Herbal Dietary Supplements: Should You Take Them?


Herbal supplements are known for their curative and preventive properties. It is natural to believe that these medicinal herbs are a hundred percent harmless, given their remedial nature. However, that is not always the case with all of them.


Herbal supplements can pose dangerous side effects to the body if taken without a prescription, or with other prescribed medicines. Before taking any supplements into your diet, make sure you're aware of the constituents that they're made of and the adverse reactions that they can have on your body.


Here's a comprehensive guide to help you understand the dual nature of several commonly used supplements that can have serious side effects on your body if taken without prescription.

How To Know What's Inside a Dietary Supplement?

Any herbal supplements fall under the category of dietary supplements. The US Food and Drug Administration is responsible for regulating these supplements. Although nutritional supplements do not need FDA approval, the FDA still requires all the supplements to follow a strict labeling format.

Hence, these supplements are labeled accurately with the name of the supplement, a list of all the ingredients, and finally, the prescribed dosage. By carefully scrutinizing the list of ingredients mentioned on the dietary supplement bottle, you can easily infer if the supplement is safe for use.

It would be good to research different ingredients to educate yourself on the uses and effects that these ingredients can have. An easy way to do this would be to compare the ingredients mentioned on your supplement's label against the ingredient list provided on the Dietary Supplement Label Database. Here, you can search for dietary ingredients and supplement manufacturer information, taken from the labels of around 76,000 supplement products registered in the US.

Some Common Herbal Supplements And Their Effects

Dietary supplements are known for their healing properties. However, some herbs can react unexpectedly to make things worse for you. Here are some of the herbs known to most:


If you suffer from mental health issues like anxiety or insomnia, you will probably be familiar with this supplement. Kava, primarily meant to treat anxiety and insomnia, can cause severe health problems such as hepatitis and other liver problems. The herb can also be dangerous if taken with other sleeping pills or for someone who drinks alcohol.

Licorice Root

The popular herbal supplement Licorice root is commonly used to treat adrenal fatigue, bronchitis, arthritis, prostate cancer, and dry cough. Even a tiny amount of licorice can cause severe side effects in people who habitually eat a lot of salt and suffer from kidney and heart problems. These include hypertension, erectile dysfunction, paralysis, or worse, even heart failure.


Ginkgo works wonders for people who have a problem remembering things. While the supplement may work miracles in improving memory, it fails the patient when it comes to blood circulation. A hazardous effect of Ginkgo dietary supplement is thinning of blood which ultimately leads to excessive bleeding. Therefore, Ginkgo should never be taken with blood-thinning drugs as the interaction may result in uncontrolled blood loss.


Whether a medical expert or a common man, who doesn't know what ginger is? The herb is a popular kitchen ingredient and now as you know it- a dietary supplement as well. Ginger is known to help in weight loss and ease nausea felt by the patient as a result of surgery or chemotherapy. Ginger can also be used to treat joint pains as well as arthritis. Where, then, does the herb go wrong? If taken by a person with diabetes or with blood-thinning drugs, Ginger may cause blood-clotting and dramatically increase blood pressure and sugar levels.


Aloe Vera gel is a big part of every girl's skincare routine. Known for its soothing properties, this plant is used to treat sunburns, acne and helps rejuvenate dry skin. However, aloe vera gel only works best if applied externally. Upon ingestion, the gel may cause serious health issues such as kidney and heart problems. But, in exceptional cases, your doctor may prescribe aloe ingestion by the mouth. This is mostly to treat constipation and reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

Final Verdict

The unregulated use of herbal supplements may prove to be dangerous. Although these dietary supplements are readily available in the marketplace and can be taken without a prescription, taking them without medical guidance can be risky. These supplements, although beneficial for health, can have adverse effects on the human body. Hence, you should always consult a doctor before taking any dietary supplements, no matter how harmless the herb may seem. 

**Image source: Pexels.com 

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