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I'm a Pharmacist and Tell People to Never Take This

Many supplements can cause severe health issues and here's five to avoid, according to pharmacists.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

It seems like there's a supplement for everything and millions of Americans take one daily to help maintain overall health, but are they actually good for you? Taking supplements is supposed to be beneficial, however many pose hidden dangers that cause harmful and long-lasting side effects. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with pharmacists who reveal which supplements to steer clear of and why. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.



Woman suffering from sore throat.

Aysha Ahmed PharmD, Chief Medical Director, President and Co-Founder of HealthIV and Vasa Health says, "Ashwagandha is a popular dietary supplement with claims to help reduce stress and anxiety and boost fat loss. However, the medication can increase thyroid hormone production or interfere with thyroid medication and unwanted side effects. It can also lower blood sugar levels to unhealthy levels. This is especially important for diabetics."


Weight Loss Supplements

Woman holding packs of pills and measuring tape in hands.

Dr. Ahmed explains, "These supplements typically contain a variety of herbs and plants and are marketed to consumers as an easy way to help them lose weight. However, unlike prescription medications, weight loss supplements aren't tightly regulated by the FDA. These products typically contain inconsistent dosages of the ingredients listed on their product label and in some cases contain illegal and/or banned substances, which under the right conditions can lead to serious health complications. Avoid these supplements and stick to a healthy diet and exercise."


St. John's Wort

Fresh St. John's wort flowers in a bowl, top view

Dr. Ahmed states, "St. John's Wort is a trending supplement with purported benefits to alleviate depression and anxiety, help treat symptoms associated with PMS and menopause. The supplement is known to have serious contraindications with several depression medications and has some severe side effects and even result in death. The risks of taking this medication don't outweigh the benefits. You should avoid this supplement."



ginger root

Andy Boysan, Director and Superintendent Pharmacist at The Independent Pharmacy shares, "Ginger root is frequently marketed as a herbal supplement. It is commonly used to treat colds, nausea, and even arthritis, but regular consumption may increase the risk of bleeding in those who take blood-thinning medication. Excessive bleeding is dangerous at any age, but for seniors, the consequences can be fatal, including breathing problems and high blood pressure."



Woman holding pills in her hands.

Dr. Boysan says, "While iron supplements can be very beneficial when you're younger, too much of it in your later years can cause a variety of problems. It is related to how iron is processed in the body. Iron is released during menstruation in women, so when menopause occurs, this process ceases, causing the mineral to pile up. Too much iron may increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and liver damage. Rather than taking supplements, you could increase your intake of iron-rich foods."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather