Take that blockbuster botanical, turmeric (Curcuma longa), which was the top-selling herbal dietary supplement in the natural channel for the third year in a row in 2015, logging total sales of more than $37 million and sales growth of over 32.2% vis-à-vis the preceding year, per the American Botanical Council’s (ABC; Austin, TX) annual HerbalGram report of top-selling herbal dietary supplements in the U.S. market.
Prized for the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of its active component curcumin, turmeric and curcumin have been the subject of research into their potency in relieving everything from rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease to neurodegenerative disorders. Brien Quirk, director of R&D, Draco Natural Products (San Jose, CA), adds that the botanical may also play a role in sports nutrition, “as animal studies have found that curcumin can increase the production of the mitochondrial ‘energy power plants’ of muscle cells.”
Also attracting attention is ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), which “is becoming one of the fastest-growing products in the brain health category,” says Deanne Dolnick, science director, TR Nutritionals (Alpharetta, GA), as “early research shows that it may improve brain function and memory.” Ayurvedic practitioners regularly deploy ashwagandha against inflammation, stress, fatigue, and immune issues.
An eight-week randomized controlled trial published in December 2015 found that an ashwagandha root extract increased strength and muscle mass in 57 males undergoing resistance training, notes ABC’s HerbalGram report. Trikha says that Natreon is already conducting new studies on the role its branded ashwagandha ingredient may play in sports nutrition. No wonder ashwagandha had the highest percentage growth in the natural channel—40.9% from 2014 to 2015—according to HerbalGram.
Shaheen Majeed, president, Sabinsa Worldwide (East Windsor, NJ), notes that the seeds of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum) have not only long been used in kitchens as culinary ingredients, but in Ayurvedic medicine in the management of diabetes, as well. “Apart from blood sugar management,” he adds, “fenugreek seeds are also known to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, enhance breastmilk production in nursing mothers, aid digestion, help with weight loss, and more.”
And don’t forget boswellia (Boswellia serrata). Though ranking only 39th on HerbalGram’s most recent list of top-selling herbal supplements in the mainstream channel, boswellia saw a whopping 673% leap in sales in that channel from 2014 to 2015. Long an Ayurvedic anti-inflammatory in its resin form, the ingredient today appears in supplements aimed at inflammation and shows promise in preparations studied for their effects on osteoarthritis, asthma, and inflammation of the colon, or colitis, per HerbalGram.