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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
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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
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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.