You Should Never, Ever Take These Supplements

The use of supplements isn’t something out of the ordinary. Similar to brushing your teeth and having breakfast each morning, taking them is common routine for some people. The problem is not all supplements are as effective as they claim to be. When it comes to taking new supplements, it’s always important to speak with your doctor about the safety and effectiveness prior to use. And no matter what you do, you should always avoid these 10 mentioned below, which can cause extremely severe health problems.

1. Ephedra

Glass prescription bottle with pills

This herb isn’t one we recommend. | iStock.com/Jeng_Niamwhan

Ephedra is an herb that was originally used in traditional Chinese medicine to ease allergies, asthma, bronchitis, and cold and flu symptoms, per Verywell. But it also became very popular in the diet industry in the ’80s as both a dietary and sports enhancement supplement. Benefits of the pill include possible weight loss, suppression of appetite, and increase in strength and endurance, so it’s no wonder it gained a huge following. However, in 2004, the FDA banned the supplement because of possible health concerns.

While it’s no longer available in the U.S., it’s still available in a few other countries and should never be taken.

2. Yohimbe

bottle pouring pills

This supplement isn’t even regulated. | iStock.com/theevening

According to Everyday Health, over-the-counter yohimbe bark supplements claim to help erectile dysfunction, similar to Viagra. Except it doesn’t do the job very well and it’s also an unregulated supplement. Taking high dosages can lead to severe issues including paralysis, trouble breathing, and death, as mentioned by WebMD. The article says it’s especially unsafe for those with prior health conditions, like diabetes. The supplement can cause low blood sugar by interfering with insulin levels when taken alone, and when combined with other medication. To avoid these dangerous side effects, speak with your doctor about the best options for you rather than taking this harmful supplement.

3. Aconite

prescription pills falling out of a bottle

This traditional Chinese medicine is better left in the past. | iStock.com

Another form of traditional Chinese medicine, WebMD says that aconite is taken to help treat conditions such as heart problems, nerve and joint pain, gout, and inflammation. But you definitely don’t want to take this supplement to ease symptoms. Not only is there inadequate evidence that aconite can help, but it also contains a strong poison that’s highly toxic — comparable to what’s found in lead and in the venom of some poisonous snakes, per Healthline Networks. Use can cause extremely severe side effects, such as heart and breathing problems, inability to move, and death.

4. Chaparral

pills on spoon with leaves

There’s no proof this supplement can really heal you. | iStock.com/Ls9907

Originally used by Native Americans to treat respiratory problems and arthritis, the National Institutes of Health says chaparral extracts have also been used to help fight off cancer and HIV, promote weight loss, liver wellness, and slow down the aging process. However, there’s no proof taking chaparral offers any real healing powers. Rather, there have been several cases where it caused liver damage from as early as three weeks from the start of use. Some cases even caused the need for emergency transplants. To avoid these serious side effects, you should never take this supplement.

5. Kava kava

Kava kava root powder on a white surface

Kava kava could cause liver damage. | iStock.com

A root that’s been used for hundreds of years, kava kava is said to deliver possible benefits such as relaxation and treatment for insomnia and anxiety, as mentioned by the University of Maryland Medical Center. However, this supplement is tricky because its true effects haven’t been confirmed. It may cause liver damage, and there are more than 30 reported cases in Europe and some cases in the U.S. There have also been at least 25 reports of liver-related conditions, including cirrhosis, liver failure, and death linked to use of products that contain the root. But it’s not yet known whether it’s because the root taken alone is toxic to the liver, or when combined with the use of other herbs and supplements. Regardless, the article says kava kava should only be taken if recommended by your doctor and with supervision.

6. Coltsfoot

man coughing as he stands outside

Coltsfoot probably isn’t helping you. | iStock.com

Coltsfoot is a supplement people use to aid certain lung problems, including asthma and bronchitis. However, WebMD says there’s not enough evidence showing coltsfoot can actually help with any of these problems. On top of that, it contains chemicals called hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can cause liver damage and even cancer. Even if you find supplements labeled hepatotoxic PA-free, there’s still no guarantee this product is safe. You’re better off talking to your doctor about what to do if you’re dealing with a medical ailment.

7. Comfrey

woman in a convenience store buying supplements

Think twice before you buy this supplement. | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Comfrey’s been used as an oral medication to treat upset stomachs as well as a topical solution to minimize inflammation from sprains. Unfortunately, it’s not the safest substance. University of Maryland Medical Center says it, like coltsfoot, contains life-threatening PAs. And don’t think you’re in the clear with creams and ointments, either, because your skin can still absorb the toxins. Unless your doctor is monitoring usage, it’s best to skip comfrey completely.

8. Germanium

Capsules of medication

Germanium could cause kidney damage. | David McNew/Getty Images

The potential downfalls associated with germanium should be enough to drive you in the opposite direction. Though proponents say it boosts the immune system in a way that may help treat HIV, cancer, and other conditions, Healthline says supporting evidence is slim. Additionally, germanium is known to cause kidney damage and may even lead to death. With possible side effects like these, germanium should definitely be avoided.

9. Colloidal silver

dietary supplement

Colloidal silver could discolor your skin. | iStock.com/katerinchik73

When the FDA warns against a supplement, you should probably listen. In 2006, the organization released a statement warning supplements containing colloidal silver can lead to a gray-blue discoloration of the skin, nails, gums, and even eye membranes. This discoloration, called argyria, is typically irreversible. Though it poses no physical threat, some people experience psychological distress as a result. Since there’s no clear evidence colloidal silver will benefit you, taking the supplement isn’t worth the risk.

10. LX1

pills in person's hand

Don’t bother with this pill for weight loss. | iStock.com

The FDA sent out a warning against LX1 a few years ago, and for good reason. Used as a weight-loss pill, LX1 contains a harmful ingredient called DMAA that’s often masked as geranium extract. The problem is DMAA can cause some serious cardiovascular problems, including heart attack. If you’re looking to lose weight, making positive lifestyle changes should be your first step. The dangerous side effects of this supplement just aren’t worth it.