According to the report, an expert panel of independent doctors and dietary-supplement researchers identified 15 supplement ingredients that are potentially harmful. The risks include organ damage, cancer, and cardiac arrest.
“The severity of these threats often depends on such factors as pre-existing medical conditions as well as the quantity of the ingredient taken and the length of time a person has been exposed to the substance,” the report states. “Many of the ingredients on this list also have the potential to interact with prescription and over-the-counter medications, such as cholesterol-lowering statins and blood-thinning drugs like aspirin and warfarin (Coumadin and generic).”
Experts also found that none of the supplement ingredients provides sufficient health benefits to justify the risks and yet all 15 ingredients were found in products sold in major stores such as Walmart, Whole Foods, GNC, Costco and CVS.
The report strongly recommends that consumers avoid using products that contain the following ingredients:
Aconite (also called Aconiti tuber, aconitum, angustifolium, monkshood, radix aconti, wolfsbane) comes in root form and is consumed orally. It can also be taken as a sugar pill developed by homeopaths. It’s meant to reduce inflammation, joint pain, and gout, but has been found to cause nausea, vomiting, weakness, paralysis, breathing and heart problems and even death.
Caffeine Powder (also called 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) is the raw substance found in many sports drinks that is said to improve attention, enhance athletic performance and aid in weight loss. Unfortunately, this powder can be fatal and is known to cause seizures, heart arrhythmia and cardiac arrest. It is particularly dangerous when combined with other stimulants.
Chaparral (also called Creosote bush, greasewood, larrea divaricata, larrea tridentata, larreastat) is taken from wild shrubs that grow in the arid Southwest US and northern Mexico. Sold as bark, it can be made into tea and is used for weight loss, to improve inflammation, and to treat colds, infections, skin rashes and cancer. Experts found that it causes kidney problems, liver damage, and even death.
Coltsfoot (also called coughwort, farfarae folium leaf, foalswort, tussilago farfarais) comes from a plant that resembles daises and is commonly found throughout Europe. It is often used to relieve coughs, sore throats, laryngitis, bronchitis and asthma. It is linked to liver damage and is a possible carcinogen (cancer causing agent).
Comfrey (also called blackwort, bruisewort, slippery root, symphytum officinale) is used as both an herbal medicine and a plant fertilizer and is sold as either a tincture, herb, or cream. Used to relieve coughs, heavy menstrual periods, stomach problems, and chest pain, it is known to cause liver damage, cancer and possibly death.
Germander (also called Teucrium chamaedrys, viscidum) is a flower that is consumed as an herb, usually with honey, or as a tonic. It’s meant to aid in weight loss, and to relieve fevers, arthritis, gout, and stomach problems. This ingredient has been linked to liver damage, hepatitis, and death.
Greater Celandine (also called Celandine, chelidonium majus, chelidonii herba) is a plant that omits a bright orange juice when infused with water and is used to alleviate stomachaches. It has been linked with liver damage.
Green Tea Extract Powder (also called camellia sinensis) is heralded as a cure for just about everything, but experts say this raw extract can damage health if taken in large quantities. It has been known to cause dizziness, ringing in the ears, and reduced absorption of iron. It also exacerbates anemia and glaucoma, and elevates blood pressure and heart rate. The ingredient is also linked to liver damage and possibly death.
Kava (also known as Ava pepper, kava kava, piper methysticum) is a root that is used in a milky drink that can be hallucinogenic. It’s supposed to reduce anxiety and relieve insomnia. However, it has been found to cause liver damage, exacerbate Parkinson’s disease and depression, impair driving and possibly cause death.
Lobelia (also called Asthma weed, lobelia inflata, vomit wort, wild tobacco) is found in a purple flower that is native to warmer climates and is usually taken as an herbal capsule or smoked like tobacco. Users say it improves respiratory problems and aids in the cessation of smoking. Experts say it can cause nausea and diarrhea, tremors, rapid heartbeat, confusion, seizurers, hypothermia, coma and even death.
Methylsynephrine (also called Oxilofrine, p-hydroxyephedrine, oxyephedrine, 4-HMP) is a stimulant taken in capsule form which is currently banned by the World Anti-Doping Administration during competitions. It’s supposed to boost weight loss, energy and athletic performance, but it has been found to cause heart rate and rhythm abnormalities and cardiac arrest. It is particularly risky when taken with other stiumulants.
Pennyroyal Oil (also called Hedeoma pulegioides, mentha pulegium) smells like spearmint and is used to improve breathing problems and digestive disorders. It has been found to cause liver and kidney failure, nerve damage, and to cause convulsions and possibly even death.
Red Yeast Rice (also called monascus purpureus) is extracted from rice and is fermented with a particular kind of yeast. Taken in capsule form, it’s supposed to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and prevent heart disease; but experts say it causes kidney, muscle and liver problems, can lead to hair loss, and can magnify the effect of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs which increases the risk of side effects.
Usinic Acid (also called beard moss, tree moss, usnea) is found in a sour fermented drink known as kombucha. It is used as a raw supplement for body building and weight loss. Experts say it can cause injury to the liver.
Yohimbe (also called Johimbi, pausinystalia yohimbe, yohimbine, corynanthe johimbi) comes from the evergreen tree and is taken in capsule form, supposedly to dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure. It’s used to treat low libido, erectile dysfunction, depression and obesity. Experts say it actually raises blood pressure, causes rapid heart rate, headaches, seizures, panic attacks, liver and kidney problems and possibly even death.
While there is nothing wrong with taking supplements, consumers should be aware that they are not regulated by the FDA which means the products do not necessarily contain what is stated on the label and could contain harmful ingredients.
If you or someone in your family experience an adverse event after taking a dietary supplement, report it to the FDA.