NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Toxicologists To Examine Herbs

August 6, 1999

Four popular herbal supplements are to undergo safety checks, the U.S. National Toxicology Program has announced. The four products to be tested are aloe vera, ginseng, kava and milk thistle.

The toxicology program is sponsored by a coalition of agencies that includes the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • The substances were originally nominated for testing by the National Cancer Institute, and researchers are expected to take a close look at whether the substances are carcinogenic.
  • The recommendations were then reviewed and approved by the federal Interagency Committee for Chemical Evaluation and Coordination, which advises the National Toxicology Program.
  • No data indicating a problem are required for nomination to the program.
  • More than 30 substances are tested by the program each year through rodent and in vitro studies, according to William Easton of National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. No human test subjects are used.

Dietary supplements like vitamins and herbal products are not tested and approved for safety or effectiveness by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration due to a federal law sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) that exempts them from FDA authority.

Source: Scott Gottlieb, "U.S. Agency to Test Safety of Four Herbs," British Medical Journal, August 7, 1999.


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