Yea, yea, hippies suck—but they’re right about one thing: natural supplements. Drugs that can make you bigger, stronger, faster, all in a completely organic way. But walking into your local nature hole these days just ain’t what it used to be. How do you separate the milk thistles from the vita-barley? Hong Kong’s man (or woman) on the move needs a tried-and-tested chart to tackle major problems as they appear. Well thankfully, here it is. Be Happier with Saint John’s Wort What is it? A short yellow flower that grows in the wild, its history dates back over 2,400 years, when Hippocrates himself would prescribe it in ancient Greece. Recent tests have proven it as a more effective antidepressant than the prescription variety, and with fewer side effects. Experts say: “It’s called a happy herb,” says Aman Dhillan of Nature’s Village. “It’s a natural anti-depressant and it improves your mood. That might sometimes be due to the placebo effect, but we have customers who frequently use it.” Tried and tested: The bottle said three times a day, but I started easy with just one. They say it takes four days to take full effect, and it might just be the placebo effect, but after an hour I could swear I started feeling giddier, more alive and less serious about life. Of course, the strange depression I went through that very night might be the counterpoint, but this is still an easy alternative to Prozac. Keep in mind: St. John’s wort is sometimes known to cause dizziness, confusion and tiredness. At its worst, it causes photosensitivity, which produces free radicals that can eventually lead to cataracts. But this is very rare. Oh, and there’s that whole fertility issue. Where to get it: $190 for 100 capsules from Nature’s Village. Be Smarter with Ginkgo Biloba What is it? A species of tree that’s been used medicinally for thousands of years. Its compounds are believed to thin blood and improve muscle tone in blood vessels, which enhances blood flow. Experts say: “It won’t make dumb people smarter,” says Johnny Hanson of the American Nutrition Company. “It increases circulation and helps memory retention. Some folks have given it a bad rap, but you should try it out first—it’s herbal so it’s not harmful.” Tried and tested: Again, the possibilities of the placebo effect were still there, but I made sure to ditch my usual two-three cups of coffee that day to be completely objective. Just one pill immediately made me less groggy in the morning—I felt extremely alert, and I was easily able to complete every task at work throughout the day. No signs of fatigue that evening or the next day. Keep in mind: It may cause clotting in people with blood disorders, it may increase the frequency of seizures in epileptics, and it maybe affect blood sugar levels in diabetics. Where to get it: $204 for 60 capsules from the American Nutrition Company. Sleep Better with 5HTP What is it? A naturally occurring amino acid that’s created when your body’s tryptophan is converted into serotonin. 5HTP helps decrease insomnia by increasing stages in the body’s REM sleep and deep-sleep cycles. Experts say: “You know how after that big Thanksgiving dinner, you just want to go to sleep?” says Hanson. That’s either the fact that you ate 3,000 calories, or the fact that turkey contains tryptophan. Hanson says, “Some might recommend melatonin [a naturally occurring sleep hormone], but I’d say 5HTP is more useable for Hong Kongers in that it naturally creates melatonin, and it’s cheaper.” Tried and tested: The bottle said pop one, so I waited till the red-eye—a heavy night where I stumbled home at 5am and just couldn’t sleep. After tossing and turning in bed, I vaguely remember passing out a couple hours in. The next morning, I woke up well rested, refreshed and strangely cheerful. Keep in mind: 5HTP hasn’t been as strenuously studied as many other supplements, and as such the side effects aren’t as well-known. Just remember not to exceed 100mg a day, and despite what you may have heard, don’t combine it with illegal party pills. Where to get it: $179 for 30 capsules from the American Nutrition Company Keep Healthy with Multivitamins What is it? OK, these aren’t so much of a voodoo drug – they’re just a bunch of vitamins clumped into one pill. But there are plenty of people who wonder what is better for you, the big pharmaceutical multivitamins or the more natural varieties. Experts say: “There are pros and cons to every multivitamin,” says Hanson.“Because the major brands are synthetically binded, many feel that the absorption levels will be lower. But at the end of the day, even 10 percent absorption is better than nothing.” Dhillan agrees: “There’s been a lot of research into the synthetic binding, but nothing’s really been proven. It’s the same with the food-based non-synthetic multivitamins— some studies say they don’t absorb well either.” Tried and tested: I’ve been taking multivitamins for years, switching between the cheaper synthetic brands and the more expensive natural varieties. Honestly, they all feel the same to me—which is to say, they definitely help with my immunity and energy levels on a daily basis. Keep in mind: Because of the amount of vitamins involved, numerous problems may exist. Pregnant women particularly should consult a physician. Where to get it: Nature’s Village sells Alive!, a 100 percent food-based multivitamin for $324. American Nutrition can mail order Body Guard, a natural multivitamin for $498. Most pharmacies sell Centrum, the most popular multivitamin brand, for varying prices.