Many of us take supplements to boost our health and well being but I didn’t realize some of these herbs are potentially dangerous! Take note if accompanied by certain medical conditions or if taken with certain medications. Even if taken for good reason there are potential side effects to be aware of. Talk with your doctor before taking any supplements.
14 Dangerous Herbs
Here are 14 common herbs used as supplements that may have undesirable side effects.
St. John’s Wort
I always heard this popular supplement is often taken for depression, anxiety, and sleep problems. But my mother didn’t believe in it. Maye she new something as it can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, and dry mouth. Apparently it can make you more likely to get a sunburn. Worse side effects may occur if taken with certain drugs — from heart medicines to antidepressants, to birth control pills!
This is supposed to help with anxiety and insomnia. I’ve read certain cultures get “drunk” on Kava at celebration! But it may cause liver damage, like hepatitis. So you shouldn’t take it if you already have liver or kidney problems. Kava also can be dangerous if you drink alcohol or take other drugs that make you sleepy.
I recently tried KavaKava “candy!” I felt a mild calming effect but considering the possible liver damage may not reorder.
Ginkgo is often hailed as a way to improve our memory. Some believe ginkgo biloba also helps with circulation, mental function, and altitude sickness, among other health conditions. That all sounds great, but it can thin your blood and cause bleeding especially if you already take blood-thinning drugs.
Some people believe the oil from an Arnica plant helps ease the pain from bruising, swelling and general aches & pains. Others take the supplement to try to help with constipation with dire consequences: eating the herb can raise your blood pressure and cause a fast heartbeat and shortness of breath. Over dosing can bring on a coma or death.
Ginger is known to ease nausea brought on by surgery, chemotherapy, or motion sickness. And sometimes it’s used to treat arthritis or other joint pain. But ginger may cause problems with blood clotting, heart rhythms, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Check with your doctor before taking this if you are on blood thinners or have diabetes.
I’ve not heard of Goldenseal but it sure is interesting with its long history. It was used among Native Americans for constipation, colds, eye infections, and even cancer. Putting something in my eye I use for constipation? That’s not right! Goldenseal can affect your heart’s rhythm, affect blood clotting, and lower your blood pressure. Check with your doctor first if you have blood clotting problems or are on blood pressure medicines.
An NCCIH-funded study found that some commercial goldenseal dietary supplements didn’t contain much goldenseal and instead included ingredients not listed on their labels.
We have aloe plants and rubbing the “gel” on a burn or wound, in my opinion, makes it heal or feel better. Did you know you can eat it? You can but just the skin and the “jelly,” not the thin layer of “latex'” separating them. Be sure to wash away all the latex when preparing to eat.
The latex is a thin layer of yellow liquid between the skin and the gel of the leaf. It contains compounds with powerful laxative properties. Eating too much latex can have serious and potentially fatal side effects! Check out this article by Health Line (Can You Eat Aloe Vera?).
Also known as ma huang, this herb has been used for thousands of years in China and India to treat coughs, headaches, and cold symptoms. More recently, it’s been used to help people lose weight and get energy. But studies have found it may also boost the chance of heart problems and stroke due to a rise in heart rate and blood pressure! Some doctors also warn of possible deadly interactions with many heart medicines. Yikes!
Ephedrine, one of the main components in ephedra, can boost metabolism and cause weight loss — especially in combination with caffeine. Still, due to safety concerns, dietary supplements containing ephedrine — but not necessarily other compounds in ephedra — are currently banned in the United States and elsewhere.
Please note many manufacturers have recently reformulated products to remove ephedra because of legal liability questions. Because of its potential serious side effects, its use is not recommended.
Some people take this because they hope it will slow aging like the Fountain of Youth. Others take it for diabetes, to boost immunity, or to help with sex. But it may lead to a drop in blood sugar, so it can cause issues for people with diabetes. You also shouldn’t take it if you take blood thinners. I think it needs to put some clothes on.
This supplement is apparently used for menopause symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats and some women try it to help with PMS. But it should be off limits for anyone with liver problems, because there’s a chance it can cause inflammation or failure. It should also be avoided by women with breast cancer until more is known about how it may affect them.
Some people believe garlic helps with high blood pressure and can even treat the common cold. While it’s safe for most people, garlic can thin your blood which in turn can increase the risk of bleeding if you take blood-thinning medications for heart problems.
Even though Bram Stoker’s Dracula was fictional, dark spirits have existed in Eastern European folklore for a long time, as has the use of garlic to ward them off. Through practices passed down through generations, garlic is thought to protect people and homes from evil spirits, as well as curing sickness such as colds and coughs.
Licorice is not a favorite of mine but is found everywhere used to treat coughs, stomach ulcers, bronchitis, infections, and sore throat. But it can raise your blood pressure and cause issues with heart rhythms, so check with your doctor first if you have heart problems. Excessive amounts also can cause problems for people with kidney disease.
One of the many stinging nettle benefits is that that tea made with its leaves is a mild diuretic, meaning that it will cause your body to pass more water, which helps flush out salts and any built-up fluids in your body. It is thought to help with allergies and arthritis, kidney and bladder stones, and urinary tract infections. Some people use it on their scalps to help fight dandruff.
Consuming dried or cooked stinging nettle is generally safe. There are few, if any, side effects. However, be careful when handling fresh stinging nettle leaves, as their hair-like barbs can harm your skin.
Feverfew may ease nausea and vomiting due to migraines. It may take a month or longer for it to work. Some people use it to reduce painful inflammation due to arthritis. Feverfew may help bring on uterine contractions to reduce the length of labor.
Side effects can include nausea, digestive problems, and bloating; if the fresh leaves are chewed, sores and irritation of the mouth may occur.
On the surface it seems like these products should be harmless. After all, we use many of them when cooking our favorite meals. Do your research and be careful what you eat!
Potentially Dangerous Herbs
Remember, if you have or are concerned about heart disease, liver function or thinning blood, consult a physician before starting a health regime with any potentially dangerous herb.
Are any supplements approved by the FDA?
No. The FDA does not approve dietary supplements as it does not approve foods. The FDA only approves pharmaceutical drug products. However, Manufacturers and FDA each have responsibilities to ensure products are safe and reliable by performing regular inspections. If a supplement company does not comply with FDA regulations, the FDA can ban them from selling their product.
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