Natural, herbal over-the-counter supplements seem like they should be safe -- but they can contain as much active ingredient as some prescription drugs.
Photo by Ano Lobb
That's the case for some yohimbe supplements, according to a new study published in Drug Testing and Analysis. Yohimbe is an African tree, and supplements made with its bark are sold as a natural (but not necessarily effective) fat-burner and aphrodisiac.
But the active ingredient, yohimbine, also exists as a prescription drug for erectile dysfunction. It's not used very often, in part because of side effects including irregular heartbeat, dizziness, and anxiety. So researchers were concerned when they found as much yohimbine in some supplements as in a typical dose of the drug -- especially since the yohimbine appeared to be either synthesized or purified.
In other words, the makers may have been dumping prescription-strength drugs into their product. Meanwhile, other brands of the supplements contained no yohimbine at all.
Unlike drugs, which have to be proven safe and effective before they are sold, supplements can make it to market with minimal safety checks. That's why it's good to skip supplements or be extremely cautious about using them -- and why these findings were sad but not surprising.
[Drug Testing and Analysis via Medical Daily]