Six scary supplements: Prescription or poison?

June 20, 2011

An herb is a plant or plant part used for its scent, flavor or therapeutic properties. Herbal medicine products are dietary supplements that people take to improve their health. Many herbs have been used for a long time for claimed health benefits. They are sold as tablets, capsules, powders, teas, extracts and fresh or dried plants. However, some can cause health problems, some are not effective and some may interact with other drugs you are taking. ( Source:

WHAT TO KNOW: Herbal remedies, sometimes called botanicals, aren't new; plants have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. However, herbal supplements haven't been subjected to the same scientific scrutiny and aren't as strictly regulated as medications.

Herbal supplements are regulated by the FDA, but not as drugs or as foods. They fall under a category called dietary supplements. ( Source: Web MD ) BAD HERBS: Some herbal supplements -- including products labeled as "natural" -- have drug-like effects that can be dangerous. So it's important to do your homework and investigate potential benefits and side effects of herbal supplements before you buy.

Kava Kava: Used as a natural sleep aid, it can cause irreversible damage.
Germander: Used for general health, can also cause liver failure.
Bitter orangeis: another toxic weight loss herb.
Chapparal: his energizing supplement wreaks havoc on the liver.
Yohimbe - also known as herbal Viagra: It can cause heart problems and high blood pressure.

To use an herbal product as safely as possible

  • Consult your doctor first
  • Do not take a bigger dose than the label recommends
  • Take it under the guidance of a trained medical professional
  • Be especially cautious if you are pregnant or nursing ( Source:

? For More Information, Contact:

Amitava Dasgupta, PhD
UT Health Science Center at Houston

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