- A 37-year-old in the UK died after taking herbal supplements, according to a coroner report.
- The coroner said an Ayurvedic practitioner prescribed the woman herbal supplements to treat her arthritis.
- Doctors are calling for greater regulation of supplement use.
A 37-year-old died due to complications of taking too many herbal supplements, a coroner determined.
Seema Haribhai died from liver failure after taking herbal supplements to treat her arthritis, according to the coroner’s report reviewed by Insider. The coroner, Mary Hassell, did not state which supplements she believed caused the liver failure.
The court heard that Haribhai, who lived in London, England, had concerns about “conventional medication” and turned to an Ayurvedic practitioner. Ayurveda is a traditional medical system practiced in South Asia for 5,000 years that touts healing through diet and lifestyle changes.
The Ayurvedic practitioner gave Haribhai an unspecified amount of supplements. Within a few weeks of ingesting the supplements, she developed liver failure.
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.
“All medicines can cause harm, even those that are herbal based,” Hassell said.
Top Ayurvedic doctors from India told Insider the country’s most reputable schools require eight to 10 years after high school studying the practice, plus several years of apprenticeship. Practitioners from these schools use Ayurvedic teachings to supplement modern medicine, and encourage their patients to take medicine prescribed by allopathic doctors.
There is no standardization in practice, however, which can lead to variation in schooling and treatment. The Ayurvedic doctor who treated Haribhai had a five-year degree and one year apprenticeship.
A rise in supplement use
Global sales of supplements increased after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the UK, vitamin sales increased by 63% between March 2020 and 2021, according to a paper in the peer-reviewed journal Public Health.
Both the UK and US do not closely regulate alternative medicine practitioners or herbal supplement use. Doctors who have witnessed a rise in health problems from supplement use have called for greater oversight.
Hassell said she encourages the UK to better regulate Ayurvedic teachings and herbal treatments. Inaction may cause more deaths stemming, the coroner warned.