More products added to FDA’s yellow oleander warning

FDA has included nine additional products in its warning about yellow oleander. The toxic botanical has been found in products labeled as tejocote root, a traditional medicinal herb from Mexico.

Hank Schultz, Senior Editor

January 26, 2024

2 Min Read

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. 

No tejocote root found in products 

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.” 



About the Author(s)

Hank Schultz

Senior Editor, Informa

Hank Schultz has been the senior editor of Natural Products Insider since early 2023. He can be reached at [email protected]

Prior to joining the Informa team, he was an editor at NutraIngredients-USA, a William Reed Business Media publication.

His approach to industry journalism was formed via a long career in the daily newspaper field. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in journalism and German, Hank was an editor at the Tempe Daily News in Arizona. He followed that with a long stint working at the Rocky Mountain News, a now defunct daily newspaper in Denver, where he rose to be one of the city editors. The newspaper won two Pulitzer Prizes during his time there.

The changing landscape of the newspaper industry led him to explore other career paths. He began his career in the natural products industry more than a decade ago at New Hope Natural Media, which was then part of Penton and now is an Informa brand. Hank formed friendships and partnerships within the industry that still inform his work to this day, which helps him to bring an insider’s perspective, tempered with an objective journalist’s sensibility, to his in-depth reporting.

Harkening back to his newspaper days, Hank considers the readers to be the primary stakeholders whose needs must be met. Report the news quickly, comprehensively and above all, fairly, and readership and sponsorships will follow.

In 2015, Hank was recognized by the American Herbal Products Association with a Special Award for Journalistic Excellence.

When he’s not reporting on the supplement industry, Hank enjoys many outside pursuits. Those include long distance bicycle touring, mountain climbing, sailing, kayaking and fishing. Less strenuous pastimes include travel, reading (novels and nonfiction), studying German, noodling on a harmonica, sketching and a daily dose of word puzzles in The New York Times.

Last but far from least, Hank is a lifelong fan and part owner of the Green Bay Packers.

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