Do Herbs Show Up Positive on Drug Tests?
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Donna
Posted on: March 31, 2000

Hope you can help me. I am into herbal teas. I grow about 30 different kinds of herbs and drink different combinations just to stay healthy. Lately at work I have been told that herbs will make me show up positive for drugs. Can you give me some information on this?

There are very few herbs that have the potential to cause positive drug tests. For the past few years there have been suggestions that herb use could explain a rash of positive tests among performance athletes, but this has not been proven. Athletes such as sprinter Linford Christie who tested for the steroid nandralone have suggested a herbal supplement connection. The March 2000 issue of the Richters HerbLetter reports on the IIAF’s move to study this question.

This is a sample of what I use and I only make teas: thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage, skullcap, savory, lemon balm, lemon thyme, comfrey, etc. (Most of what I use, I grow myself.) I just bought some goldenseal and licorce root tea and have been drinking that daily.

These herbs are unlikely to cause positive test results. None have stimulants or steroids in any appreciable quantity.

I don’t do drugs, so I can’t see where I should show up positive for anything. I made a tea the other day for someone that had a sore throat and all I used was common thyme and lemon thyme straight out of the garden. I steeped it for 15 minutes. Later they told me they got "higher than a kite on it" I find that hard to believe. But anyway if you could help me in this matter or point me to someplace to start, I would really appreciate it.

We have never heard of thyme causing a positive test result. But that doesn’t mean the herb doesn’t have a medicinal effect. Thyme is a potent herb. It has strong antiseptic properties, and it is listed by John Lust in his "The Herb Book" (available from Richters) as "anthelemintic, antispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, expectorant, sedative." It is used for a variety of complaints such as sore throat, bronchial complaints, laryngitis, whooping cough, diarrhea, gastritis, lack of appetite. It is also useful in mouthwashes, as a soothing bath and in salves.

Lust does caution users that thyme can stimulate the thyroid gland and overuse can lead to poisoning. It is possible that a person with an already over active thyroid might have a reaction similar to the one your acquaintance experienced.

It is important to realize that most herbs, including all of the common herbs and spices used in food, have potent medicinal effects. We are not used to thinking of them as medicines, but they definitely are.

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