15 Supplements to Avoid

Man worried about supplement side effects

Most people don’t worry about supplement side effects and assume that they are tested for safety before sold. Not so. The FDA does not review or approve supplements.

If you’re taking supplements to increase your body mass, improve your nutrition, for general health or to ward off a cold, know this:  supplements are not medicine and for most of them, there is no research to support their use.

That doesn’t make all supplements bad or dangerous. But it does mean you are depending on your own research. One source we turn to is Examine.com which is one of the most authoritative and helpful information sources on all supplements.

Consumer Reports is another excellent source and they have shared the following chart of supplements that their experts have identified as ones to avoid or be cautious about.

Ingredient Claimed Benefits Risks
Aconite

Also called: Aconiti tuber, aconitum, angustifolium, monkshood, radix aconti, wolfsbane

Reduces inflammation, joint pain, gout Nausea, vomiting, weakness, paralysis, breathing and heart problems, possibly death
Caffeine Powder

Also called: 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine

Improves attention, enhances athletic performance, weight loss Seizures, heart arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, possibly death; particularly dangerous when combined with other stimulants
Chaparral

Also called: Creosote bush, greasewood, larrea divaricata, larrea tridentata, larreastat

Weight loss; improves inflammation; treats colds, infections, skin rashes, cancer Kidney problems, liver damage, possibly death
Coltsfoot

Also called: Coughwort, farfarae folium leaf, foalswort, tussilago farfara

Relieves cough, sore throat, laryngitis, bronchitis, asthma Liver damage, possible carcinogen
Comfrey

Also called: Blackwort, bruisewort, slippery root, symphytum officinale

Relieves cough, heavy menstrual periods, stomach problems, chest pain; treats cancer Liver damage, cancer, possibly death
Germander

Also called: Teucrium chamaedrys, viscidum

Weight loss; alleviates fever, arthritis, gout, stomach problems Liver damage, hepatitis, possibly death
Greater Celandine

Also called: Celandine, chelidonium majus, chelidonii herba

Alleviates stomach ache Liver damage
Green Tea
Extract Powder
Also called: Camellia sinensis
Weight loss Dizziness, ringing in the ears, reduced absorption of iron; exacerbates anemia and glaucoma; elevates blood pressure and heart rate; liver damage; possibly death
Kava

Also called: Ava pepper, kava kava, piper methysticum

Reduces anxiety, improves insomnia Liver damage, exacerbates Parkinson’s and depression, impairs driving, possibly death
Lobelia

Also called: Asthma weed, lobelia inflata, vomit wort, wild tobacco

Improves respiratory problems, aids smoking cessation Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, rapid heartbeat, confusion, seizures, hypothermia, coma, possibly death
Methylsynephrine

Also called: Oxilofrine, p-hydroxyephedrine, oxy ephedrine, 4-HMP

Weight loss, increases energy, improves athletic performance Causes heart rate and rhythm abnormalities, cardiac arrest; particularly risky when taken with other stimulants
Pennyroyal Oil

Also called: Hedeoma pulegioides, mentha pulegium

Improves breathing problems, digestive disorders Liver and kidney failure, nerve damage, convulsions, possibly death
Red Yeast Rice

Also called: Monascus purpureus

Lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, prevents heart disease Kidney and muscle problems, liver problems, hair loss; can magnify effect of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, increasing the risk of side effects
Usnic Acid

Also called: Beard moss, tree moss, usnea

Weight loss, pain relief Liver injury
Yohimbe

Also called: Johimbi, pausinystalia yohimbe, yohimbine, corynanthe johimbi

Treats low libido and erectile dysfunction, depression, obesity Raises blood pressure; causes rapid heart rate, headaches, seizures, liver and kidney problems, heart problems, panic attacks, possibly death
To find out more about how the ingredients were tested and selected,  download this PDF.

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