Originally Published July 1, 2015
provided an overview of herbal products. This review will focus on the
important issues regarding the lack of standardization, possible
contamination, some deceptive claims and a list of the herbs that have
the most potential to harm the liver.
The article was about four major chains selling herbal supplements in
New York State that contained substances not listed on the package
label. Even more disconcerting was that many of the listed herbs when
tested, could not be verified as being the actual labeled herbs.
There are many factors that affect the potency of
herbs such as what season grown, location planted and how much sun the
herbs receive, fertilizer (and how much) used and many additional
commercial ginseng products from a local health food store was analyzed
for ingredients—the ginseng concentrations were different than listed
on the label. The difference in the concentrations could be correlated
to the standardizations issues listed above.
Herbal products were tested and found to have
pesticides and toxins as well as unlabeled drugs in the herbal
products. These types of issues were also found in the herbs analyzed
in the New York herbal crackdown.
There have been
advertisements that promote the use of herbs stating that some herbal
products can help to treat certain conditions and even cure viral
infections. Herbs may provide some relief from particular illnesses
and provide supportive care. However, there never has been a study
that has shown that an herb can cure a viral disease such as hepatitis
C. Be careful about these types of claims.
The herbs listed below are the most common herbs
that have been found to cause liver toxicity, liver injury, possible
liver failure and death. I have listed the common name (bolded),
scientific name and the most common ailments the herb is used to treat:
Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemose): menopausal symptoms
Chaparral (Larrea tridentate): weight loss, rheumatic pain, antibiotic
Comfrey (Symphyturn officinale): Wound healing
Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys): Weight loss
Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus): Liver and biliary tract disease
Green tea extract (Camellia sinensis): General health, weight loss
Herbalife product line (Multi-ingredient): Mental health and weight loss
Kava kava (Piper methysticum): mental health and well-being
Hydroxycut (multi-ingredient): Weight loss
Oxy-Elite Pro (multi-ingredient): Performance-enhancement, weight loss
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens): Prostate disease
that the New York attorney general and 13 other states are petitioning
Congress to investigate the herbal supplement industry. Additionally,
the states are requesting the Food and Drug Administration to provide
more oversight to the herbal supplements industry. Until that time,
it is up to the consumer to advocate for themselves, dig deep and to
stick to the old warning to consumers—buyer beware.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine