The Scary Truth Behind These Natural Remedies and Their Terrifying Side Effects

Natural remedies have become a replacement for prescription medications for many people. However, not all of these alternative medicines are proven to work. Sometimes, the risks outweigh the benefits. Problems like kidney failure, liver damage, and even death have been reported from the use of medicinal herbs and other home remedies. Here’s a look at how some of them can impact your health.

St. John’s wort

A bottle of extract and whole plants.

Be aware of this seemingly harmless herb. | Almaje/iStock/Getty Images

This herb is often used to treat mild depression. It’s imperative to still consult with a doctor, because St. John’s Wort makes many other medications less effective. According to WebMD, cases of unplanned pregnancy have been reported in women taking the drug along with their birth control. There have also been reported cases of organ rejection when taking anti-rejection drugs along with St. John’s Wort after an organ transplant.

Next: This plant works well for sunburn, but don’t ingest it.

Whole-leaf aloe vera juice

Aloe Vera gel cut in halves.

This gel is extremely dangerous. | Nenov/Getty Images

It’s important to note that whole-leaf juice differs from juice made just from the gel. The biggest side effect of drinking whole-leaf aloe vera juice is its laxative properties. Overuse of this juice can lead to serious abdominal pain, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances such as low potassium. Low potassium levels can lead to muscle weakness and an irregular heartbeat. Plus, over-consuming this juice can lead to a laxative dependency and increased constipation upon stopping consumption.

Next: This South Pacific plant can cause serious liver damage.


It’s best to stay away from the Kava plant. | Chameleonseye/iStock/Getty Images

Kava is a plant from the South Pacific that is most commonly used as an anxiety remedy. The FDA has reported many counts of serious liver damage, including cirrhosis, hepatitis, and liver failure in 25 reports from other countries from use of the drug. Four of the 25 cases required liver transplants. Symptoms of a liver disease include nausea, vomiting, tiredness, stomach pain, and loss of appetite.

Next: Ingestion of this plant is banned in the United States, but it’s still sold as an ointment.


Comfrey root on a white background.

Use only this plant in small amounts. | Emer1940/iStock/Getty Images

The comfrey plant is native to Europe. It is typically applied to the skin to treat wounds and reduce inflammation because it contains allantoin, which helps grow skin cells. However, it has been linked to serious liver damage, and even death, because it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids. The oral form of comfrey has been banned in the U.S. and various other countries; it is sold in creams and ointments in the U.S., but the skin can still absorb these alkaloids, so it must be used in small quantities.

Next: These masks pose the risk of a salmonella infection.

Egg white masks

A person cracks egg whites into two clear bowls.

This homemade mask might not be the best option for glowing skin. | Svehlik/iStock/Getty Images

Some dermatologists say that eggs have exfoliating properties, and since they’re rich in protein and vitamins, they believe they’re good for your skin — that opinion is not conclusive. Eggs run the risk of salmonella, which is a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea, fever, chills, and stomach pain and can be dangerous for those with weakened immune systems. Since there’s no way to tell whether or not the egg you’re using contains salmonella, it’s best to choose another ingredient in your DIY face mask.

Next: This shrub can cause liver damage and interfere with certain drugs.


Chaparral tree plant seen among mountains.

This plant does not work any wonders and has awful side effects. | GaryKavanagh/Getty Images

There is no proof chaparral works for any of its intended uses. Some believe it reduces pain and inflammation along with skin irritation. Others even think it can help combat cancer, but the American Cancer Society says there is no proof of this. This plant is on the FDA’s poisonous plant list because it can cause irreversible liver damage. It can also interfere with certain over-the-counter drugs.

Next: You should skip this popular acne cure and buy an over-the-counter treatment. 

Applying toothpaste to acne

Toothpaste being squeezed from a tube.

Don’t believe this old myth. |

While the injuries associated with applying toothpaste to the face are not life threatening, they can be uncomfortable. Toothpaste contains ingredients that irritate the skin, like hydrogen peroxide and alcohol. This results in burns on the face, redness, and discomfort. There is no proof that toothpaste works any better than over-the-counter treatments, so it’s best to skip this home remedy.

Next: Believe it or not, this flowering plant was used in abortions. 


Pennyroyal seen in front of a dark background.

Pennyroyal can be dangerous to women. | Iscizb/iStock/Getty Images

This flowering plant can be used to cause abortions. This requires a heavy dose of the plant, which can cause serious and sometimes irreversible damage to the kidneys and liver, and even death. The National Health Institute does not deem pennyroyal safe at any dosage, and the plant has been on the FDA’s poisonous plants list for more than 20 years.

Next: This greasy remedy causes more harm than good.

Applying butter to a burn

Butter sticks on a wooden board.

Don’t do this when you get a burn. | iStock/Getty Images

Some think applying butter to a burn will reduce the pain and irritation that comes along with a skin burn. However, butter is greasy, and applying grease to a burn can actually increase the damage done to skin. The grease traps the heat, preventing it from escaping quickly. It is important to put cool water on a burn to help release the heat. Do not use ice; it can irritate the skin more.

Next: Heavy metals sometimes lace these herbs.

Chinese Herbal Medicines

Chinese herbal medicines on a black wooden table.

Never take Chinese herbal medicines without doctor supervision. | Marilyna/iStock/Getty Images

Asian herbal remedies have become more popular now that people look for alternatives to prescription drugs. However, when the California Department of Health tested herbal remedies coming from China, they found that 1/3 of them were laced with harmful toxins or prescription drugs, according to Some herbs contained arsenic and lead. These can cause serious reactions like kidney failure and death.

Next: Leave this procedure to the professionals, or skip it altogether. 

At-home enemas

A doctor holding an enema.

Never go through this procedure without a doctor. |

Enemas are used to rid the colon of toxins and relieve constipation, but they can carry serious risks, even when performed by a doctor. Never do an enema at home. If done incorrectly, it can lead to bowel ruptures, bacterial infections and even death. Perforation of the colon is also possible. The risks of enemas outweigh the benefits, so either skip this treatment or have it done by a careful professional.

Next: This commonly-used immune booster may cause high blood pressure and anxiety.

American ginseng

American ginseng on a white surface.

You can get this at the market, but you shouldn’t use it for self-medicating. | Chengyuzheng

American ginseng is thought to help boost the immune system, reduce the risk of cancer, and improve mental health and well being. Some also believe it can lower blood sugar to help with diabetes. This type of ginseng does come with some pretty serious side effects, so it’s important to consult with a doctor before use. Side effects include high blood pressure, anxiety, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Next: This medicinal oil might leave you infertile.


Neem tree seen from distance.

Using the Neem plant incorrectly can be very dangerous. |

This tree is used for its bark, leaves, and seeds, which all have various medicinal properties like helping with stomach ulcers, fever, asthmsa, and more. However, when used in high doses or for extended periods of time, neem becomes dangerous.

The “extended period of time” depends on the way neem is used (ingested, applied to the skin, etc.). If applied to the skin, neem should only be used for up to two weeks, or it can cause kidney and liver problems. Neem can also reduce fertility. Small children should never use neem; it can cause seizures, blood disorders, and vomiting in small children within hours.

Next: The root of this flowering plant can lead to some uncomfortable side effects.

Valerian root

Valerian Root seen on a wooden scoop.

Some people may experience bad side effects from Valerian root. |

Valerian root became popular thousands of years ago for its anti-anxiety properties. Although the drug is generally safe, according to, it can cause nausea, headaches, and dizziness, making it difficult to perform day-to-day tasks like driving. Research on the long-term effects of valerian root is inconclusive, but it is not recommended for use for more than four to six weeks.

Next: This store-bought drink can either be a life saver or extremely dangerous. 

Grapefruit juice

Grapefruit slices on a wooden board.

It tastes great, but grapefruits can mess with your other medications. |

Many people drink grapefruit juice to improve their skin, aid in weight loss, and even lower cholesterol. The downside: this magical fruit does come with some scary side effects. Grapefruit juice can dangerously increase the potency of certain medications because it contains a compound that can interfere with liver enzymes. Reader’s Digest reported that taking one pill with one glass of grapefruit juice could be the equivalent of taking five pills with water. Grapefruit juice can also potentially cause kidney stones in those who are more prone to them.

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