Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dangerous Supplements?

News story: some supplements are dangerous. But why? How much is dangerous? How do you ascertain purity?

Three of the supplements listed are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine: aconite (附子 Fu Zi), bitter orange (枳壳 Zhi Ke), and coltsfoot (款冬花 Kuan Dong Hua). When used in the framework of a Chinese medicine diagnosis, these herbs are very safe. A large part of the problem is when these plants become divorced from the traditional knowledge that governs their use. No one in the TCM world simply prescribes an aconite pill - it doesn't make any sense. This is what happened with 麻黄 Ma Huang (ephedra) - in TCM it's used sparingly for respiratory conditions. But some doofus discovered that it makes you sweat, and decided to put huge doses of it into pill form and market it as a weight-loss supplement. As a result, a man died, and professional Chinese medicine doctors very nearly lost the ability to use this important herb.

When you take something in pill or powder form, you're putting your faith in the company. You're trusting that the label is correct. Companies that have been around for years and years and only sell to health care professionals are a notch up, in my opinion, from those that sell in supermarkets. At Fat Turtle Herb Company, we do business only with industry leaders who carry the very best products. You can learn more about our suppliers here.

Nini Mai L.Ac has a great story from her college days at Berkeley - about a friend who took an ordinary aspirin to the lab and analyzed it to see what was really inside. Hopefully I can convince her to share the story here!

(Thanks to Karen Wright L.Ac for the link!)


Jonah Ewell said...

Ugh, just noticed that Google automatically generated an ad for some suspicious weight-loss product on this post. Sheesh!

S. Spencer Jones said...

The Consumer Reports article this story is based on is highly biased. It is thoroughly refuted at: