The jars are so elegant that they would look more at home on a mantelpiece than in a medicine cabinet.
And you’d be more likely to find these vitamin supplements on sale at high-end department stores than at your local drug store.
The claims of the companies behind them are equally noble: a few capsules a day will make us “smarter”, “sharper” and improve our sex life.
Then there’s the cost – one, we discovered, costs £4,300 for a pot. Can they be worth it?
We asked the experts…
Lyma’s £199 jar of supplements (pictured) will last a month and comes in a fashionable jar It claims to ‘maximize your immunity’ and ‘sharpen’ your mental focus
An ‘immune system boosting’ potion that costs £4,300
Samsidae Premium Korean Black Ginseng Extract £4,300 for one month supply
REQUIREMENT: This mysterious-looking black liquid, developed exclusively for Harrods, claims to “enhance the immune system and sexual performance”, “sharpen memory” and “control blood sugar”.
WHAT’S IN IT? Just ginseng – the root of a plant found in China – that has been steamed, dried and liquefied. Samsidae ginseng is harvested every six years for “optimal potency”.
THE VERDICT: Samsidae don’t know why it’s so expensive, but there are cheaper “pure” ginseng equivalents. The Mail on Sunday found a bottle from German Pharma which offers the same dosage for £14.99 per two month supply.
Premium Korean Black Ginseng Extract from Samsidae
DOES IT WORK? “There is significant research that tiny compounds in ginseng stimulate the release of insulin, which converts the sugars in our food into energy,” says Dr. Ward.
“But studies show that a cup of English tea for breakfast has an equally strong effect on insulin. If you drink three cups of tea a day, you probably get the same benefit.
Lyma: £199 for a month’s supply
REQUIREMENT: The Lyma supplement will “maximize your immunity”, “control stress and anxiety” and “sharpen” mental focus.
It is also said to improve the appearance of nails, hair and skin and reduce the risk of bone fractures. Pop singer Ellie Goulding and Victoria’s Secret models swear by her.
WHAT’S IN IT? Each capsule contains vitamins for bone and immune health, such as K and D.
There are also herbal extracts and spices such as ashwagandha, turmeric and saffron, keratin (the protein of skin, hair and nails), a compound believed to help prevent memory loss called citicoline and a fatty acid.
IS IT WORTH IT? “Spending more on a supplement doesn’t mean it will be better for you — vitamin K, for example, will always be vitamin K, no matter how much or how much you pay for it,” says visiting professor Dr. Penny Ward. in Pharmaceutical Medicine at King’s College London.
“That doesn’t take into account whether the average person even needs to take supplements – a healthy, balanced diet usually provides everything we need.”
You can get vitamin D3 for £8 for a month’s supply at Holland and Barrett. And you can buy a six-month supply of each ingredient separately online, each costing between £10 and £20.
And will the ingredients do what Lyma says they will? Dr Ward says: “There is little high quality research to show they do anything.”
Elle Sera empowerment pill: £165 for three months supply
REQUIREMENT: The combination of “powerful” compounds is designed to relieve symptoms of menopause, including anxiety, memory loss, lack of sex drive and low energy.
What’s inside ? Powdered plants and herbs including beetroot, root vegetable maca, a Mediterranean herb called tribulus terrestris and Chinese medicine favorites ginko leaf and ginseng.
IS IT WORTH IT? “These botanical compounds contain microscopic elements that act similarly to the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen,” says Dr. Ward.
“Studies have shown that tribulus terrestris can boost libido and improve muscle growth in postmenopausal women. And ginseng and ginkgo leaves contain flavonoids that act like estrogen in the body and potentially reduce menopausal symptoms.
“But the dose of a supplement is unlikely to be high enough to make a difference.
“Doses high enough to have a positive effect would also cause less pleasant side effects, such as excessive hair growth, which is why supplements can’t use amounts that would make a difference.”
A three month supply of ginkgo and ginseng is available from Healthspan for £12, while two months of tribulus terrestris is £10 from the supplement website mobu.co.uk.
Ninelife LypoSpheric vitamin C sachets £116 for two months supply
REQUIREMENT: The high dose of vitamin C, along with the fatty phospholipids, means the body absorbs more of it compared to cheaper alternatives.
WHAT’S IN IT? Each sachet contains 1000mg of vitamin C powder, which is 25 times the amount recommended by the NHS. There is also 1000 mg of a type of fat derived from fish, algae and shellfish called phospholipids.
IS IT WORTH IT? Two Berocca tablets from Boots will give you the same amount of vitamin C at one-fifth the price.
Dr. Ward says, “Studies show that once you hit 200mg of vitamin C, you don’t get any benefit with a higher dose.”
Research has shown that taking supplements containing fat can reduce the time it takes for the ingredient to travel to the bloodstream.
Supplements with added fats are known as “liposomal” and are generally more expensive than standard vitamins.
“But vitamin C is quickly digested anyway,” says Dr. Ward. “Even the cheapest vitamin C tablets should reach peak blood levels in about 30 minutes to an hour.”
Aethern Advanced Collagen Skin Beauty Program £199 for one month supply
REQUIREMENT: Aethern claims that its “first of its kind” liquid supplement will make skin at least 20% firmer, more hydrated and more radiant after 12 weeks of daily use.
WHAT’S IN IT? Each of these 25ml liquid “shots” contains “bioactive” collagen peptides – the protein that gives skin its elasticity – moisturizing hyaluronic acid, silicon extracted from bamboo extract, vitamin E, fatty acids and a host of “natural” botanical ingredients such as pine bark and grape syrup.
IS IT WORTH IT? “The body makes collagen by breaking down proteins in our food into compounds called amino acids and using them to form the substance in skin, joints, cartilage and other tissues,” says Dr. Ward.
“But when collagen is swallowed it makes its way through the digestive tract and the majority is excreted out of the body in the urine.
“There is no evidence that enough is absorbed into the bloodstream to make a difference to the skin.” As you age, the body stops producing collagen, no matter what you put into it.
No other product on the market that we could find contains the same combination of 14 ingredients. But two of the most active – collagen peptides and hylauronic acid – can be found in another drink, Radiant Collagen, which costs around £60 a month.
HoliCalm Holidermie £95 for a month’s supply
REQUIREMENT: This supplement has “powerful antioxidant properties” that “boost collagen synthesis,” promoting wound healing and protecting the skin from “stress.”
WHAT’S IN IT? Plant extracts including an Asian herb called Centella Asiatica, turmeric, grapeseed and pine bark, as well as evening primrose oil, vitamin C, fatty acids and three probiotics.
IS IT WORTH IT? Centella asiatica is the star ingredient in this supplement, which contains powerful compounds that have been shown to help heal burns and soothe irritated skin, according to a handful of small studies. But the ingredient is widely available at a lower price in face creams – where it’s more likely to make a visible difference.
“There is more evidence to support the benefit of applying treatments directly to the skin, rather than swallowing them,” says Dr Ward. “So when packaged as an oral supplement, what you have is essentially a pot of potpourri.”
The cosmetics website lookfantastic.com sells a Purito cream, 50% of which is Centella Asiatica, for £5.36.
Evening Primrose Oil and Vitamin C can be found for under £15 online as a facial serum, and for a few pounds a month as an oral supplement.