15 Dietary Supplement Ingredients To Avoid

Image courtesy of Frankieleon

Taking a stroll down the dietary supplements aisle can be bewildering, what with the variety of ingredients plastered all over labels, suggesting they can help with this or that ailment. But there are some ingredients out there that may do more harm than good.

As part of an in-depth look at the dietary supplements industry, our colleagues at Consumer Reports teamed up with an expert panel of independent doctors and dietary-supplement researchers to identify a slew of ingredients that are potentially harmful — even if they sound like something a kindly healer from days of yore or Claire from Outlander might’ve used.

Risks can include organ damage, cancer, and cardiac arrest, with the severity of these threats often dependent on factors like pre-existing medical conditions, how much to the ingredient has been ingested, and the length of time a person has been exposed to the substance.

Some ingredients could also interact with prescription and over-the-counter medications.

When all is said and done, experts on the panel say that none of these ingredients provide sufficient health benefits to make the risk worthwhile.

Here is the panel’s list of ingredients you should avoid — all of which can be found in products available online and in major retail stores. Check out the full story over at Consumer Reports for more.


Also called: Aconiti tuber, aconitum, angusti- folium, monkshood, radix aconiti, wolfsbane
Claimed benefits: Reduces inflammation, joint pain, gout
Risks: Nausea, vomiting, weakness, paralysis, breathing and heart problems, possibly death

2. Caffeine Powder

Also called: 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine
Claimed benefits: Improves attention, enhances athletic performance, weight loss
Risks: Seizures, heart arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, possibly death; particularly dangerous when combined with other stimulants

3. Chaparral

Also called: Creosote bush, greasewood, larrea divaricata, larrea tridentata, larreastat
Claimed benefits: Weight loss; improves inflammation; treats colds, infections, skin rashes, cancer
Risks: Kidney problems, liver damage, possibly death

4. Coltsfoot

Also called: Coughwort, farfarae folium leaf, foals- wort, tussilago farfara
Claimed benefits: Relieves cough, sore throat, laryngitis, bronchitis, asthma
Risks: Liver damage, possible carcinogen

5. Comfrey

Also called: Blackwort, bruisewort, slippery root, symphytum officinale
Claimed benefits: Relieves cough, heavy menstrual periods, stomach problems, chest pain; treats cancer
Risks: Liver damage, cancer, possibly death

6. Germander

Also called: Teucrium chamaedrys, viscidum
Claimed benefits: Weight loss; alleviates fever, arthritis, gout, stomach problems Risks: Liver damage, hepatitis, possibly death

7. Greater Celandine

Also called: Celandine, chelidonium majus, chelidonii herba
Claimed benefit: Alleviates stomachache
Risk: Liver damage

8. Green Tea Extract Powder

Also called: Camellia sinensis
Claimed benefit: Weight loss
Risks: Dizziness, ringing in the ears, reduced absorption of iron; exacerbates anemia and glaucoma; elevates blood pressure and heart rate; liver damage; possibly death

9. Kava

Also called: Ava pepper, kava kava, piper methysticum
Claimed benefits:Reduces anxiety, improves insomnia
Risks: Liver damage, exacerbates Parkinson’s and depression, impairs driving, possibly death

10. Lobelia

Also called: Asthma weed, lobelia inflata, vomit wort, wild tobacco
Claimed benefits: Improves respiratory problems, aids smoking cessation
Risks: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, rapid heartbeat, confusion, seizures, hypothermia, coma, possibly death

11. Methylsynephrine

Also called: Oxilofrine, p-hydroxyephedrine, oxyephedrine, 4-HMP
Claimed benefits: Weight loss, increases energy, improves athletic performance
Risks: Causes heart rate and rhythm abnormalities, cardiac arrest; particularly risky when taken with other stimulants

12. Pennyroyal Oil

Also called: Hedeoma pulegioides, mentha pulegium
Claimed benefits: Improves breathing problems, digestive disorders
Risks: Liver and kidney failure, nerve damage, convulsions, possibly death

13. Red Yeast Rice

Also called: Monascus purpureus
Claimed benefits: Lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, prevents heart disease
Risks: Kidney and muscle problems, liver problems, hair loss; can magnify effect of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, increasing the risk of side effects

14. Usnic acid

Also called: Beard moss, tree moss, usnea
Claimed benefits: Weight loss, pain relief
Risks: Liver injury

15. Yohimbe

Also called: Johimbi, pausinystalia yohimbe, yohimbine, corynanthe johimbi
Claimed benefits: Treats low libido and erectile dysfunction, depression, obesity
Risks: Raises blood pressure; causes rapid heart rate, headaches, seizures, liver and kidney problems, heart problems, panic attacks, possibly death

For the full story on supplements, check out this month’s Consumer Reports

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