Health Risks Of Ingredients Found In Food Supplements

Unlike prescription drugs and OTC medicines, supplements are not tested for safety and efficacy by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). With over 15,000 supplements in the US marketplace, only a few hundred undergo spot-checking by regulatory authorities.

Though supplements can provide major benefits, analysis from Consumer Reports reveals that many ingredients found in popular supplements can compromise your health.1 For instance, almost any supplement for weight loss is a concern as most of them work by increasing blood pressure or heart rate while also trying to increase metabolism.


Some doctors are concerned about the growing trend of supplement intake. As probiotics can be classified as dietary supplements, they need not abide by the same regulatory standards as prescription or even OTC drugs. Supplement manufacturers are not required to secure FDA approval to sell their products.

Nutritional supplements (or dietary supplements) include vitamins, minerals, herbals, botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and animal extracts. The U.S. FDA defines the supplements as food rather than drugs and regulates their labeling to be used as supplements and not as drugs.


These supplements are available in the form of pills, capsules, powders, gel tabs, extracts, or liquids, and are often added to energy drinks or energy bars. Here are 13 supplement ingredients that are best avoided.2

1. Comfrey

Comfrey is used in many anti-cancer medications and in supplements used to treat a cough


Due to its high level of toxins, comfrey is not commonly marketed. However, it is used in many anti-cancer medications and is known to treat severe stomach pain and heavy periods. It is also found in supplements marketed for cough relief and relief from chest pain. Risks of comfrey include liver damage and it may have carcinogenic effects.

2. Greater Celandine

Greater celandine belongs to the poppy family and is used in supplements that treat stomachaches


Greater Celandine is also called as tetterwort, nipplewort, or swallowwort. It belongs to the poppy family and is used in supplements that are marketed to treat stomachaches and cancer. One major risk of greater celandine is liver damage.

3. Pennyroyal Oil

Pennyroyal oil is found in supplements that treat digestion and breathing problems


The European pennyroyal plant is related to the American species of the plant. But, though they are slightly different, they share similar chemical properties. Crushed pennyroyal leaves have a very strong fragrance similar to spearmint. It is commonly found in supplements that claim to treat breathing problems or digestion issues. It is associated with risks such as liver or kidney failure, nerve damage, convulsions, and death.

4. Lobelia

Lobelia is used in supplements that help reduce respiratory problems


Lobelia is a herb generally used in the treatment of asthma, whooping cough, allergies, bronchitis, and congestion. It is also used as an ingredient in supplements marketed to reduce respiratory problems and help curtail the habit of smoking. But, it also has many risks such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, rapid heartbeat, confusion, seizures, hypothermia, coma, and death.

5. Yohimbe

Yohimbe extracts can cause liver and kidney problems


Yohimbe extracts, which contain yohimbine, have been used in traditional medicine and marketed as dietary supplements. It is predominantly used in supplements that claim to treat low libido and erectile dysfunction, depression, and obesity. It is also known to prevent fainting. Despite numerous quality control issues and dangerous heart effects, it is still used rampantly. But, the risks related to Yohimbe include increased BP and heart rate, headaches, seizures, liver and kidney problems, panic attacks, and death.

6. Caffeine Powder

Caffeine powder used in supplements can cause seizures and cardiac arrest

A single teaspoon of caffeine powder contains about the same amount of caffeine as 28 cups of regular coffee. Manufacturers claim that caffeine powder can increase alertness and attention. It is generally found in supplements marketed for the treatment of attention issues, athletic performance enhancers, and weight loss supplements. The risks related to caffeine powder are seizures, heart arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, and death, especially when combined with other stimulants.

7. Aconite

Aconite is found in supplements that treat gout, joint pain, and inflammation

Although the root of the aconite plant is poisonous, it is often used to treat joint pain, reduce inflammation, and to control fever. It is found in supplements marketed for the treatment of inflammation, gout, and joint pain. The risks associated with aconite include nausea, vomiting, weakness, paralysis, breathing problems, heart problems, and death.

8. Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot in supplements is linked to liver damage

Coltsfoot is a woolly leafed, low-growing plant that is included in the products that are used to reduce coughs, sore throat, laryngitis, bronchitis, upper respiratory tract infections, and asthma. Risks linked to coltsfoot are liver damage, allergic reactions, and it can even be carcinogenic.

9. Kava

Kava is used in supplements that treat insomnia, restlessness, and muscle tension

The roots of the kava plant are used to make a drink that has sedative, anesthetic, euphoriant, and entheogenic properties. It is commonly used by the Pacific Islanders. Kava’s calming properties are used in supplements marketed to help relieve anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, and stress-related symptoms like spasm and muscle tension. But, it is also linked to risks such as liver damage, worsening depression or Parkinson’s disease, and impaired driving.

10. Methylsynephrine

Methylsynephrine is associated with abnormalities of heart rate and rhythm

Methylsynephrine is a stimulant drug and is an amphetamine. It is an ingredient found in some dietary supplements marketed for weight loss, increased energy, and improved athletic performance. It is associated with major risks such as abnormalities of heart rate and rhythm, and can even cause cardiac arrest, especially when combined with other stimulants.

11. Green Tea Extract Powder

Green tea extract powder may cause dizziness, anxiety, and blood disorders

Green tea extracts powder is commonly used in products that help in weight loss. Drinking green tea is known to improve mental alertness. The risks associated with green tea extract powder include dizziness, ringing in the ears, anxiety, blood disorders, worsening glaucoma or anemia, osteoporosis, liver damage, elevated blood pressure, and even death.

12. Chaparral

Chapparal supplements are used in treating weight-loss, skin rashes, and inflammation

The benefits of chaparral tea as claimed by manufacturers include treatment of bronchitis and the common cold. It is also known to alleviate rheumatic pain, abdominal pain, chicken pox, and snake bite pain. Chaparral is found in supplements marketed for weight loss, inflammation, infections, skin rashes, and cancer. Risks associated with chaparral are kidney problems, skin reactions, liver damage, and death.

13. Germander

Germander is used in supplements that treat digestion problems and gallbladder conditions

Germander is a plant used in supplements marketed to treat gallbladder conditions, digestion problems, and as a remedy for weight loss, fever, arthritis, gout, and stomach problems. Its risks include liver damage or inflammation, hepatitis, and possibly death.