4 Reasons Supplements Can Be Dangerous

Robin Berzin, MD
Medically Reviewed
January 10, 2016

I recently met a woman who was thinking about Parsley Health to deal with hormone issues. She had read a lot on the internet about using herbs and supplements to manage her hormones. After self-medicating with over-the-counter products, she had not seen any improvement. In fact, her symptoms had gotten worse.

Moreover, she had a family history of breast cancer, and yet was taking herbs that could increase estrogen levels. Dangerous behavior.

Her story got me thinking that this message—that without proper oversight by a doctor, supplements can be dangerous—hasn’t gotten out there clearly enough!

4 reasons supplements can be dangerous

1. Supplements are drugs.

While the FDA does not classify them as such, the terms “dietary supplement,” “nutraceutical,” and “drug” are legal definitions, not biological ones. At the end of the day, herbs and supplements are powerful and have real biological effects on the body.

2. Over-the-counter supplements are not safe.

People always ask me if I like this product or that one. The truth is, thanks to a 1994 law, the supplement industry is self-regulated.

This means that if it’s on the shelf at your local grocery story or supplement shop, they can say anything on the label. Many of these supplements are contaminated, not properly sourced or tested, or, in many cases, are so low in the active ingredient they claim to contain that they are ineffective. (It’s like taking 1/4 of an antibiotic and wondering why your sinus infection doesn’t go away.)

This doesn’t mean there aren’t a handful of good direct-to-consumer brands out there, but we at Parsley only use supplements that are exclusively sold through licensed healthcare providers: they are tested, safe, and effective.

3. You don't know what you're doing.

Your day job is probably not to be a master herbalist, or a doctor who understands supplements, or a health coach trained in functional medicine. You also aren’t testing yourself pre-and post-supplementation and knowing exactly what to look for. You could be playing with your body in ways you don’t understand, and that can be dangerous.

4. Sometimes you need medication.

There are times to use an herb, nutrient, or homeopathic remedy. And there are times to take an antibiotic because there is literally no reason in 2016 for your UTI to turn into a kidney infection.

Yes, the overuse of antibiotics, statins, and anti-depressants is a scam in this country, causing more damage than good in many cases. But modern medicine is also incredible and should be used both sparingly and wisely to avoid serious complications and to save lives.

How to personalize your supplements

Supplements and herbs are powerful tools in helping the body both heal from disease and optimize functionality—from energy to metabolism to hormones. When your healthcare provider knows you and your life story, can do regular testing and assessments, and can track your healing progress, you can be sure the supplements you're on are the ones you need to live healthier, longer.

Ready to take control of your hormonal health? Schedule a free call  to learn more about Parsley’s root-cause approach, using insurance  with Parsley, and how we can personalize your health journey.

Robin Berzin, MD

Dr. Robin Berzin is the Founder and CEO of Parsley Health, America's leading holistic medical practice designed to help women overcome chronic conditions. She founded Parsley to address the rising tide of chronic disease in America through personalized holistic medicine that puts food, lifestyle, and proactive diagnostic testing on the prescription pad next to medications. Since founding Parsley in 2016, Dr. Berzin has seen 80% of patients improve or resolve their chronic conditions within their first year of care, demonstrating the life-changing value of making modern holistic medicine accessible to everyone, anywhere. Parsley is available online nationwide.

Dr. Berzin attended medical school at Columbia University and trained in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Her book, Prescription for Happiness: How to Eat, Move, and Supplement for Peak Mental Health, was published by Simon Element in January 2022.

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