Anti Herbal Supplements - Fearmongering vs Reality

By Terry Mercer, 2018, MD’s Choice, Inc.

One of our valued customers took the time to read through one of the updated websites, and sent an email in response to my request for feed back. She felt I was trying to 'scare' people away from herbs, and natural remedies. That is not my goal. Helping increase education & build awareness is my goal! I want to help the doctors promote the reality that Herbs Are Drugs, because far more people really are harmed by herbal remedies each year, in the USA, than most realize.  You can read more of the response below: 

A customer sent the following letter (after initially looking through this website):


Your product is excellent and I have used it often. But after reading the articles you sent in your email, I have to say they are far too absolutist. Herbs have been used as medicine for thousands of years, long before modern chemistry. They have been used by indigenous peoples, and still are.

You give a list in the report of herbs that can be dangerous--almost no herb is left off the list! At the end of the list you cite WebMD, a website that operates from the perspective of diagnosing disease, not healing modalities. This is a form of coercion, to me--scare tactics that are not proven, though they do support western medical practice and theories.

To my mind, western medicine is a triumph when it comes to trauma care, and a travesty when it come to healing, for it promotes prescriptions and drugs instead of far milder and often successful herb--based remedies. This rejection of herbs outright in the article is a form of protective dogma I simply find rather ludicrous. We are part of the earth and its ecosystem--and plants are not our enemy. I agree that there are charlatans out there advertising supplements that can be harmful, but statistically, far more people die from doctor-based (and pharmaceutical company-based) prescriptions than from herbal supplements--at least in these United States.

In no way would I suggest people use herbal remedies without caution, but I can say right now that I would rather use them than follow the average doctor's orders, knowing as I do that doctors and most healthcare professionals rarely have any background in what the body needs to heal nor any in-depth awareness of herbal reactive properties--it isn't part of their medical studies or outlook--and they have generally little discernment regarding what drug salesmen tell them to use, as the current opioid epidemic and crisis has revealed. Their outlook is symptomatic, not preventative.

That said--I know your product is good and will continue to purchase it--I came to it after studying British medical practices where sulfate-based glucosamine is the norm. Thus I learned HCL was not beneficial. But your diatribe against natural medicine seems to me to be way off the charts.


Rhinebeck, NY

My Response... for those that truly might agree with her: 

Hello RG,

Awesome feed back, THANK YOU! For both taking the time to offer your feedback, and for choosing to use some of our products (they are really good, and generally work in the RIGHT WAY - a safe, effective, and efficient way... by supplying the body what it actually needs, in forms it can really use, to help the body optimize health and healing when possible).

As for your letter, I assume you're talking primarily about the '' website? Where a pile of cautions about certain herbs are listed, with their known dangers, side effects, and concerns. If not, please let me know what you're talking about, and where; so I might address your concerns more specifically.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'absolutist,' as I don't have anything to do with the government, but it is the lack of 'absolutes' (safety parameters and testing) and the very real 'inconsistencies,' that are frankly the biggest problem with 'medicinal herbs.' That is what makes awareness (and education) even more important for those people, especially parents and pet owners... using 'herbal remedies' on BODIES that really don't have much (or any) say in the matter.

I do not believe the majority wish to harm themselves, or their loved ones, even accidentally; however, using medicinal herbs daily for a prolonged period of time CAN DO EXACTLY THAT! My motivation is because, over the years, I've known a few people that were 'accidentally' (and seriously) harmed by the misuse and over use of herbal 'remedies' they were told were safe, that weren't. That motivated the article, website, and wading through the assorted research on the topic over the last 20+ years.

The RANTS, on medicinal herbs, is another factor that is grossly ignored, avoided, and marketed around (with most herbal companies pushing daily prolonged use, ignoring the science and very real issues created by overuse or abuse). 

Yes, absolutely, indigenous people have been using key herbs for TREATMENT... as their 'shaman' (or healer) directed, for a limited time, to help treat a problem or symptoms. 'Natural remedies' have been used for thousands of years; however, there are some key factors with that line of thinking:

a) generally only the 'trained' (healers/Shaman) 'prescribed' the herbs/medicine, and defined the dosage based on their experience and training (not some high school student, college kid, or non-medically trained person perscribing or 'doctoring,' which is what you find in most 'herbal' shops and retail stores in main stream America these days. Most of those people are completely unaware of the differences in calcium, much less any other nutrients, or ingredients they are promoting). That's frankly more dangerous than a used car salesman that can't drive!  
b) there was a consistency and awareness in the preparation of their 'formulas' and 'treatment' protocols that was also based on some key factors, such as a consistent receipt, and the reality that they knew their concoction would be potentially used by THEMSELVES, and their loved ones... and it was made 'right then' - not usually weeks, months, years in advance... or with any regard to 'shelf life' or 'storage' (as that was drastically limited, other than 'dried' (which still have shelf-life/potency issues). 

c) there is also the reality that many 'treatments' prior to modern medicine were a failure, in many instances only limited the pain... but never really treated the disease or cured the problem. Remember, some cultures believe that rhino horn is an effective treatment for certain issues, despite some absolute science proving it's a myth. There are some tribes in Africa thought herbs could prevent or cure AIDES (which failed). During a recent SARS epidemic, traditional chinese medicine practitioners involved, characterized patients based on nosological categories including “deficiency of chi and yin” as well as “stagnation of pathogenic phlegm.” Consider how ineffective that was. 

d) According to the National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy for men in 1907 was 45.6 years; by 1957 it rose to 66.4; in 2007 it reached 75.5 , and it's climbing. 

As the awareness of health and safety improve, so does the average lifespan people can hope to actually live. LONGEVITY has improved, increased, and the odds people can live longer is absolutely because of MODERN MEDICINE! The longevity and quality of life can be tied to vaccines, antibiotics, surgical treatments, consistency in medicines, access to clean water, better sanitation, and awareness of the drugs (natural vs controlled) that are being used to treat various medical conditions and health problems. The fact is that the abuse, overuse, and misuse of drugs can kill... and medicinal herbs ARE DRUGS! 

According to historical mortality levels, from the Encyclopaedia of Population, the average life expectancy for prehistoric humans was estimated at just 20-35 years. By the 1750's, in Sweden it was 36 years. In the 1900's in the USA it hit the age of 48... then in 2007 Japan, the average life expectancy was 83.  Modern medicine, education, awareness and safety, have all contributed to the increase in life expectancies, particularly in civilized geographies. The National Institute on Aging reports a projected 351% increase between 2010 and 2050 for number of people over 85 years old.

So, while most modern medicine was created from 'medicinal herbs,' the modern version of the 'controlled drug' usually has a higher consistency... and predictability, because of a specific purity, potency, ratio to other necessary factors, and the processing method(s). Often with some multi-year safety studies.

My goal isn't to 'scare' anyone, but to CAUTION and INFORM... that just because a company does, or doesn't, claim something... that doesn't mean the user shouldn't question, believe them, or not attempt to learn (assuming what is 'in the product' is actually listed on the label, and visa versa... which has been found to not be the case in countless tests over the years, with many companies). 

My goal is to remind people that HERBS ARE DRUGS - with the same type of issues, and potentially even more, because of the inconsistencies in sourcing, production, and processing. ALL drugs should be treated with caution, awareness, and they really need to discuss the use with their healthcare provider. They should absolutely be aware of the known side effects, negative interactions with other medication and treatment, and the reality of what the dangers COULD REALLY BE. 

The sad part is that we have pretty good numbers, here in America, on mistakes 'doctors' and 'hospitals' make... but there really aren't any numbers on deaths (or issues) created by the misuse, overuse, or abuse of herbs (and herbal remedies). 

  1. Herbal medicines can be lethal, pathologist warns (An analysis of 251 Asian herbal products found in United States stores identified arsenic in 36 of them, mercury in 35 and lead in 24 of the products)
  2. What's the harm in herbal remedies?
  3. Supplements now more likely than medications to cause death

People need to learn to read a label, how to determine if they can honestly trust a company... and who they can really get reliable answers about the safety from. Having caution and awareness of alternative treatments or therapies they are using for themselves (or giving others), is important to longevity. The reality of inconsistencies among herbal supplements is undisputed. The fact that most products change significantly from batch to batch, depending on where their bulk ingredients are coming from, how they are processed, and the country of origin. The fact that many have been found to contain heavy metals and other toxins 'in the formula' should also be a concern. I hope the information I've gathered, through all the research articles and abstracts might help others. I sincerely hope the information and cautions can help give them reasonable pause... rational information... and some control over finding safe and effective solutions.

I sincerely hope the information can help save a life, or more... and/or improve the quality of life and longevity for many others. The very best advice is to speak with YOUR DOCTOR, and make sure they are aware of ALL over the counter (OTC) supplements (especially herbs) you are regularly taking, just in case there is some emergency. It can seriously be a matter of life and death, particularly if there is an emergency surgery. If any surgery is ever scheduled, you should cease all herbal supplements at least 2 to 4 weeks prior to the surgery, unless your surgeon tells you otherwise. 

Best wishes, and let us know if you have any questions... or have anything more you wish to discuss on the topic. 



All information in this article is for educational purposes only. Nothing herein is for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription, or cure of any disease or health condition. If you have medical concerns, please see a real licensed doctor, who can actually see you... run any necessary tests, and focus on your specific needs, symptom(s), and unique situation. 

© Copyright 2018, Terry Mercer - All Rights Reserved