Herbal supplements: Are herbal supplements safe?

Herbal supplements: Are herbal supplements safe?

Herbal supplements aren't right for everyone. Get the facts before you buy.

Echinacea to prevent colds. Ginkgo to improve memory. Flaxseed to lower cholesterol. The list of herbal remedies goes on and on.

Herbal supplements, sometimes called botanicals, aren't new. Plants have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. However, herbal supplements haven't been subjected to the same scientific scrutiny and aren't as strictly regulated as medications. For example, although makers of herbal supplements must follow good manufacturing practices — to ensure that supplements are processed consistently and meet quality standards — they don't have to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before putting their products on the market.

Yet all herbs — including herbal supplement products labeled as "natural" — can have drug-like effects. Anything strong enough to produce a positive effect, such as lowered cholesterol or improved mood, is also strong enough to carry risk. So it's important to do your homework and investigate potential benefits and side effects of herbal supplements before you buy. And be sure to talk with your doctor, especially if you take medications, have chronic health problems, or are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Herbal supplements are regulated by the FDA, but not as drugs or as foods. They fall under a category called dietary supplements. The rules for dietary supplements are as follows:

•Manufacturers don't have to seek FDA approval before putting dietary supplements on the market. In addition, companies can claim that products address a nutrient deficiency, support health or are linked to body functions — if they have supporting research and they include a disclaimer that the FDA hasn't evaluated the claim.

•Manufacturers must follow good manufacturing practices to ensure that supplements are processed consistently and meet quality standards. These regulations are intended to keep the wrong ingredients and contaminants, such as pesticides and lead, out of supplements, as well as make sure that the right ingredients are included in appropriate amounts.

•Once a dietary supplement is on the market, the FDA is responsible for monitoring its safety. If the FDA finds a product to be unsafe, it can take action against the manufacturer or distributor or both, and may issue a warning or require that the product be removed from the market.

These regulations provide assurance that herbal supplements meet certain quality standards and that the FDA can intervene to remove dangerous products from the market.

The rules do not, however, guarantee that herbal supplements are safe for anyone to use. Because many supplements contain active ingredients that have strong effects in the body, these products can pose unexpected risks. For example, taking a combination of herbal supplements or using supplements together with prescribed medications could lead to harmful, even life-threatening results. For this reason, it's important to talk with your doctor before using herbal supplements.

How do you know what's in herbal supplements?

The FDA requires that the following information be included on the labels of all herbal supplements:

•The name of the herbal supplement

•The name and address of manufacturer or distributor

•A complete list of ingredients — either in the Supplement Facts panel or listed beneath it

•Serving size, amount and active ingredient

If you don't understand something on an herbal supplement's label, ask your doctor or pharmacist for an explanation.

An easy way to compare ingredients in products is by using the Dietary Supplement Label Database, which is available on the National Institute of Health's website. The database has information on the ingredients for thousands of dietary supplements sold in the United States. You can look up products by brand name, uses, active ingredient or manufacturer.

By Mayo Clinic Staff mayoclinic.org/about-this-s...

3 Replies

  • Dear ragivrao,

    Thanks for your informative post.An Important topic is taken by you here.People must think about it.

    I do not think that all manufactures of herbal products (used as medical supplements or cosmetics) strictly follow these guidelines.So buyers of these products must be conscious about what they are buying?

  • dear rao,

    my memory may be approximate -

    but i do remember that

    i had read long ago that-

    even these days about fifty percent of modern drugs are extracted from

    herbals. may be the substrates for the drugs --

    quinine sulfate is said to be cheaper when extracted from the tree

    rather than synthesized.

    good luck.

  • Ayurvedic medicines were prepared from herbs without using chemicals u may not going any google searches or other sources their opinion may be different from person to person .

    in ?Ayurveda u may heard so much good medicines our old generation used Now also it is popular Ex CHYAVANA PRASHA DRAKSHA SAVA JEERIKA SAVA ASHWAGANDAYA LEHYA etc

    Now generation changes most of them used fully allopathic medicines so the demand is reduced to Ayurvedic medicines .

    By name of Ayurvedas some of herbal sales agents misguided the people given variety of herbs. u may not known any thing So here there may be chances of misguiding and helath may upset ?

    So any interested persons for using herbal medicine must contact Doctors and go to medical store The ayurvedic medicines were manufactured from so much companies They have given content in that medicine manufacture date MRP etc Go through recagnised company products Do not use without label and unauthorised persons product here u you was cunning most of times

You may also like...