat illness but also to enhance wellness. According to this ideal, a proper course of treatment should improve your sense of general well-being, enhance your immunity to illness, raise your physical stamina, and increase mental alertness, as well as resolve the specific condition you took it for.
Unfortunately, while there can be little doubt that this is a laudable goal, it is easier to laud it than to achieve it. Conventional medicine tends to focus on treating diseases rather than increasing wellness, not as a matter of philosophical principle, but because it is easier to accomplish.
Probably the strongest force affecting wellness is genetics. Beyond that, common sense steps endorsed by all physicians include increasing exercise, reducing stress, improving diet, getting enough sleep, and living a life of moderation without bad habits, such as smoking or overeating.
Beyond this, however, it is difficult to make strong affirmations, and the optimum forms of diet and exercise and other aspects of lifestyle remain unclear. In fact, they may always remain unclear, as it is impossible to perform double-blind, placebo-controlled studies on most lifestyle habits. (For information on why such studies are irreplaceable see "Why Does This Database Depend on Double-blind Studies?")
In order to function at our best, we need good nutrition. However, the modern diet often fails to provide people with sufficient amounts of all the necessary nutrients. For this reason, use of a multivitamin/multimineral supplement might be expected to enhance overall health and well-being, and preliminary double-blind trials generally support this view.
For example, in one double-blind study, 80 healthy men between the ages of 18 and 42 were given either a multivitamin/mineral supplement or placebo and followed for 28 days.1 The results showed that use of the nutritional supplement improved several measures of well-being.
Furthermore, several, although not all, studies have found that multivitamin/multimineral supplements can improve immunity in older people.3-9General nutritional supplements may also help improve response to stress.10
For more information, see the article on General Nutritional Support.
The herb Panax ginseng has an ancient reputation as a healthful “tonic.” According to a more modern concept developed in the former USSR, ginseng functions as an “adaptogen.”
This term is defined as follows: An adaptogen helps the body adapt to stresses of various kinds, whether heat, cold, exertion, trauma, sleep deprivation, toxic exposure, radiation, infection, or psychologic stress. In addition, an adaptogen causes no side effects, is effective in treating a wide variety of illnesses, and helps return an organism toward balance no matter what may have gone wrong.
From a modern scientific perspective, it is not truly clear that such things as adaptogens actually exist. However, there is some evidence that ginseng may satisfy some of the definition’s requirements.
Several studies have found that ginseng can improve the overall sense of well-being. For example, such benefits were seen in a 12-week, double-blind trial that evaluated the effects of Panax ginsengextract in 625 people.11 The average age of participants was just under 40 years old. Each participant received a multivitamin supplement daily, but for one set of participants, the multivitamin also contained ginseng. Level of well-being was measured by a set of 11 questions. The results showed that people taking the ginseng-containing supplement reported significant improvement compared to those taking the supplement without ginseng.
Similarly positive findings were reported in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 36 people newly diagnosed with diabetes.12 After 8 weeks, participants who had been taking 200 mg of ginseng daily reported improvements in mood, well-being, vigor, and psychophysical performance that were significant compared to the reports of control participants.
A 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 120 people found that ginseng improved general well-being among women age 30-60 years old and men age 40-60 years old, but not among men age 30-39 years old.13 This finding is possibly consistent with the traditional theory that ginseng is more effective for older people.
Other results suggest this as well: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 30 young people found marginal benefits at most,14and a 60-day, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 83 adults in their mid-20s found no effect.15
In addition, ginseng has also shown some potential for enhancing immunity, mental function, and sports performance, all effects consistent with the adaptogen concept. For more information on these possibilities, as well as dosage and safety issues, see the full Ginseng article .
Last reviewedAugust 2013by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.