Woman Dies of Liver Failure After Taking Herbal Supplements. We Must Supplement Safely




By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder


Depending on how you take them, supplements can be one of the best or worst tools in your proactive healthcare regimen. For example, I eat a very nutrient-rich, mainly plant-based diet, however, I am still very prone to having a vitamin C and alpha-lipoic deficiency. Fortunately, through routine nutrient testing and taking the proper supplements per the advice of my doctor, I am able to avoid these nutrient deficiencies (as I was unable to in the past when I was not taking supplements). Since taking supplements, I have more energy, sleep better and experience less aches and pains.

The tricky part about supplements is because they are readily available online or at our local grocery and health stores, I think people view them as being harmless and without any potential serious risks. 

If such potential danger is possible, one would need a prescription right? 

I don’t need the advice of my doctor or even need to tell my doctor what supplements I am taking.

I can’t overdose on something ‘natural.’

These beliefs can have some serious consequences. Furthermore, we really have to be mindful of who we are receiving our supplementation guidance from. For example:

  • This man lost 28 pounds due to vitamin D intoxication. He overdosed on vitamin D supplements that a ‘nutrition therapist’ recommended he take.
  • There are still a lot of unknowns about this man who lost his ability to walk after improper supplement use, but I question why his doctor gave him such a high dose of vitamin B6 when usually this particular deficiency can be corrected with diet.

It seems like every week I discover yet another tragic story about people dying from improper supplement use. Lori McClintock, who was the wife of California Congressman Tom McClintock, reportedly died last year after taking white mulberry leaf (a supplement that is known to suppress appetite and help with weight loss). And more recently, I came across the devastating story of a 37-year-old woman who died of liver failure after taking herbal supplements to treat her arthritis.

According to one report, Seema Haribhai took herbal supplements per the advice of an ayurvedic practitioner.  

(Ayurvedic medicine is essentially an ancient Indian medical system. It is one of the oldest medical systems and focuses on natural and holistic strategies).

Holistic and natural does not guarantee safety.

Haribhai seeked the advice of an ayurvedic practitioner, because she had some concerns about conventional medicine. There are a lot of great aspects of ayurvedic medicine. For example, it stresses a healthy, whole foods diet, quality sleep and yoga. I do, however, believe it is always wise to seek the advice of a medical doctor when it comes to taking medicines and supplements.

“The Ayurvedic practitioner gave Haribhai an unspecified amount of supplements. Within a few weeks of ingesting the supplements, she developed liver failure,” according to the report mentioned earlier.

“Haribhai went back to the Ayurvedic practitioner with yellow skin, a sign of liver disease, after taking the supplements, the court heard. According to the coroner's report, the Ayurvedic practitioner neither told her to stop taking the supplements nor encouraged her to go to a hospital.”

I do not know exactly what kind of supplements Haribhai was taking, but I speculate that she may have had autoimmune hepatitis that was caused by taking the supplements. I previously wrote about another woman who had liver disease from what appeared to be caused by her taking turmeric supplements.

The liver is the largest internal organ and serves many vital purposes. These include:

  • Removing harmful substances from our blood (metabolizes drugs).
  • Converting nutrients from the food we eat into materials our bodies can use. For instance, the liver excretes bile. Reportedly, “bile helps to break down fats, preparing them for further digestion and absorption. All of the blood leaving the stomach and intestines passes through the liver. The liver processes this blood and breaks down, balances, and creates nutrients for the body to use.” 
  • Storing and releasing glucose as the body needs it.
  • Storing iron.
  • Regulating the clotting of blood.
Supplement or drug induced liver injury.

“According to data from the U.S. Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network (DILIN), 15.5% of reported cases of drug-induced liver injury are due to use of herbals and other dietary supplements, with 35% resulting from bodybuilding products and 65% from herbals and other supplements,” according to one source.

The story discussed is really heartbreaking. I suspect that this young woman was desperate to get relief from the pain of her arthritis. Perhaps she thought that if she stuck it out, things would improve. Of course, I do not believe it was the ayurvedic practitioner’s intention to harm this woman, however, she absolutely should have told her to seek medical advice once her skin appeared to be very yellow in color. It just goes to show you that it is always best to be extra safe and never ignore your symptoms. Furthermore, I cannot stress enough that supplements should only be taken per the advice of a competent medical practitioner. 

For more information on safe supplement use, check out these pH Labs blogs.


Be safe, and enjoy your healthy life!


Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.         


The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses, and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products, and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.    


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