Heart Toxicity Related to Herbs and Dietary Supplements: Online Table of Case Reports. Part 4 of 5

J Diet Suppl. 2018 Jul 4;15(4):516-555. doi: 10.1080/19390211.2017.1356418. Epub 2017 Oct 5.


Background: The purpose of this review was to create an online research summary table of heart toxicity case reports related to dietary supplements (DS; includes herbs).

Methods: Documented PubMed case reports of DS appearing to contribute to heart-related problems were used to create a "Toxic Table" that summarized the research (1966 to April, 2016, and cross-referencing). Keywords included "herb," "dietary supplement," and cardiac terms. Case reports were excluded if they were herb combinations (some exceptions), Chinese herb mixtures, teas of mixed herb contents, mushrooms, poisonous plants, self-harm (e.g. suicide), excess dose (except vitamins/minerals), drugs or illegal drugs, drug-herbal interactions, and confounders of drugs or diseases. The spectrum of heart toxicities included hypertension, hypotension, hypokalemia, bradycardia, tachycardia, arrhythmia, ventricular fibrillation, heart attack, cardiac arrest, heart failure, and death.

Results: Heart related problems were associated with approximately seven herbs: Four traditional Chinese medicine herbs - Don quai (Angelica sinensis), Jin bu huan (Lycopodium serratum), Thundergod vine or lei gong teng (Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F), and Ting kung teng (Erycibe henryi prain); one an Ayruvedic herb - Aswagandha, (Withania somnifera); and two North American herbs - blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), and Yohimbe (Pausinystalia johimbe). Aconitum and Ephedra species are no longer sold in the United States. The DS included, but are not limited to five DS - bitter orange, caffeine, certain energy drinks, nitric oxide products, and a calming product. Six additional DS are no longer sold. Licorice was the food related to heart problems.

Conclusion: The online "Toxic Table" forewarns clinicians, consumers and the DS industry by listing DS with case reports related to heart toxicity. It may also contribute to Phase IV post marketing surveillance to diminish adverse events that Government officials use to regulate DS.

Keywords: Cardiac; dietary supplement; heart; herb; plant extract; toxicity; transplant.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Caulophyllum / toxicity
  • Dietary Supplements / toxicity*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / toxicity
  • Heart Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Pausinystalia / toxicity
  • Plant Extracts / toxicity
  • Plant Preparations / toxicity*
  • Plants, Medicinal / toxicity
  • United States
  • Withania / toxicity


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Plant Extracts
  • Plant Preparations