Supplements That May Cause Disease or Injury

Adverse effects from the use of dietary supplements should be reported to MedWatch: You, your health care provider, or anyone may report a serious adverse event or illness directly to FDA if you believe it is related to the use of any dietary supplement product, by calling FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088, by fax at 1-800-FDA-0178 or reporting on-line at: MedWatch

Chaparral (a traditional American Indian medicine) - Liver disease, possibly irreversible

Comfrey - Obstruction of blood flow to liver, possibly leading to death

Slimming/dieter's teas - nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, chronic constipation, fainting, possibly death.

Ephedra (also known as Ma huang, Chinese Ephedra and epitonin) - Ranges from high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, nerve damage, injury, insomnia, tremors, and headaches to seizures, heart attack, stroke, and death.

Lobelia (also known as Indian tobacco) - Liver disease, possibly leading to death.

Germander - Range from breathing problems at low doses to sweating, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, and possibly coma and death at higher doses.

Magnolia-Stephania preparation - Kidney disease, possibly leading to permanent kidney failure.

Willow bark - Reye syndrome, a potentially fatal disease associated with aspirin intake in children with chickenpox or flu symptoms; allergic reaction in adults. (Willow bark is marketed as an aspirin-free product, although it actually contains an ingredient that converts to the same active ingredient in aspirin.)

Wormwood - Neurological symptoms, characterized by numbness of legs and arms, loss of intellect, delirium, and paralysis.

Vitamin A (in doses of 25,000 or more International Units a day) - Birth defects, bone abnormalities, and severe liver disease.

Vitamin B6 (in doses above 100 milligrams a day) - Balance difficulties, nerve injury causing changes in touch sensation.

Niacin (in slow-released doses of 500 mg or more a day or immediate-release doses of 750 mg or more a day) - Range from stomach pain, vomiting, bloating, nausea, cramping, and diarrhea to liver disease, muscle disease, eye damage, and heart injury.

Selenium (in doses of about 800 micrograms to 1,000 mcg a day) - Tissue damage.

Germanium (a nonessential mineral) - Kidney damage, possibly death.

L-tryptophan (an amino acid) - Eosinophilia myalgia syndrome, a potentially fatal blood disorder that can cause high fever, muscle and joint pain, weakness, skin rash, and swelling of the arms and legs. (source: FDA Consumer magazine (September-October 1998))