Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009

Herbal Meds

Losing a job often means losing health care. But Americans are still trying to stay healthy, self-medicating with vitamins and herbal supplements, according to a government survey released last month. Such alternative meds are popular, in part, because they are usually cheaper than prescriptions medications. But there's also a cultural shift at work. "The [American] mindset has become more about staying fit," says Joe Fortunato, CEO of nutritional-supplement retailer GNC. "We exercise; we eat right; we take supplements. It's all a regimen that [customers] believe in," he says.

And it's not just your everyday vitamins that are selling well. Shoppers are looking for what Fortunato calls "specialty items" — higher grade fish oils, fiber supplements, multivitamins and cleansing products, also known as laxatives. Overall, the $21 billion the herbal supplement industry shows no signs of decline in this recession.

Read "The Year in Medicine 2008: From A to Z."

See pictures of spiritual healing around the world.