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Items to Remove From Your Medicine Cabinet Immediately

These supplements should be used cautiously.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

How much do you really know about that "natural" remedy sitting in your medicine cabinet? "Supplements may interact with other medications you're taking or pose risks if you have certain medical conditions, such as liver disease, or are going to have surgery," says Jeffrey Millstein, MD. "Some supplements also haven't been tested in pregnant women, nursing mothers or children, and you may need to take extra precautions." Here are five supplements you should throw out, immediately. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Megadoses of Vitamin D

woman taking vitamin D3
Shutterstock

Vitamin D supplements are commonly used to support bone health, but too much can be dangerous. "Some studies found that vitamin D reduced the risk of bone fracture – but only when it was combined with calcium," says Robert D. Ashley, MD. "Calcium on its own has been shown repeatedly to decrease the risk of fractures. Vitamin D on its own has not been shown to decrease fracture risk. Some practitioners recommend mega-doses of vitamin D to their patients, causing very high blood levels of vitamin D. But high levels of vitamin D in the bloodstream might actually increase the rate of bone breakdown."

2

Pre-Workout Energy Pills

young woman taking pill
Shutterstock / New Africa

Pre-workout supplements are performance-enhancing products that can be dangerous, doctors warn. "Some of these products have as much caffeine as three cups of coffee," says Dr. Christopher Balgobin of Fairview Clinics. "I've heard of products out there that have enough caffeine for 20 cups of coffee." Balgobin is also concerned about a controversial ingredient called 1-3 dimethylamylamine. "1-3 dimethylamylamine is essentially like Adderall or Ritalin in a legalized form. The supplement is available over the count still. It was banned by the government to be used in the military, and some professional groups do test for this as a legal substance. What it does: It helps you with focusing and energy…I like to be frank: It's like crack. It gets you really just gone."

3

Weight Loss Supplements

weight loss
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"Numerous rigorous scientific studies have shown that these types of supplements pose serious health risks to consumers," says Jason Nagata, M.D., M.Sc. "A recent study using data from the FDA's adverse events reporting system found that youth using weight-loss supplements were three times more likely than those using ordinary vitamins to experience severe medical harm, including hospitalization, disability and even death. Studies have linked weight-loss supplements to organ failure, heart attacks, stroke and death. The CDC estimates that supplement use leads to 23,000 emergency room visits every year, with a quarter due to the weight-loss category alone."

4

OTC Sexual Health Supplements

Sad man sitting on a bed, girlfriend in the background.
iStock

Over-the-counter sexual health supplements claiming to treat erectile dysfunction could be laced with dangerous (and sometimes illegal) ingredients. "Most supplements for sexual function have not been studied scientifically," says Luigi Simone, MD. "They may have a placebo effect, which is not insignificant, but as far as the claims of increasing libido or sexual endurance, those have definitely not been proven."

5

Kava

kava kava supplement capsules on brown wooden plate
Shutterstock / Iryna Imago

Kava root is a herbal plant commonly used to treat anxiety and banned in many European countries due to concerns about liver damage. "You may think kava is safe if you don't have liver disease or are not taking medications metabolized by the liver, but that might not be the case," says Dr. Ashley. "A study of 31 people in Hawaii who were regular kava drinkers showed a significantly greater elevation of two liver enzymes compared with people who were not kava drinkers. There is some evidence that kava that is prepared with water is less harmful to the liver than suspensions prepared in acetone or ethanol."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more