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: For many older men, impotence is treatable without drugs

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

High-calorie and low-nutrient foods in kids' TV

9 hours ago

Fruits and vegetables are often displayed in the popular Swedish children's TV show Bolibompa, but there are also plenty of high-sugar foods. A new study from the University of Gothenburg explores how food is portrayed in ...

Chemical companies shore up supplement science

10 hours ago

As evidence mounts showing the potential health benefits of probiotics, antioxidants and other nutritional compounds, more and more people are taking supplements. And the chemical industry is getting in on the action. But ...

More Americans in their golden years are going hungry

10 hours ago

In a country as wealthy as the United States, it may come as a surprise that one in 12 seniors do not have access to adequate food due to lack of money or other financial resources. They are food insecure.

User comments : 0

More news stories