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View Full Version : What natural herbs and ingredients are suspect?


Iris Rings
04-28-2006, 02:58 PM
I know if somehing is "natural" it's out of the control of the feds these days.
But there must be some that they would dearly like to restrict because of suspected problems.

zoid
04-28-2006, 03:09 PM
I know if somehing is "natural" it's out of the control of the feds these days.
But there must be some that they would dearly like to restrict because of suspected problems.

Just to be clear, the Fed controls quite a few things which are all natural (marijuana springs to mind). It can add to that list at any time (through the proper channels and procedures of course) without regard to a substances status of being “natural”.

Wesley Clark
04-28-2006, 03:34 PM
ephedra, which is already banned. I'm sure they'd take morning glories away if they could. Just take the text of a book like legal highs and figure that they'd ban them all if they could.

http://www.gurze.com/client/client_pages/newsletter20.cfm

The FDA advises avoiding 5 dangerous herbs: belladonna, comfrey, broom, lobelia, and pennyroyal.

WhyNot
04-28-2006, 03:43 PM
ephedra, which is already banned. I'm sure they'd take morning glories away if they could. Just take the text of a book like legal highs and figure that they'd ban them all if they could.

http://www.gurze.com/client/client_pages/newsletter20.cfm

The FDA advises avoiding 5 dangerous herbs: belladonna, comfrey, broom, lobelia, and pennyroyal.
The ban on ephedra was (partially) reversed (http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/U.S._Federal_Judge_overturns_ephedra_ban) in April of '05. Has it been re-banned?

gabriela
04-28-2006, 06:01 PM
He was a 29 year old college student making a living as a part time security guard not long out of the Air Force. He had had to keep to his weight scales in the AF and had a hard time doing it. He was muscular and in great shape but he needed to guard against that little belly pillow. He decided ephedra was the way to go.

He collapsed in his kitchen with his girlfriend unaware of it in the livingroom. She came in and he was down. She called 911 but it was too late.

I've never seen that much small vessel disease on heart histology and it was weird. Strange choked off little arteries unlike those I see in old people and diabetics. Chronic ephedra use and positive ephedra levels. I certified him as complications of ephedra containing weight loss medications.

I've been very very leery of ephedra ever since. I'm sorry if you love it, but when the FDA banned it, I cheered. Those small heart arteries haunt me.

His girlfriend was going to marry him. Never now.

groman
04-28-2006, 07:19 PM
I've been very very leery of ephedra ever since. I'm sorry if you love it, but when the FDA banned it, I cheered. Those small heart arteries haunt me.


Is it possible he was really overdoing it? Are things like that seen in people who take ephedrine for lung conditions and such? Are things like that seen in people taking pseudoephedrine?

Wesley Clark
04-28-2006, 09:56 PM
Do you know how much ephedra he was using? If he was using the equivalent of the regular dose of around 30-90mg of ephedrine (not ephedra, I don't know what ephedra doses are) a day that is pretty bad. But if he was taking far more than that then side effects are expected. If you take too much of any drug it can screw you over.

scotandrsn
04-28-2006, 11:11 PM
When my wife was suffering from back pain and was open to just about anything, she visited an acupuncturist (sp?). While she felt the acupuncture helped, the practitioner then gave her various "natural" herbal remedies in addition.

Looking at them when she brought them home, I thought the labels looked like they had been printed on someone's basement Apple II with Chinese font installed, and got worried. I began looking up the ingredients, and found that one of them, Aristolochic Acid (http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/ds-bot.html), if taken sufficient quantities (which IIRC from my research at the time were not particularly hard to attain following the prescriber's dosage recommendations), is known to permanently dissolve the fine structures in the kidneys.

It has been flagged in the US by the FDA, but because of the fact that China does not agree with these findings, acupuncture and its associated herbs are popular here, and compliance with FDA guidelines is lax, it is not as hard as it should be to obtain Chinese traditional medicine products containing this chemical.

gabriela
04-29-2006, 05:17 AM
Do you know how much ephedra he was using? If he was using the equivalent of the regular dose of around 30-90mg of ephedrine (not ephedra, I don't know what ephedra doses are) a day that is pretty bad. But if he was taking far more than that then side effects are expected. If you take too much of any drug it can screw you over.

I never know how much people are taking. Unless they leave a carefully documented written record, or sit down with their girlfriend every time they're going to take a dose and show it to her and make her recite it along with them, or submit a thread on it to the Straight Dope. Most people just pop pills when they feel the need. They leave no record of when they have done it, or how many they took. We're working with dead people here. They don't talk.

If you think about how hard it would be for me to answer the question "how many was he taking and when" - try to come up with some piece of evidence that would give me the clue. Prescription drugs at least have a date prescribed and a number to take per day, and we can count and divide. You were issued 30 pills on the first with an instruction to take one a day; today is the twenty-seventh, and you are dead; there are three left. Occam's Razor suggests you were taking one a day, as instructed - but Occam when applied to human behavior frequently fails to account for the wacky. I don't know if you took a handful the first day and none for two weeks because that first handful made you feel ill. A blood level at autopsy is a snapshot. All drugs metabolize. It tells me you have some non metabolized drug in your blood. Not whether you took one pill one half life ago, or two pills twice as long ago.

I don't get anything magical like they would on CSI like a receipt from a drug store that says when they bought the over the counter bottle of 500 ephedra pills. Even if I did, I don't know if they gave some to friends, or if they dropped some down the drain when they heard footsteps coming. All I know is the history I got plus the snapshot from the blood.

And no, I don't see those changes in asthmatics on much stronger drugs. I think there is probably a significant difference to the body between ephedra and pseudo-ephedrine. Particularly to the small heart vessels. It's not unheard of for a minor change in a drug to make a major change in its efficacy or its side effects. Like the little side groups that turn estrogen to testosterone.

I have not heard of a drug trial comparing ephedra to pseudoephedrine, but I'll bet there were studies on the chronic effects of Sudafed before the FDA passed it, and if I didn't have such a honking big headache, I'd go look for them. Is there a KarlGauss in the house?

ralph124c
04-29-2006, 06:45 AM
Well, natural licorice can cause liver damage. Bay leaves can be poisonous (if you were to use a lot of them). Probably a lot of herbs could be dangerous at high enough dosages. I guess the worrisome thing would be these "food supplements'-which are not tested by the FDA. Ma huang, a chinese herb is supsect, as is ginsneg (which contains estogen). All substances that act as drugs ought to be scrutinized.

Broomstick
04-29-2006, 07:27 AM
Ma huang, a chinese herb is supsect
Ma huang is ephedra.

Which is one of the problems with herbs - the same thing can go by different names, or is found in more than one plant.

Many years ago, I tried ephedra as a treatment for allergies. And it does work. However, the potency varies widely, so that with one batch a cup of tea is insufficient to relieve symptoms and with another the same size cup of tea leaves your heart pounding like a jackhammer and your mucus membranes dry as the sahara. So I went back to things like Sudafed, because the effects of a dose were much, much more reliable and less prone to be scary. I'm a big believer in modern pharmaceuticals because of quality, dosage, and effect control.

In other words, the young man in question could have been taking the "correct" and recommended dosage of ephedra which, under normal circumstances would have be OK in a healthy young man, but had the misfortune to get a slightly wonky/over-strength batch or two of the herb/drug. The other point is that ephedra contains a number of chemicals, the proportions of which vary, and which have their own dosages/side effects. Unlike, say, Sudafed, which is pretty much just one thing without all those other unstudied chemicals involved.

edwino
04-29-2006, 11:20 AM
We routinely ask about herbal supplements, especially teas. Lots of people use them in South America and Mexico. In Houston, unexplained renal or hepatic failure in people of Hispanic descent is herbal teas until proven otherwise. The scary thing is it is often hard to trace down exactly what these are. Literature searches show comfrey, Kombucha, germander (Teucrium capitatum and Teucrium chamaedrys), senna, Chinese green tea, carp juice (???), Psoralea corylifolia, Centella asiatica, boldo, Morinda citrifolia, usnic acid, ma huang, Sennomotokounou, monocrotaline, Greater Celandine, kava kava, Onshidou-Genbi-Kounou, Nutrilite Double X Multivitamin-Multimineral, Copaltra, Breynia officinalis, Cascara sagrada, Jin Bu Huan, xiao-chai-hu-tang, and many others associated with hepatotoxicity. Not sure if these are all different. But there are lots and lots of case studies out there.

Big problems with herbal supplements are the poor standardization of dose and the presence of contaminants. Scary studies have shown the presence of toxins, over the counter and prescription medicines, and other contaminants in herbal medicines. That, combined with the shaky science behind many of the supplements, means that it is really a roll of the dice when you take them. Unfortunately, this includes such pretty standard things like St. John's Wort, fish oils, and so forth.

gabriela
04-29-2006, 01:32 PM
That's really interesting, Edwino.

Let's not forget the mother lode of dangerous natural products: foxglove.

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