GAO Exposes Five Herbal Supplement Cons

Wait! Before you pop those herbal supplements into your mouth, you might want to hear some new facts.


The U.S. Government Accountability Office went all "60 Minutes" undercover recently to record overblown or entirely false claims made by herbal-supplement sellers.

The GAO researched diet supplement labeling and sales-representative claims that their products can treat, prevent or cure such diseases as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. One product even claims it can reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. The study noted the elderly, who take more prescription drugs than younger patients, are particularly at risk of negative interactions.

In addition, these supplements can be expensive, useless and raise false hopes.

Details of the May 26 GAO report included the following questionable claims and comments.

1. Ginseng
Claim 1: The supplement possesses a powerful anti-cancer function.

Comment: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends breast and uterine cancer sufferers not take ginseng as it can have "an adverse interaction with some cancer drugs."

Claim 2: Ginseng can prevent diabetes.

Comment: While this supplement may lower blood-sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, the long-term effects aren't clear and the NIH recommends patients seek more proven therapies.

2. Garlic
Claim 1: Prevents diabetes and obesity and cures cardiovascular disease.

Comment: The NIH doesn't recognize garlic supplements as a treatment for any of these problems.

Claim 2: Garlic, "is extremely helpful in treating any form of flu or colds; from a mild head cold to pneumonia. It also helps treat such bronchial conditions as inflammatory disease, asthma and tuberculosis.

Comment: Some research suggests this herb may reduce the severity of upper respiratory tract infections. However, better studies need to be performed to confirm this effect in humans.

Claim 3: According to product labeling, "Hundreds of scientific studies have proven garlic enhances the body's immune function, protects cells from free-radical damage, and reduces cardiovascular risk factors, including blood pressure and cholesterol.

Comment: While garlic may help with certain conditions, research hasn't proven it enhances the body's immune function (unless you encounter a vampire). While studies have shown it may slightly lower bad cholesterol and blood pressure, the long-term effects are unknown and the impacts on good cholesterol are unclear.  

3. Gingko Biloba
Claim 1: Effectively treats Alzheimer’s disease, depression, memory problems, impotence and more.

Comment: Several NIH studies have shown ginkgo to be ineffective at reducing the risk of Alzheimer's or otherwise enhancing memory. A minor increase in depression for elderly patients taking ginkgo is a possibility, but there really isn't enough evidence to substantiate this concern.

Claim 2: Gingko biloba can safely betaken with a daily prescription aspirin.

Comment: The supplement can increase the risk of bleeding when taken with aspirin.

4. St. John's Wort
Claim: Can naturally reduce depression and the negative impacts of some medical treatments.

Comment: St. John's wort actually can negatively affect the efficacy of antidepressant medications, HIV treatments, cancer drugs and anticoagulants, though this is not always noted on product labels.

5. Chamomile
Claim: Can alleviate insomnia, diverticular disorder, gum disease and gingivitis.

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6 Comments

This statements about garlic are totally true. People think that garlic is a wonder drug, it's not! What will do you well is a good diet and exercise. Thanks for the very informative article.
Posted by the garlic guy
Very informative. This is so helpful, thank you so much for sharing this.
Posted by Chris Taus
I don't think we should label garlic as a supplement since it is being used as part of our diet. Ingredients such as onion, ginger, capsicum, parsley and etc are used extensively in our cooking. Do we still need it as supplement? FDA should do it's job by identifying what should be included and not included as supplement.
Posted by Nutrition to Health
Inflammation’ of the gums I recommended TIENS Product for you. Please visit http://www.tiensshop.com
Posted by marie
I'm a diabetic with type 2, blogging about diabetes also. I'm exercising everyday to do the best of the situation.
Posted by Diabetes
I'm a diabetic with type 2, blogging about diabetes also. I'm exercising everyday to do the best of the situation.
Posted by Diabetes