The Twelve Most Dangerous Supplements

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Consumer Reports is a non-profit consumer-advocacy group who identified 12 dietary supplements considered too dangerous to be on the market according to government warnings, adverse-event reports and top experts. These twelve supplements are readily available in stores and online.

Warning

While other countries have banned several of these twelve supplements, the reality in the U.S. is that the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) makes it very difficult for the FDA to limit the sale of other potentially harmful supplements.

While prescription and over-the-counter drug manufacturers are required to prove that their products are safe before being marketed, DSHEA makes the FDA prove that supplements on the market are unsafe. Until the law is changed, consumers must take action to minimize their own risk.

Recommendations from Consumer Reports:

  • Stay away from the 12 supplements listed below.
  • Do not take daily doses of vitamins and minerals that exceed the safe upper limits. While vitamins and minerals are the safest and best-studied supplements, it's still possible to overdose on some of them.
  • Limit your intake of other supplements.
  • Tell your doctor about your supplements because they may reduce the effectiveness of certain prescription drugs.
  • Be alert to adverse effects of prescription drugs and notify your doctor immediately should any arise.

The Twelve Supplements to Avoid

Aristolochic acid
Dangers: Potent human carcinogen; kidney failure, sometimes requiring transplant; deaths reported.

Comfrey
Dangers: Abnormal liver function or damage, often irreversible; deaths reported. There are no indications of problems with using it externally. See: Comfrey as an Herb.

Androstenedione
Dangers: Increased cancer risk, decrease in HDL cholesterol.

Chaparral
Dangers: Abnormal liver function or damage, often irreversible; deaths reported. Best used externally or as recommended by herbalists. See: Chaparral as an Herb.

Germander
Dangers: Abnormal liver function or damage, often irreversible; deaths reported.

Kava
Dangers: Abnormal liver function or damage, occasionally irreversible; deaths reported. Herbalists still believe in Kava use for anti-anxiety. See: Kava as an Herb.

Bitter orange
Dangers: High blood pressure; increased risk of heart arrhythmias, heart attack, stroke.

Organ/glandular extracts
Dangers: Theoretical risk of mad cow disease, particularly from brain extracts.

Lobelia
Dangers: Breathing difficulty, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, diarrhea, dizziness, tremors; possible deaths reported. Lobelia is still touted as helpful for external conditions. Lobelia is also known as "Indian tobacco". See: Lobelia as an Herb.

Pennyroyal oil
Dangers: Liver and kidney failure, nerve damage, convulsions, abdominal tenderness, burning of the throat; deaths reported. Topically Pennyroyal can be used as a wash for skin eruptions, rashes, and itching. See: Pennyroyal as an Herb.

Skullcap
Dangers: Abnormal liver function or damage. There are still medicinal uses by herbalists. See Skullcap as an Herb.

Yohimbe
Dangers: Change in blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, respiratory depression, heart attack; deaths reported. Yohimbe is still used by herbalists to treat impotency and fatigue. See: Yohimbe as an Herb.

In summary, always do research on herbs and alternative medicines to be sure you are getting pure products by reputable companies. Many side effects come from imitation concoctions and the like. Common sense, a little homework and advice and herbs can be an amazing alternative to prescription drugs, with far less side effect potential. Always be sure to take herbs as recommended.

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