Although antioxidants are found in many foods, the difficulty of consuming sufficient amounts in the diet alone often leads people to increase their antioxidant intake. Herbal supplements can provide a variety of antioxidants which target cells and bodily systems, protecting them from free radicals. Many herbal antioxidant tablets contain a combination of herbs thought to act synergistically to guard the body from free radical damage. It is believed that herbal antioxidants may help prevent diseases — including cardiovascular disease, cancer and many chronic conditions that accompany aging — by scavenging for and neutralizing free radicals before they can damage cells.
Animal studies have shown that the polyphenols in green tea may guard against the effects of radiation and help alleviate some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Polyphenols are antioxidant-rich components found in green tea, a beverage that has been consumed since ancient times. The antioxidants are believed to repair damage to the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) caused by sources of radiation including solar radiation. This may confer protection from skin cancer caused by the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. The antioxidants in green tea’s polyphenols appear to affect the body’s immune system in both the radiation and arthritis studies.
Bilberry is an herbal antioxidant shown to confer protection to the cardiovascular system and eyes. The antioxidants in this herb prevent damage to the capillary walls, making blood flow more efficiently. Other herbs that have circulatory protective properties include garlic, gingko biloba and grape seed. Their use is thought to strengthen blood vessels, prevent the build up of plaque and protect the heart. In addition to their antioxidant actions, most herbal antioxidants are believed to have other health benefits as well.
The bright yellow spice turmeric contains curcumin, an antioxidant that is believed to have anti-cancer properties as well as cardio-protective benefits. This herbal antioxidant prevents the oxidation of cholesterol, a component of plaque formation in the arteries. It also prevents damage to DNA that might lead to cancer formation. Reishi mushrooms are another herbal antioxidant that might help protect the body from cancer. Gotu kola, ginger and ginseng may also prevent cellular damage that can become cancerous.
Herbal antioxidant tablets frequently contain a combination of herbs that provide a wide-ranging protection. While gingko biloba protects the circulatory system and brain, the antioxidants in milk thistle work primarily to guard the liver from oxidative damage by free radicals. Other herbs defend different areas of the body from oxidative damage. Some antioxidants confer protection against free radical damage to the skin and connective tissues, while others have beneficial effects on the immune system. Whether taken in combination or separately, marketing of herbal antioxidants focuses on their ability to slow the signs of aging and protect the body from chronic diseases.