These Supplements Can Be Dangerous, Pharmacist Says – Eat This, Not That

Socket supplements can be a great, easy way to support your overall health. This is especially true if you struggle to get all the nutrients you need from your diet, or if you have specific health conditions that create an extra need for certain vitamins or minerals. Supplements may consist of items other than vitamins or minerals, such as herbs, plant extracts, and enzymes.

Dietary supplements differ from prescription drugs in some important ways. The most important of these is that the supplements – which are available over the counter for anyone who wants to buy them – are not regulated by the Food and drug administration. The manufacturers themselves, not the federal agency, are responsible for making sure their products are safe and contain the amount of ingredients they say they contain. This means, unfortunately, that sometimes the supplements you can buy at the store can be ineffective, or can even contain too many ingredients, leading to dangerous effects.

Here are four supplements that can be dangerous in certain formulations or amounts. If you see any at your local pharmacy, just leave them on the shelf. Read on to learn more and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure signs you’ve already had COVID.


Aconite is an herbal remedy that has been used for thousands of years to treat a number of conditions including joint pain, fever and inflammation. Aconite quickly affects your nervous system and heart and, when not taken correctly, can have very serious effects. This includes nausea, vomiting, rapid or irregular heartbeat, muscle dysfunction, difficulty breathing, seizures, shock and coma, Studies show. Eating the plant or abusing aconite supplements has killed people before and is equally dangerous in lotion or cream form.


Yohimbe is marketed to enhance sexual and athletic performance and as a weight loss aid. The active ingredient, yohimbine, comes from the bark of an African tree. Yohimbine is used in some prescription drugs for erectile dysfunction, but the supplements are supposed to be made from bark extracts, not the pharmaceutical version of yohimbine, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A study 2016 of 49 yohimbe supplements sold at major chains in the United States, 39% were made from unnatural or highly processed sources. Less than a quarter of the products actually contained the amount of yohimbine indicated on the bottle. Some had almost 1.5 times more ingredients than what was listed on the label.

Yohimbe may cause stomach problems, rapid heartbeat, anxiety and high blood pressure. Due to the dangers, yohimbe is banned in several countries including Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

kava kava supplement capsules on brown wooden plate
Shutterstock / Iryna Imago

Kava is a root that has been used for centuries, usually in teas. It is said to leave a feeling of calm and is often used for anxiety, sleep disorders or to relieve stress. It is also available in supplement form. There is some evidence that kava can be an effective treatment for anxiety, but the benefits are not worth the risks. In addition to stomach aches, headaches, dizziness and other side effects, kava has also been connected to liver damage, even fatal. Long-term use of this supplement can also cause a condition known as kava dermopathy, in which the skin becomes yellow and scaly.


Comfrey is an herbal remedy that has been used for over 2,000 years to help heal wounds and soothe sore, bruised muscles. Studies show that it can act as a pain reliever and reduce healing time when used on the skin. But there are also a lot of evidence that it can cause serious liver damage and cancer. While comfrey-containing pills have been banned in the United States and other countries, comfrey can still be found in creams and ointments (as well as teas and oils). Not only is comfrey dangerous to ingest, but products made from the plant can also be absorbed through the skin. This means that even using comfrey in creams or lotions can be harmful, especially if you use it for long periods of time.

Doctor explaining pill bottle to patient in desk at office

It’s important to remember that just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe. You should always consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking any supplement. Your doctor can help you determine if there is any benefit or harm to the supplement, including whether itdo not interact with any medication you take.

dr. Shaili GandhiPharm.D., is the Vice President of Form Operations at SingleCare.

Shaili Gandhi, PharmD

Shaili Gandhi, PharmD, is vice president of formulary operations at the free prescription savings service SingleCare. Read more

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