How safe are herbs vs. drugs

According to the Herb Research Foundation

Here are some specifics comparing the toxicity of various consumer products according to the frequency with which they cause consumer poisonings. Note that four out of the top five leading causes of poisoning fatalities are caused by drugs approved as safe by FDA.


Comparison of Categories of Poisonings

Category 1989 1988
Fatal Major Fatal Major
Antidepressants 140 1315 135 1187
Analgesics 126 705 118 663
Sedatives 78 1020 77 985
Heart drugs 70 286 65 246
Stimulants & street drugs 64 276 101 295
Fumes, gases, vapors 46 129 39 128
Household cleaners 24 173 19 168
Pesticides 12 111 12 113
PLANTS, all 1* 32 1* 21


One death was reported for each of the two years covered by this report. The cause of death and plants involved are unknown.

In a thorough search of the scientific literature for plant toxicity incidents we found only a handful of cases of consumer poisoning by any botanical contaminant of foods. Specific statistical information about adverse reactions to herbal products is currently not available from any known source. The AAPCC** collects data from major poison centers across the country, but has no specific information on and in fact, no category for reporting incidents involving herbal products. According to the Association’s President Dr. Toby Litovitz, M.D., “Herbal poisonings are definitely infrequent, especially compared to the tens of thousands of ornamental plant poisonings.” Even when ornamental plants are included, plant based poisonings provide little cause for alarm compared to other categories, as indicated by the table above.

**American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC)