Health Watch — Over the Counter: Herbal Supplements

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications  and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about using over-the-counter medicines and supplements safely. Herbal medicine sounds healthy because it’s natural and often based on ancient lore. But doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center say that herbal and natural doesn’t necessarily equal safe.

Several herbal supplements that are used for promoting weight loss can cause liver or kidney damage. Dr. William Lee, a liver expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says that because these products aren’t supervised by the Food and Drug Administration, there’s no quality control, no tests to ensure that the herbal supplements work and no tests to guarantee safety. If you do take supplements, follow the label directions. Even a safe herb can cause problems in large doses. Also be sure to tell your doctor what you’re taking so you can avoid possible drug interactions.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical service in digestive disorders. 


March 2008

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