The startling reality of Herbalife’s medication interactions

herbalife's medication interactionsCC: RawPixel at Unsplash

Have you ever logged onto your Facebook to find a friend spamming your feed with their latest business opportunity? Multi-level-marketing (MLM) has taken the world by storm in recent years. With the FTC coming within a breath’s worth of asserting that some schemes amount to pyramid marketing, many of the companies your friends involve themselves with may have questionable morals.

The financial perils of MLM aside, it’s worth examining one company in particular: Herbalife. As an organization that’s no stranger to courting controversy, it’s now a global name that was almost shorted on the stock market. Lying beneath all the headlines focusing on its close shave with monetary struggles are the hidden perils of Herbalife’s medication interactions.

First of all, a brief insight into what Herbalife is

Even if you have been exposed to the weight loss brand via an increasingly irritating Facebook friend, you may not know much about it. Herbalife is one of the many companies that pitches itself as a ‘Multi-Level-Marketing’ scheme. To those of us with even a modicum of financial acumen, MLM is a new-age way of saying ‘pyramid selling.’

The moguls at Herbalife recruit people such as your Facebook friends to sell overpriced shakes, soups, and other products online. As documentaries such as Betting On Zero demonstrate, most MLM reps working for the company secure their earnings by recruiting other reps and encouraging them to buy more products that they rarely go on to sell.


Despite receiving a staunch warning from the California Attorney General’s Office in the 1980s, the company still makes wild health claims to fuel sales. Online reps at all levels declare that shakes can cure fibromyalgia, infertility, and even cancer. Although the company is quick to disassociate itself from those who are paraded in front of the media for their efforts, promoting Herbalife shakes and soups as disease-curing panaceas is a dirty trick that occurs at every level of the organization. As a result, those who are desperate to tackle conditions such as the ones I just mentioned may resort to buying the shakes as a last resort.

Herbalife’s tactics rarely stop there. Before and after photos are lifted from Instagram weight loss success stories that don’t relate to the brand. In my experience, some reps will download OGD images via Google that they can’t possibly know how to interpret, before falsely claiming that they’ve cured their clients of ulcerative colitis.

So, what’s the problem with Herbalife’s medication interactions?

As a brand that’s successfully evaded its own downfall on multiple occasions, Herbalife is seriously savvy. To see what I mean, just check out the former CEO’s response to its $200-million fine from the FTC.

Now, for Herbalife’s medication interactions. The company consistently alters its shake recipes, using ingredients that essentially act as buzzwords in the natural health community. One of the biggest issues arising from Herbalife’s medication interactions comes from ginseng. In certain patient groups, ginseng will cause fluid retention and edema. Until a pharmacist can unpick the ingredients that a patient has consumed after they mention their health shakes, Herbalife’s medication interactions may render drugs such as diuretics useless. When fluid overloads become serious, this can result in near-fatal problems.

On a more obvious level, there are drugs such as Warfarin. Until the company becomes more transparent about medication interactions, it’ll likely play havoc with the INR levels of those who rely on the blood thinners. Should Herbalife’s medication interactions result in a high INR and the patient encounters a head injury, this could result in a cerebral hemmhorage.

Does this all sound a little sensationalist? When you place everything together, it really isn’t. The purposeful targeting of unwell individuals, false claims, and lack of transparency over ever-changing products means there’s a very real risk. Don’t believe it? Just check out this Facebook post from a trainee pharmacist.

For now, if you want to lose weight; step away from the MLM shakes. Not only are you funding an immoral industry that causes financial ruin amongst everyday individuals, but it also isn’t going to cure your health woes. If you must use a shake for weight loss, grab one from a supermarket shelf. It’s going to cost a lot less, plus you’ll know what’s in it.

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.