This is common occurrence and is nothing more than misleading journalism and deliberate scaremongering by conventional medical associations or related organizations promoting prescription drugs. Information relayed in these articles is always either very misleading or relying on study conclusions that have little or no scientific fact, or that have very flawed execution.
I hope this article may help to put things into a less bias perspective and perhaps redress the balance a little.
Most recently an old report has resurfaced and is again 'doing the rounds'. This is in relation to an report released by Consumer Reports (Original - April 1, 2004, May issue).
The report is concerning a warning against using certain vitamins. The report picks out a list of 12 natural remedies: Yohimbe, Colloidal Silver, Bitter Orange, Comfrey, Coltsfoot, Chaparral, Aconite, Country mallow, Germanium, Kava, Greater Celandine and Lobelia.
Some of these ingredients are often in general use naturopathically anyway, but some of the ingredients are actually potentially very good health aids to include, on specific occasion, as an aid to treating a number of health issues as part of a natural resolution. So it is quite shocking to see them condemned so readily and unreasonably!
The article says that it is claimed that these ingredients “...may pose a risk to your health”, and more shockingly “...could possibly lead to heart or liver disease and possibly death”! This is apparently cited by The Food and Drug Administration according to the article in question – although it should be noted that I couldn't find personal reference to any such claim on the FDA website. These are pretty stark statements, and for the layman to hear, pretty frightening!
Of course absolutely any ingredient, natural or pharmaceutical, can cause adverse health effects, minor and severe, if they are used inappropriately, or in excess. However, the above statement doesn't say this, but misleadingly appears to indicate that ANY use of these ingredients is potentially life threatening. This isn't true. This needs to be put into perspective so that people are aware of the actual facts. This is what I hope this article goes some way to achieving.
Ok, so what are the facts?
There is no evidence in existence to suggest that any one of the above sited ingredients would specifically and solely lead to heart or liver disease or worse, death.
To clear up what these ingredients can do, and for a much fairer judgment, let's take some actual facts and clarify some points individually, taking these sited ingredients as examples. You may find some common conclusions in the following information :)
* Please note that in the following information any typical doses given are for general reference info, solely for the purpose of this information article. Individual doses for your situation may be different and you should always seek professional opinion and advice before starting any individual ingredient or dosage regime.
Yohimbe isn't really used much. Good quality is hard to find and it is only really used under direction. Where it is used it can be helpful mainly as part help for erectile dysfunction. There is a typical dose, depending on the individual situation, and this is usually used for a short time period, not long-term health. Only at high or prolonged dose may you potentially risk side effects, but under proper direction this wouldn't occur.
Colloidal Silver is something that I occasionally take myself and can actually be very beneficial, again if used correctly and for short-term only. It is a potentially excellent natural antibiotic.
There is no typical dose, but generally a total daily silver intake should not exceed 14 mcg/kg/day (or 980 mcg/day for an average 70 kg person).
Colloidal silver should only be used as directed and only for such periods as a week at a time, perhaps just a few days, depending on the severity of the infection. It shouldn't be used for any more than a week at a time without a break.
Only if taken continuously or in excess may it cause problems, as silver can accumulate in the body under high or prolonged doses.
Bitter orange can be helpful for digestive problems, appetite, and in diabetes, and can also be used topically to help treat certain skin conditions, such as ringworm. It is generally used at around 150mg in combination with a couple of other ingredients. Topically it can be used as a pure oil applies 1-3 times per day. Only in excess dose (above 500-975mg) have adverse effects have been noted.
Comfrey is used as a tea for some digestive issues, respiratory issues, and topically for ulcers, wounds, joint inflammation, bruises, rheumatoid arthritis, phlebitis, gout, and fractures. Again, toxicity is only reported “...with extended use or in high concentrations”.
Coltsfoot may be used for bronchitis, asthma, laryngitis, and other respiratory tract mucous membrane inflammation, or as an inhalant. Again, toxicity is only suggested “...with extended use or in high concentrations”.
Chaparral may be helpful in use for arthritis, bowel cramps, colds, and chronic cutaneous disorders. It may also be a tonic, antiparasitic, some skin issues and digestive conditions. Study information is listed as “...Preliminary information suggests low doses of chaparral can be used safely...” i.e. confirming, as above, potential toxicity is only theoretical and only in too high a dose or too frequent a consumption.
Aconite can be used for pain, facial paralysis, joint pain, arthritis, gout, rheumatic complaints, finger numbness, skin and mucosal diseases, and wound treatment. Topically, aconite is used to help wound healing and for facial neuralgia, rheumatism, and sciatica. It is also a popular homoeopathic ingredient (some of the safest formulations in the world! Proving that if used correctly this isn't a toxic ingredient at all!). People typically take 0.5-3 grams of processed aconite root. Or in homeopathic preparations, 6C to 30C potency strength. The studies used to denote its toxicity were situations of “...accidental aconite poisoning...” - which basically means that the product was used inappropriately and in excess!
Country mallow can help with acute infections, headaches, congestion, cough and wheezing, urinary infections, sand edema, amongst many other potential aids.
Traditionally, a dose of powder (root, leaves, seeds) is 0.5-1 gram twice daily. A typical dose of the fresh juice is 15-30ml twice daily. Although I still wouldn't suggest prolonged use or excess dose, the studies used to clarify it as a potential toxic product showed that the subjects used in the studies were already prone to conditions of the same effects as was noted by the apparent 'toxicity'. Hence these studies were flawed.
Germanium may be helpful for the joints, hepatitis, cirrhosis, food allergies, candidiasis, chronic viral infections, and some heavy metal poisoning (including mercury, cadmium). Germanium can also be used orally for increasing circulation of blood to the brain, supporting the immune system, and as an antioxidant. Toxicity has been found in high doses (around 300mg per day), which is too high a dose to recommend for any of these conditions and wouldn't be used professionally.
Kava may be helpful in epilepsy, psychosis, migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and some respiratory conditions, amongst other potential benefits, including topically for some skin conditions.
Doses of the kava extract were most commonly 100 mg three times daily for short periods of time. Because kava-lactone content varies substantially among different quality products, appropriate dosing will also vary. Toxicity reports used for conclusion are based on anecdotal occurrences from general public, such as drinking excess of the alcoholic rhizome (root), and do not constitute scientific study!
Greater Celandine may be helpful for digestion, IBS, liver, edema, arteriosclerosis, hypertension, asthma, gout, and osteoarthritis. Topically, greater celandine is used for warts, papillomas, condylomata (genital warts), rashes, eczema, scabies, tooth pain, and to ease tooth extraction. The fresh root is also chewed to relieve toothache.
Digestive dosage is along with other herbs in combination has been used in a dose of 1ml three times daily. Adverse effect only suggested, and only in excess dose or misuse.
Lobelia is helpful in some cases of respiratory condition, in smoking cessation products, apnea, and topically for muscle inflammation, bruises, sprains, insect bites, poison ivy, and ringworm.
Typical doses are listed and only theoretical toxicity has been suggested, not actual, and only then in doses above typical advised or with inappropriate use.
As you can see, the common theme is that none of these ingredients are toxic if used in an appropriate way, in an appropriate dose, and for an appropriate time! This is the case for any ingredient, whether this ingredient is a natural herb in a natural remedy, or a chemical in a typical prescription drug.
So why have these been singled out? Who knows...but hopefully this will help to redress the balance a little.