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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

List of Hazardous Herbs

Nine herbs that the Food and Drug Administration has said are associated with serious adverse reactions or possible hazards.

-- Chaparral. Linked to six North American cases of liver inflammation, one requiring a transplant. No contamination or mechanism for harm has been found, but in December 1992, the American Herbal Products Association asked that chaparral for internal use be withdrawn from the market. Has been promoted as a ``blood purifier,'' cancer cure and acne treatment, the FDA says.

-- Comfrey. Since 1985, at least seven cases of liver complications have been reported in users. In March 1992, the American Herbal Products Association recommended discontinuing internal use. Comfrey stimulates cell growth and is used for wound healing but it contains compounds toxic to the liver when taken internally.

-- Yohimbe. Produces adverse reactions when consumed with certain foods -- liver, cheese and red wine. Kidney failure, seizures and death have been reported in users. Dilates blood vessels and is valued as an aphrodisiac. Not readily available in the United States, herbalists say.

-- Lobelia. Has been linked to adverse reactions when used as a dietary supplement; high doses can suppress breathing, cause sweating, speed the heart, lower blood pressure and even lead to coma or death, the FDA says. Used to ease breathing in people with pneumonia, bronchitis and asthma. The plant is also the source of lobeline, a nicotine-like ingredient in some over-the-counter smoking deterrents, including CigArrest tablets.


-- Germander. At least 27 cases of liver inflammation, including one death, were linked with germander in France, which banned it from drugs. Is used as a weight-loss aid. Not generally available in the United States, herbalists say.

-- Willow bark. Like aspirin, contains salicylates, which could produce the same adverse reactions as aspirin, ranging from stomach irritation to Reye syndrome in youngsters with influenza or chicken pox, the FDA says. Is promoted as an ``aspirin-free'' pain reliever, but no adverse effects have been reported.

-- Jin Bu Huan. A Chinese patent medicine, literally ``more valuable than gold,'' that came to the FDA's attention after three Colorado children got into an adult's bottle of it and took massive overdoses, resulting in severe sedation that required medical treatment. Is marketed as a sedative and pain reliever. At least three cases of liver inflammation associated with it have been reported in California.

-- Stephania and Magnolia. A Chinese herbal preparation containing Stephania and Magnolia that was sold as a weight-loss treatment in Belgium has been implicated in severe kidney injury to at least 48 women; at least 18 developed kidney failure requiring transplants or dialysis, the FDA says.

-- Ma huang. Products containing Ma huang have been associated with high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, nerve damage, muscle injury, psychosis, stroke and memory loss; Ma huang is sold in products for weight control and enhanced energy, often combined with caffeine, which boosts the effect, the FDA says. Used in China for more than five centuries to treat asthma and hay fever. Contains ingredients from the plant family Ephedra, which also yields pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in decongestants such as Sudafed.



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