Plantain Supplement Warning

FDA News Release - June 13, 1997

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning to consumers about the use of dietary supplements containing "plantain." The federal agency advises against the use of these products because they have found digitalis in samples of raw material labeled "plantain" used by various manufacturers as an ingredient in making diet supplements. "These products may list `plantain' as one of their ingredients on the labels, and are sold with a variety of claims" according to an FDA statement. Some of the suspect material has also been distributed to retailers for inclusion in various teas sold to consumers.

The ingredient plantain should not be confused with the fruit which resembles a banana, commonly sold in the produce section of grocery stores, says the FDA. The plantain in question is an ingredient used in herbal remedies as a laxative, and in poultices. The agency began investigating the substance after being alerted to the case of a young woman who experienced heart block, a potentially life-threatening disorder of the electrical conduction system of the heart, after consuming a product containing plantain. The FDA found that the raw material that served as the origin of the plantain contained a form of digitalis, similar to the drug used to treat some heart conditions.

In addition to affecting the heart, digitalis can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, confusion, low blood pressure, and vision problems.

The FDA is continuing its investigation of the mislabeling of the raw material as "plantain," and is working with manufacturers to identify any diet supplement product that may contain digitalis to ensure that these products are recalled.

The agency also recommends that you read the label of ingredients on diet supplements to see if "plantain" is listed. If you have purchased a product containing plantain, or suspect that an herbal product contains plantain, the FDA advises that you contact the wholesaler for assurance that the product does not contain plantain received from one of the distributors listed on their list. All herb suppliers should know about list.

Article copyright CAAOM.

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