Some of the so-called herbal and natural supplements might not be safe after all and could even bring dangerous side effects.
Americans spend more than $12.8 billion on these alternative medicines every year, a federal report found.
Researchers from Consumer Reports detailed in its September issue how easy it really is to make about 80 capsules for weight loss.
In their demonstration, they used YouTube, Google and an editor's desk to create a fictional weight loss product called Thinitol. They found that a single Food and Drug Administration (FDA) form is all they need to register their "facility."
In the report, they also analyzed 15 ingredients found in these herbal and natural supplements that people should avoid.
The first common ingredient is an alkaloid called yohimbe, which is procured from the bark of the same tree. Yohimbe is marketed as a natural supplement to treat low libido and obesity. What is not being said is that it can also increase a person's heart rate and the panic attack risks. High dosage can even lead to death. What's more worrying is that many supplements contain its synthetic version called yohimbine, which is even more powerful than the natural.
Another one is oxilofrine, a stimulant which is not formally approved in the United States. This ingredient is also present in various natural and herbal supplements and in varying doses. The report found that the manufacturers fail to accurately indicate the exact dosage of each ingredient inside every pill.
The risky ingredient list includes aconite, which is an anti-inflammatory ingredient that can cause heart problems, vomiting and even death. Even the green tea extract powder made it to the shifty list as it can cause low blood iron and ringing in the ears. Another one is kava, which is said to help people with anxiety and sleeping problems, but can also cause damage to the liver and even worsen depression.
Apart from their own side effects, these natural and herbal supplements could also be dangerous when combined with conventional medicine.
"Not only are the advertised ingredients of some supplements potentially dangerous but because of the way they're regulated, you often have no idea what you're actually ingesting," said Pieter Cohen, M.D. from the Harvard Medical School. Cohen has written various papers on the subject of supplements.
The list is published in the September issue of Consumer Reports. The full list of shifty ingredients includes the following:
Aconite (also called Aconiti tuber, aconitum, angustifolium, monkshood, radix aconti, wolfsbane)
Caffeine Powder (also called 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine)
Chaparral (also called Creosote bush, greasewood, larrea divaricata, larrea tridentata, larreastat)
Coltsfoot (also called Coughwort, farfarae folium leaf, foalswort, tussilago farfara)
Comfrey (also called Blackwort, bruisewort, slippery root, symphytum officinale)
Germander (also called Teucrium chamaedrys, viscidum)
Greater Celandine (also called Celandine, chelidonium majus, chelidonii herba)
Green Tea Extract Powder (also called Camellia sinensis)
Kava (also called Ava pepper, kava kava, piper methysticum)
Lobelia (also called Asthma weed, lobelia inflata, vomit wort, wild tobacco)
Methylsynephrine (also called Oxilofrine, p-hydroxyephedrine, oxyephedrine, 4-HMP)
Pennyroyal Oil (also called Hedeoma pulegioides, mentha pulegium)
Red Yeast Rice (also called Monascus purpureus)
Usnic Acid (also called Beard moss, tree moss, usnea)
Yohimbe (also called Johimbi, pausinystalia yohimbe, yohimbine, corynanthe johimbi)