Who Should Avoid Herbal Supplements?

Who Should Avoid Herbal Supplements?

Who Should Avoid Herbal Supplements?

Who Should Avoid Herbal Supplements? Regulations. ensure that herbal supplements meet manufacturing standards but aren’t a guarantee of effectiveness. Do your homework before you buy.

Echinacea to prevent colds. Ginkgo to improve memory. Herbal remedies aren’t new — plants have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.

Section 1: Who Should Avoid Herbal Supplements?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates herbal supplements. Herbal supplements that aren’t clearly safe must carry a warning on the label, and a product label doesn’t provide all of the information about the herb.

Some products are labeled natural and organic, but the federal government doesn’t regulate natural or organic. If you get one of those products, take it with caution.

The most common problems are probably safe, but can pose problems for people with certain medical conditions. Because herbal supplements are typically strong in certain herbal ingredients, they may cause adverse reactions in some people.

Herbal Supplements Not Recommended for Adults

Arthritis. Some herbal products contain bisphosphonates, such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and hydroxychloroquine.

What are the risks of herbal supplements?

The risks can be more serious than the possible benefits. Doctors aren’t sure which herbs are safe for people with certain medical conditions, such as chronic heart disease or an active form of asthma.

What’s a good-quality supplement?

Buyer beware: Most supplements sold online don’t have any indication of what’s in them.

Medicinal properties of herbs. Vitamin supplements — and even over-the-counter drugs — contain many herbs, such as ginseng. A 2012 analysis of 22 supplements found that some contained everything from dirt and grass to lead and arsenic.

Inflammation . A 2010 study of a high-dose omega-3 supplement found no benefit and potentially harmful effects. Another study of a combination of vitamin E and fish oil pills also found no benefit and possible harm.

Side effects .

What do the regulations say about herbal supplements?

According to the FDA, herbs can be sold as dietary supplements if they are shown to have

proven health benefits and are intended to be taken as directed, in proper amounts. Some foods and plants contain active ingredients — sugars, amino acids, and vitamins. Other ingredients can also have health benefits, including those in herbs.

But all herbal supplements need FDA approval to make health claims.

What do you need to know before you buy?

Certain foods are natural herbs. Foods may be listed by the FDA as herb, spice or spice/herb. For example, rosemary and oregano are natural spices, but rosemary in a scented candle is considered an herb.

Other ingredients can be natural, but they don’t need FDA approval.

Why should I avoid taking herbal supplements altogether?

Numerous herbal supplements, especially those marketed as natural remedies, have been shown to be no better than placebos at preventing or treating common diseases. In recent years, thousands of people have been injured and even killed when the ingredients in herbal remedies have been linked to serious health problems. Some may also carry health risks, such as interactions with medications or alcohol.

What’s more, herbal supplements don’t deliver the minerals that you may need. According to the Institute of Medicine, the body can’t absorb nutrients that aren’t bound to a protein.

Gastrointestinal risks. A number of herbal supplements contain plant polyphenols that can exacerbate some gastrointestinal problems. As a result, they may cause nausea or upset stomach.


Never disregard herbal remedies that are marketed as vitamins. Keep in mind that they are also loaded with chemicals and herbals that may not be harmless. Just because some of them have a fancy name doesn’t mean they’ll help you.


Hockett, M., et al., Factors Associated with Increasing the Bioavailability of Doxepin in an Isovermectin-Rich Environment. Asian Journal of Pharmacology, 11(4), 635-647. (2006).

Hockett, M., et al., Review of Proposed Mechanisms for the Anticoagulant Activity of a New Malpighian Basal Juice. The Lancet, 365(9379), 2763-2771. (2012).

Johnny D. Duchon, PharmD, is a practicing pharmacist in Rockville, Md.




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