Problematic Herbs

The following are a list of herbs one is well advised to avoid, but which one still may find with glowing recommendations in certain places. This list is by no means exhaustive (even when we get a few more in here...).

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara).
Liver carcinogen. The liver is one of your most important organs.

Comfrey (Symphytum, sp.).
Hepatotoxin. Liver-damaging pyrrolizidine alkaloids are present and are problematic even with chronic low dose exposure. Avoid taking it internally.

Ephedra sp.
(This includes stuff like "Herbal Ecstasy", and the like. I've also seen it listed in herbal anti-histimines. Has been known to cause death. Can interact unpleasantly with other drugs, active ingredients in herbals. Just because something is "natural" doesn't make it good for you. Note also that many herbal preparations lack information about concentrations of ingredients, if only because concentrations vary from plant to plant. Ephedra can increase the heart rate, and induce palpitations. It may also markedly increase blood pressure. Best to Avoid.

Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium).
Abortifacient. The level where a miscarriage can be expected to be induced is about at the same level that other effects, including liver damage, convulsions, coma, death, can occur in the mother. At lower doses, birth defects might be a likely outcome. The tea has too little of the active ingredient to be likely to induce abortion, although there is a strong caution concerning liver damage or effects on pregnancy and fetal development even with the tea.

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum).

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare).
The active ingredient, thujone, may be present in from 0-95% of the oil component of the plant. Dosing, therefore, is exceedingly unreliable.
Can induce convulsions and psychotic effects.

Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium).
Convulsions, addictive, toxic results possible when taken internally. Habitual use can modify personality unpleasantly.


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Last Updated: February 26, 1999.