Background: Thrombocytopenia is a well-recognized adverse effect of many drugs. However, the association of thrombocytopenia with complementary/alternative medicines, herbal remedies, nutritional supplements, foods, and beverages has been rarely described, except for reports of thrombocytopenia caused by quinine-containing beverages.
Objectives: To systematically identify all published reports of thrombocytopenia associated with these substances and to assess the evidence supporting their causal association with thrombocytopenia.
Methods: Eleven databases were searched to identify relevant published reports. A priori criteria were defined for article selection and assessment. Each selected article was independently assessed by the three authors to document the presence of the criteria and determine the level of evidence for a causal association of the reported substance with thrombocytopenia.
Results: Twenty-seven articles were identified that reported the occurrence of thrombocytopenia with 25 substances (other than quinine). However, only six articles describing five substances (cow's milk, cranberry juice, Jui [Chinese herbal tea], Lupinus termis bean, and tahini [pulped sesame seeds]) reported clinical data supporting definite evidence of a causal association with thrombocytopenia. Four articles provided probable evidence for four additional substances, and five articles provided possible evidence for five additional substances. In the remaining articles, the association with thrombocytopenia was unlikely or the articles were excluded from review.
Conclusions: Reports of thrombocytopenia describing definite or probable evidence for an association of a complementary/alternative medicines, herbal remedies, nutritional supplements, foods, and beverages are rare. Whether the occurrence of thrombocytopenia with these substances is uncommon or unrecognized is unknown.