With medical and prescription costs seemingly always on the rise, many people are turning to herbal supplements to help alleviate many health problems.

There is a herbal supplement for nearly every possible situation.

  • Insomnia
  • Joint pain
  • Menopausal or menstrual symptoms
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Memory improvement
  • etc

Not all supplements will be of a benefit to you though. There are situations where you may want to avoid certain herbal supplements. Below we tell you 5 such herbal supplements and why you should avoid them.

You should always talk to a doctor before taking any supplement.


Arnica has been used as a herbal treatment for many years. Dating back to at least the 1500s, people have been using Arnica in ointments and salves for minor aches and pains. Generally, it treats bruises and sprains.

However, Arnica is considered a poison and has caused death. You should avoid this herbal supplement for many reasons:


Arnica is a member of the ragweed family that includes daisy, marigold and chrysanthemums. If you are allergic to these plants, you should avoid arnica as well.

Skin Problems

If too much arnica is absorbed or if it is used for a long period, it can cause skin issues such as eczema, peeling or blisters.

Taken by Mouth

Arnica should never be taken by mouth. Even in small diluted amounts found in most supplements. The Canadian government has grown cautious enough of arnica to ban it as a food ingredient.

Taking arnica orally can cause mouth and throat irritation, gastrointestinal issues such as ulcers and vomiting. Arnica can also cause shortness of breath, stomach pain, irregular and increased heart rate.


herbal supplementsFor centuries in China, ephedra has been used to combat colds, fever, flu and asthma. Once it reached mainstream notoriety as an aid in weight loss, the FDA conducted more studies. What those studies found was that ephedra is very dangerous and should be avoided. In 2004 the FDA banned the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra.


Ephedra is an amphetamine-like drug that resembles adrenaline. There have been no known positive effects of ephedra, including short-term weight loss.

However, the dangers of the herbal supplement are numerous. Dizziness, irregular heartbeat, stroke and even death are all listed as side effects. Not only that, but ephedra can also cause or intensify seizures.

Of the listed side effects the most common among them were: dry mouth, problems urinating, sleep problems, stomach irritation, restlessness and psychosis.

Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle has been used to treat muscle and joint pain as well as arthritis and eczema. However, there are some serious dangers to note before using stinging nettle.


  • Symptoms to watch for include:
  • Upset stomach
  • Hives or rash
  • Diarrhea
  • Raised and lowered blood sugar

Stinging nettle has also been known to disrupt the menstrual cycle and lead to miscarriages. Pregnant women should not take stinging nettle. Because of the blood sugar concerns, it may also affect diabetic management.

There are numerous interactions with stinging nettle. It may affect the blood’s ability to clot. As such if you take blood thinning drugs such as aspirin, warfarin or Plavix, you should avoid stinging nettle.

Stinging nettle can also affect blood sugar levels. If you take ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers you should avoid stinging nettle, which may increase the effects of these drugs.


Kava is highly used to support relaxation, decrease stress and anxiety and improve sleeping habits. However, many countries including Germany, United Kingdom and even the United States are warning of a high potential risk of kava.


Kava is known to cause severe liver problems. The FDA reports that 20% of people taking kava experience liver problems. These issues include hepatitis, cirrhosis and even complete liver failure.

Because of these reports, anyone with liver problems or taking medications that could affect the liver are urged not to take kava. The interactions are too likely and could lead to serious complications up to and including liver transplantation.

Even previously healthy people have reported serious liver problems after taking kava for a short amount of time. Even though some of these symptoms cleared up a few months after ceasing the herbal, it is better to avoid them at all.

Black Cohosh

herbal supplementsA vast array of symptoms have been treated with black cohosh throughout the years. Today, though, it is mainly used for menopausal symptoms. Hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, vertigo, dizziness and sleep irregularities are all symptoms supposedly treated with black cohosh.

Very few studies have been performed on the herbal and those that have are usually low dosage and short-term (less than 6 months). The studies found that there were no real benefits to black cohosh as a menopausal treatment over a placebo.


Like kava, black cohosh is known to cause mild to severe liver problems. Reports include hepatitis and liver failure. Other concerns are gastrointestinal upset and rashes.

Drug interaction is the most common concern with black cohosh and anyone with liver problems or taking medication with liver-related side effects should not take black cohosh.

Since there have not been rigorous studies performed on the herbal supplement, the FDA suggests that pregnant women should not take the herbal and further suggest that anyone experiencing jaundice, dark urine or abdominal pain not take it, either.

Always Take Precautions

Whether you are currently taking herbal supplements or planning on taking them, you should always take precautions. Never start any medication without first talking to a doctor.

You should carefully consider the benefits against the risks when taking a new herbal supplement. Your doctor will know about possible side effects, warnings and drug interactions and will advise you on what course of action to take.

When talking to your doctor always tell them all medications or herbal remedies you are currently taking. You should also include any drugs you have taken in the last few months as some interactions can still be triggered even if you have ceased taking the medication.

Always be aware of your symptoms and note if they increase or decrease in severity.

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