How safe and effective are herbal dietary supplements?

Jul 21, 2010

Millions of people are taking herbs and other plant-based dietary supplements to improve their health, but they have precious little information on the actual effectiveness or potential ill effects of these products. That's the topic of an article in the current issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS' weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN Senior Editor Celia Henry Arnaud suggests that consumers are taking a gamble when it comes to the safety and effectiveness of hundreds of pills and potions cluttering store shelves. Such products include black cohosh and red clover, used by menopausal women to reduce hot flashes, and kava, which is used to treat anxiety and insomnia.

Scientists are concerned that some supplements may contain high levels of toxic metals, such as lead and mercury, or pesticides. There's also the possibility that the plant itself might be toxic or that a supplement can cause harm by reacting with conventional drugs.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which regulates supplements as foods rather than drugs, recently took a step toward improving the situation by requiring all supplement manufacturers to test their products for contaminants. But scientists still know little about the ingredients in many supplements and what effect they might have on the body. Ongoing research is providing new information that will help address these concerns in the future, including the long-term safety of these products for consumers, the article indicates.

Explore further: AMA examines economic impact of physicians

More information: This story is available at pubs.acs.org/cen/science/88/8829sci2.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nanotech in your vitamins

Jan 14, 2009

The ability of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the safety of dietary supplements using nanomaterials is severely limited by lack of information, lack of resources and the agency's lack of statutory authority ...

FDA issues supplement rules

Jun 23, 2007

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued new government standards for the manufacture of vitamins and dietary supplements.

FDA seizes sexual enhancement products

Apr 10, 2008

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the seizure by U.S. marshals of more than 14,000 units of Shangai- and Naturale-brand diet supplements.

Recommended for you

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

13 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

13 hours ago

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

13 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Finnish inventor rethinks design of the axe

(Phys.org) —Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä is the man behind the Vipukirves Leveraxe, which is a precision tool for splitting firewood. He designed the tool to make the job easier and more efficient, with ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.