In the rush and chaos of daily life, it can often be difficult to find time to prepare nutritious, healthy meals. There are many supplements available that claim to make our bodies healthier and stronger and help us feel better. It can be tempting to add them to our daily routines. Since many supplements come from plants and herbs, they feel like healthy alternatives to traditional medications. But supplements may not always be beneficial to our bodies, and in some cases, they can cause harm. Here are 10 herbal supplements you may want to approach with caution.
10. Green Tea Extract
Green tea is very popular as a drink and as a supplement that is purported to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Additionally, this antioxidant-rich extract may help with weight loss, prevention of disease, brain function, and skin health. Unfortunately, Jim McCants made headlines for the negative effects green tea extract had on his health. The green tea capsules he was consuming in an effort to take better care of himself left Jim requiring a liver transplant. While the amount of green tea in your cup of tea is not enough to cause harm, supplements may contain 10 times as much of the extract.
Kava, a member of the pepper family, is used to treat anxiety. This plant is native to the Pacific islands and has long been used there in medicine and in ceremonies for its calming effects. While there is evidence of kava’s anti-anxiety effects, the toll it takes on the liver has led to it being banned in several countries. In addition to liver damage, long-term exposure to the toxic effects of kava can lead to stomach irritation, kidney problems, shortness of breath, and hallucinations.
Aconite is known by several other names, including monkshood, wolfsbane, helmet flower, and bear’s foot. It is an herbal or homeopathic medicine that is used for inflammation, nerve pain, headache, joint pain, and gout. Aconite is a component of traditional Chinese medicine and may have some health benefits. However, this herb is highly poisonous and can cause nervous system and cardiac toxicity. Symptoms of aconite poisoning are stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing and irregular heartbeat.
Yohimbe is a highly stimulating herb used for weight loss, increased libido, and erectile dysfunction. Yohimbe interacts negatively with many prescription medications, including those used for depression, blood pressure, diabetes, and allergies. Side effects of yohimbe include skin flushing, rash, anxiety, headache, and dizziness. More serious side effects can include cardiac problems, kidney failure, seizures, respiratory issues, and even death.
Coltsfoot is a plant in the sunflower family and is also known as coughwort. The extract of this sunny yellow herb is used for inflammation, respiratory problems, and as an antiseptic. While coltsfoot may be effective for these conditions, the pyrrolizidine alkaloids it contains are highly toxic to humans. These alkaloids are metabolized in the body to form products which destroy the liver.
Comfrey, otherwise known as blackwort and slippery root, is used topically for wounds, scratches, sunburn, and skin irritations. It is brewed into a tea and used for cough, diarrhea, and heavy menstrual periods. Unfortunately, comfrey also contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are highly toxic to the liver. Symptoms of toxicity include stomach pain, water retention, nausea, and jaundice.
Germander is a plant in the mint family that has been brewed into tea for the management of weight, gallbladder disease, and mild diarrhea. Several countries have banned the use of germander due to side effects such as liver toxicity and death. Signs of liver toxicity are yellowing of the skin, yellowing of the eyes, itching, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and dark urine.
Lobelia inflata is also known as Indian tobacco. It is used to improve respiration through relaxation of the bronchial tubes and the breakup of mucus in the respiratory tract. Lobelia can be applied topically or added to a warm bath to relax the muscles. Some claim it can be effective in seizure prevention. However, the use of lobelia does not come without risks. High doses can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, rapid heartbeat, coma, and even death.
2. Red Yeast Rice
Red yeast rice is used to lower cholesterol and lipids. According to the National Institutes of Health, some red yeast rice products contain monacolins. Monacolin K is similar to lovastatin, a cholesterol-lowering drug. As such, similar side effects are seen with red yeast rice. These include muscle pain and weakness, kidney damage, and liver toxicity. Additionally, citrinin is sometimes formed during the culturing of red yeast rice. This substance can cause kidney failure. Symptoms of kidney failure are decreased urination, swelling in the lower extremities, shortness of breath, confusion, and chest pain.
Chaparral is used for stomach ailments such as intestinal cramping and gas. In addition, it can be used for colds, infections, skin rash, and weight loss. Used topically, chaparral can cause skin rash and itching. Chaparral has been linked to stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and fever. Serious side effects include hepatitis, kidney failure, and liver failure.