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15 Supplement Ingredients to Always Avoid

From cancer to liver failure — to death. Ingredients passed off as healthy can harm you. Avoid these 15 at the very least.
By Steven Findlay
Published: November 30, 2017
Last updated: November 30, 2017
 

Identified by an expert panel of independent doctors and dietary-supplement researchers.

You can download this PDF to find out more about the panel and how the ingredients were selected.

Ingredient Claimed Benefits Risks
Aconite

Also called: Aconiti tuber, aconitum, angustifolium, monkshood, radix aconti, wolfsbane

Reduces inflammation, joint pain, gout Nausea, vomiting, weakness, paralysis, breathing and heart problems, possibly death
Caffeine Powder

Also called: 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine

Improves attention, enhances athletic performance, weight loss Seizures, heart arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, possibly death; particularly dangerous when combined with other stimulants
Chaparral

Also called: Creosote bush, greasewood, larrea divaricata, larrea tridentata, larreastat

Weight loss; improves inflammation; treats colds, infections, skin rashes, cancer Kidney problems, liver damage, possibly death
Coltsfoot

Also called: Coughwort, farfarae folium leaf, foalswort, tussilago farfara

Relieves cough, sore throat, laryngitis, bronchitis, asthma Liver damage, possible carcinogen
Comfrey

Also called: Blackwort, bruisewort, slippery root, symphytum officinale

Relieves cough, heavy menstrual periods, stomach problems, chest pain; treats cancer Liver damage, cancer, possibly death
Germander

Also called: Teucrium chamaedrys, viscidum

Weight loss; alleviates fever, arthritis, gout, stomach problems Liver damage, hepatitis, possibly death
Greater Celandine

Also called: Celandine, chelidonium majus, chelidonii herba

Alleviates stomach ache Liver damage
Green Tea
Extract Powder

Also called: Camellia sinensis

Weight loss Dizziness, ringing in the ears, reduced absorption of iron; exacerbates anemia and glaucoma; elevates blood pressure and heart rate; liver damage; possibly death
Kava

Also called: Ava pepper, kava kava, piper methysticum

Reduces anxiety, improves insomnia Liver damage, exacerbates Parkinson’s and depression, impairs driving, possibly death
Lobelia

Also called: Asthma weed, lobelia inflata, vomit wort, wild tobacco

Improves respiratory problems, aids smoking cessation Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, rapid heartbeat, confusion, seizures, hypothermia, coma, possibly death
Methylsynephrine

Also called: Oxilofrine, p-hydroxyephedrine, oxy ephedrine, 4-HMP

Weight loss, increases energy, improves athletic performance Causes heart rate and rhythm abnormalities, cardiac arrest; particularly risky when taken with other stimulants
Pennyroyal Oil

Also called: Hedeoma pulegioides, mentha pulegium

Improves breathing problems, digestive disorders Liver and kidney failure, nerve damage, convulsions, possibly death
Red Yeast Rice

Also called: Monascus purpureus

Lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, prevents heart disease Kidney and muscle problems, liver problems, hair loss; can magnify effect of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, increasing the risk of side effects
Usnic Acid

Also called: Beard moss, tree moss, usnea

Weight loss, pain relief Liver injury
Yohimbe

Also called: Johimbi, pausinystalia yohimbe, yohimbine, corynanthe johimbi

Treats low libido and erectile dysfunction, depression, obesity Raises blood pressure; causes rapid heart rate, headaches, seizures, liver and kidney problems, heart problems, panic attacks, possibly death
Steven Findlay

Steven Findlay

Steven Findlay is an independent medical and health policy journalist and a contributing editor/writer for Consumer Reports. He derives some of his posts and insights from Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, a grant-funded public information and education program that evaluates prescription drugs based on authoritative, peer-reviewed research.

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