Adverse Effects of Plant Food Supplements and Plants Consumed as Food: Results from the Poisons Centres-Based PlantLIBRA Study

Saskia Lüde, Sarah Vecchio, Sandra Sinno-Tellier, Aymeric Dopter, Harriet Mustonen, Slavica Vucinic, Birgitta Jonsson, Dieter Müller, Ligia Veras Gimenez Fruchtengarten, Karl Hruby, Elizabeth De Souza Nascimento, Chiara Di Lorenzo, Patrizia Restani, Hugo Kupferschmidt, Alessandro Ceschi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Plant food supplements (PFS) are products of increasing popularity and wide-spread distribution. Nevertheless, information about their risks is limited. To fill this gap, a poisons centres-based study was performed as part of the EU project PlantLIBRA. Multicentre retrospective review of data from selected European and Brazilian poisons centres, involving human cases of adverse effects due to plants consumed as food or as ingredients of food supplements recorded between 2006 and 2010. Ten poisons centres provided a total of 75 cases. In 57 cases (76%) a PFS was involved; in 18 (24%) a plant was ingested as food. The 10 most frequently reported plants were Valeriana officinalis, Camellia sinensis, Paullinia cupana, Melissa officinalis, Passiflora incarnata, Mentha piperita, Glycyrrhiza glabra, Ilex paraguariensis, Panax ginseng, and Citrus aurantium. The most frequently observed clinical effects were neurotoxicity and gastro-intestinal symptoms. Most cases showed a benign clinical course; however, five cases were severe. PFS-related adverse effects seem to be relatively infrequent issues for poisons centres. Most cases showed mild symptoms. Nevertheless, the occurrence of some severe adverse effects and the increasing popularity of PFS require continuous active surveillance, and further research is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhytotherapy Research
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


  • Adverse reactions
  • Botanicals
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Plants
  • Poisons centres
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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