FDA Consumer Magazine


U. S. Food and Drug Administration
FDA Consumer
September - October 1998


Supplements Associated with Illnesses and Injuries


Herbal Ingredients

Herbal Ingredient: Chaparral (a traditional American Indian medicine)
Possible Health Hazards: liver disease, possibly irreversible

Herbal Ingredient: Comfrey
Possible Health Hazards: obstruction of blood flow to liver, possibly leading to death

Herbal Ingredient: Slimming/dieter's teas
Possible Health Hazards: nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, chronic constipation, fainting, possibly death (see "Dieter's Brews Make Tea Time a Dangerous Affair" in the July-August 1997 FDA Consumer)

Herbal Ingredient: Ephedra (also known as Ma huang, Chinese Ephedra and epitonin)
Possible Health Hazards: ranges from high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, nerve damage, injury, insomnia, tremors, and headaches to seizures, heart attack, stroke, and death

Herbal Ingredient: Germander
Possible Health Hazards: liver disease, possibly leading to death

Herbal Ingredient: Lobelia
(also known as Indian tobacco)
Possible Health Hazards: range from breathing problems at low doses to sweating, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, and possibly coma and death at higher doses

Herbal Ingredient: Magnolia-Stephania preparation
Possible Health Hazards: kidney disease, possibly leading to permanent kidney failure

Herbal Ingredient: Willow bark
Possible Health Hazards: Reye syndrome, a potentially fatal disease associated with aspirin intake in children with chickenpox or flu symptoms; allergic reaction in adults. (Willow bark is marketed as an aspirin-free product, although it actually contains an ingredient that converts to the same active ingredient in aspirin.)

Herbal Ingredient: Wormwood
Possible Health Hazards: neurological symptoms, characterized by numbness of legs and arms, loss of intellect, delirium, and paralysis

Vitamins and Essential Minerals

Herbal Ingredient: Vitamin A (in doses of 25,000 or more International Units a day)
Possible Health Hazards: birth defects, bone abnormalities, and severe liver disease

Herbal Ingredient: Vitamin B6 (in doses above 100 milligrams a day)
Possible Health Hazards: balance difficulties, nerve injury causing changes in touch sensation

Herbal Ingredient: Niacin (in slow-released doses of 500 mg or more a day or immediate-release doses of 750 mg or more a day)
Possible Health Hazards: range from stomach pain, vomiting, bloating, nausea, cramping, and diarrhea to liver disease, muscle disease, eye damage, and heart injury

Herbal Ingredient: Selenium (in doses of about 800 micrograms to 1,000 mcg a day)
Possible Health Hazards: tissue damage

Other Supplements

Herbal Ingredient: Germanium (a nonessential mineral)
Possible Health Hazards: kidney damage, possibly death

Herbal Ingredient: L-tryptophan (an amino acid)
Possible Health Hazards: eosinophilia myalgia syndrome, a potentially fatal blood disorder that can cause high fever, muscle and joint pain, weakness, skin rash, and swelling of the arms and legs

(Source: FDA Statement before Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, Oct. 21, 1993)

FDA Consumer magazine (September-October 1998)

Dietary Supplements Article


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