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January 26, 2024
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has widened its warning about toxic yellow oleander on the market to include additional products.
FDA issued its initial warning earlier this month. On Friday, Jan. 26, the agency expanded its warning to include nine additional products.
The warning was issued by FDA last week concerning products labeled as tejocote root (Crataegus Mexicana) that were tested and found to be substituted with yellow oleander (Cascabela thevetia). The products have been sold as weight loss aids.
The University of Texas El Paso, in an online resource listed as “UTEP Herbal Safety,” mentions that only the fruits of this plant have been used in traditional medicine in Mexico, where they were employed for coughs, to promote urination (as a diuretic), and for respiratory problems.
However, many products sold online list “root” as part of the common name on the labels, such as “Mexican Tejocote Root.”
According to the UTEP site, only one recent scientific citation could be found linking the use of the root as a weight loss aid, and in that case, it was for a tea that included other ingredients.
In any case, according to FDA, the 18 products it has tested do not contain tejocote at all but were wholly substituted with yellow oleander, a toxic shrub with a similar native range to that of tejocote.
The problem first surfaced in late 2022, when a child was admitted to an emergency room in New Jersey after ingesting a product labeled as tejocote. The child was successfully treated.
Following that, New Jersey health authorities partnered with an analytical chemistry firm to investigate 10 products sold as tejocote root. The tests revealed that none of the products contained tejocote, and nine of them contained yellow oleander.
The FDA warning said consumers should avoid using the products as ingesting yellow oleander can cause “neurologic, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular adverse health effects that may be severe, or even fatal. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, abdominal pain, cardiac changes, dysrhythmia, and more.”
Senior Editor, Informa
Hank Schultz is senior editor of Natural Products Insider. He is an experienced journalist with a long career in daily newspapers followed by more than a decade in the natural products industry. When he's not in front of a computer, Hank can be found on a bicycle, a mountain trail, the gym or at the helm of a sailboat.
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