Many people believe that herbal products are safe since they are labeled as natural and are legally sold. However, some herbal supplements can cause health issues. Also, herbal products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) like over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Products labeled as natural does not always mean safe when it comes to herbal supplements.
Herbal Supplement Use
According to the National Institute of Health, more than half of all Americans take dietary supplements on a daily basis or on occasion (NIH, 2013). Currently, there are over 1,000 companies producing over 29,000 different herbal supplements (Newmaster et al., 2013). These herbal supplements are marketed and taken for a variety of reasons. For example, Echinacea is taken for colds, flu, and other infections; ephedra is taken for colds, fever, flu, headaches, asthma, wheezing, nasal congestion, weight loss, and increased energy; garlic is taken for increased cholesterol, heart disease, high blood pressure, and prevention of certain types of cancer; kava is taken for insomnia, to fight fatigue, asthma, urinary tract infections, anxiety, menopausal symptoms and is used topically as a numbing agent; and St. John’s wort is taken for depression (USDA’s National Agriculture Library, 2013). The question remains if these supplements are safe (not to mention effective).
Over-the-counter and prescription drugs are highly regulated in the United States. Many people are under the assumption that herbal supplements are regulated in the same manner. Herbal supplements are regulated by the FDA. However, they fall under a category other than drugs or foods. They are regulated as dietary supplements.
The regulations for dietary supplements do not require the FDA to give approval to manufacturers before placing these supplements on the market. Additionally, the companies can claim their products address nutrient deficiency, support health, or are linked to body functions, as long as they have supporting evidence and include a disclaimer stating the FDA has not evaluated the claim. Manufacturers are required to follow good manufacturing practices with the intent of ensuring the supplements do not contain the wrong ingredients and contaminants and make sure the correct ingredients are included at the appropriate amounts. The FDA is responsible for the safety of herbal supplements once they are on the market. Even with these rules, there are no guarantees that herbal supplements are safe (Mayo Clinic, 2011).
Research Reflecting Safety
Lakhan and Vieira (2010) performed a literature review on twenty-four studies which investigated the use of herbal and dietary supplements. Out of 2619 participants, 1786 had been diagnosed with either an anxiety disorder or depression and 877 were healthy volunteers. The research included the use of passionflower, kava, or St. John’s wort.
Only one study reflected mild adverse events with the use of passionflower,...