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Herbal Supplements Can Damage Kidneys, Liver

Jul 4, 2004 |

Even with the recent banning of ephedra, consumers should remain cautious about trying other herbal supplements.

According to doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, substances such as bitter orange, germander, jin bu huan and usnic acid ingredients in weight-loss products have been associated with kidney and liver problems.

“A number of herbal preparations have been implicated in causing liver damage, some even leading to the need for a liver transplant or to death,†says Dr. William Lee, professor of internal medicine and an expert in digestive and liver diseases. “Herbal products are not under any specific supervision by the Food and Drug Administration, so there is no quality control, no proof of efficacy and no tests of safety.â€

The ban on ephedra, which had been linked to more than 150 deaths and dozens of heart attacks and strokes, was the government’s first for a dietary supplement. New manufacturing and labeling regulations for dietary supplements are expected later this year, according to the FDA.

“The herbal industry is largely satisfying a need for self-remedies for patients who are unwilling to seek conventional medical attention or are wary of doctors,†says Dr. Lee. “Most supplements are indeed harmless and only injure the pocketbook. Many people, however, take these compounds in any amount, never limiting themselves to what is advised regarding dosing.â€

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