Topical Nerium oleander: “OK” , or “Unsafe at any Concentration”?

We are going to continue to discuss here the issue of science-based selection of active ingredients for skin care products, both from a safety and efficacy point of view. This is part of our mission to both educate consumers and to blow the whistle on an industry that is sadly rife with irrational inventions and a circle the wagons mentality when challenged on logical basics.  Note that the thrust of this post is about the use in skin care of  chemicals known to be cell toxins and poisons.

Our poster boy for this topic continues to be extracts of Nerium oleander, a well known poison, which is currently being marketed as the active ingredient in an anti-aging skin care product, promising numerous benefits to appearance. The product, Nerium AD, is widely marketed through a multilevel marketing scheme, to the tune of $100 million dollars last year, which at ~$100 per bottle suggests a million bottles were sold last year, and probably twice that amount will be sold this year. [UPDATE: WE NOW READ $400M OVER 3 YEARS]. That’s a lot of oleander extract being applied to a lot of human skin. Now, you would think that selling a product based on such a well known poison would cause concerns about safety. The same ingredient is used in anti-cancer drugs which are sold by Nerium Biotechnology, the parent company of the MLM, who have sought but not received approval by the FDA to market the drug in this country as an adjunctive treatment for some cancers.

There is extensive peer reviewed published scientific research demonstrating the effects of the extracted chemicals, known as oleandrins (found in all oleander species of plants), both on whole organisms, and at a cellular level. The effects are well established. These oleander extracts cause “massive oxidative stress”, reduce protein synthesis, and can promote cell death (apoptosis).  If absorbed into bloodstream, these same chemicals can have effects on the heart, including heart block, which can be fatal.

As is true with all drugs as well as naturally occurring poisons, dosage counts.  The bigger the dose, the bigger the risk of untoward effects.  Also the route of exposure is important.  The skin has a barrier that protects against absorption of drugs and poisons, but it is not perfect.  Generally speaking, less will be absorbed through skin in comparison to ingestion through the mouth. Although there are all sorts of caveats to be applied – since the skin’s barrier function is not perfect and may be compromised by anything from sunburns to allergic irritations to skin conditions or diseases.  And things we are encouraged to do by the beauty industry, like defoliation (cleansers, mechanical), peels, and the like which reduce the skin’s barrier function and thereby increase the likelihood  that unwanted chemicals gain entry into the body.

We don’t know the concentration of oleandrins in the active ingredient in the product Nerium AD.  But we are constantly being bombarded with marketing materials claiming it is completely safe.  One argument we have seen presented is that it is safe because  it is applied to skin, not ingested. Another is that even if absorbed, it would be in such tiny amounts that it would not affect the heart.

We have not thus far questioned the product on the basis of systemic toxicity, but we  have expressed concerns about what it does to skin itself when applied regularly. Given that there is ample published research from Nerium Biotechnology, including the work of Dr. Newman and others  that Nerium extracts cause “massive oxidative stress” and reduce protein synthesis, it would seem to be quite illogical that this same substance is somehow good for skin. Oxidative stress is not considered a good thing by any skin physiologist we know. It is what solar radiation does to the skin, and is commonly associated with aging, not anti-aging. While we have repeatedly asked for an explanation as to how these facts add up logically, we have never received an answer. We hear lately a new marketing pitch– that the active ingredient is an “antioxidant”. Which leads to the obvious question of how something can be both “massively” oxidant and antioxidant at the same time. We will delve into that more in a future post.

The first paper presented below suggests that Nerium oleander extracts indeed can indeed cause major inflammatory events in skin, validating our chief persistent concern. The second and third papers demonstrate that extracts of oleander can be absorbed through the skin and may do so in amounts sufficient to cause heart problems. To be fair, we want to point out that these published findings are not testing Nerium AD (whose dose of oleandrins remains unknown). We are not suggesting that the commercial skin cream will cause these same effects. We are merely making the point that any claims of non-absorption of oleander extracts through skin do not comport with the evidence shown here.

What we are trying to demonstrate is the faulty logic of deploying products with any amount of these substances. If we had some cogent explanation of how they might confirm benefits, we might look to a risk/benefit balance. But in the absence of any clear benefit, revealed in published scientific literature, any risk of chronic, insidious inflammation (the expected result of “massive oxidation” applied regularly)  seems entirely unwarranted in our opinion. 

Chemical burns caused by the shrub nerium oleander

From: Ann Burns Fire Disasters.. 2010 Sep 30;23(3):128-30.

chemical burn oleander both feet

The first paper comes from the plastic surgery unit of a French Moroccan hospital. It documents two cases of severe chemical burns resulting from the use of local (topical) application of Nerium oleander as a folk remedy for skin problems.  It is published in the Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters.  The article is in French but if you access it at Pubmed using a Chrome browser you can get Google to translate to English .



Here is that link: 

Here is the abstract.

Nerium Oleander is a shrub that grows naturally in the Mediterranean

chemical burn oleander both knees

regions. In Morocco it is found in wet places. It is famous for its risk of systemic toxicity in cases of poisoning because of the presence of two alkaloids, especially oleandrine. The literature describes cases of local use of leaves of this plant against scabies, haemorrhoids, and boils. We report two cases of chemical burns of different gravity due to Nerium Oleander. This should lead to more widely diffused information for the general population and strict regulation of its marketing.

The photographs speak for themselves.

Cutaneous absorption of Oleander: Fact or fiction

From: J Emerg Trauma Shock. 2009 Jan-Apr; 2(1): 43–45.

The second paper demonstrates that the topical application of oleander plant extracts may result in cardiac poisoning. The doses received are probably considerably higher than if the skin had been normal (intact skin). It seems from the literature that only a few leaves are required to achieve toxic blood levels. Yellow oleander and Nerium oleander both contain the same “poisons” – cardiac glycosides – responsible for the toxicity of this family of plants. Here is the abstract and a link to the paper on PubMed:

Cardiac conduction disorders following oral ingestion of Oleander plant materials were documented earlier. Transcutaneous absorption of yellow oleander (Thevetia peruviana) leaf extract applied over non intact skin (raw wound) resulting in reversible cardiac conduction disorder observed in four healthy males who were free from any other systemic or electrolyte or metabolic disorders or exposure to pesticide or toxins is reported for the first time. Their hematological, biochemical, clinical, and echocardiogram status were within normal limits and free of any abnormalities. One among the four, presented for weakness and breathlessness (class II). He had bradycardia with Mobitz II block and hypotension without any other demonstrable localizing signs. The other three were identified in the community and without any symptoms. However, their ECG revealed bradycardia with Mobitz I block in two and complete heart block in the other. All of the four recovered well without any untoward events. Hence, it is suggested that physicians and practitioners have to elicit history and route of administration of unconventional therapy, whenever they are confronted with clinical challenges and during medical emergencies before embarking final decision.

Here is a third publication (abstract below) – reporting a single case of heart block requiring a pacemaker after use of a Nerium oleander extract.

Pacing Clin Electrophysiol. 2004 Dec;27(12):1686-8.

A rare cause of complete heart block after transdermal botanical treatment for psoriasis.

We report the case of a 59-year-old man with a new 3 degrees AV block with a history of psoriasis. After implantation of a definitive DDDR pacemaker, the patient reported a transdermal self-medication with an extract of Nerium oleander for the treatment of his psoriasis. The pharmacological, epidemiological, and clinical features are discussed in brief.

Here is the link:

In Summary

These scientific papers would seem to support our postulate that Nerium oleander extracts when applied regularly  could result in inflammatory damage to skin.  While we suspect the dosages of cardiac glycosides in the Nerium oleander extracts in these papers are higher than those obtained with products on the market, we continue to question why a substance known to cause oxidative stress (the precursor to inflammation) can be somehow good for the skin in the long run. At any dose.

Further, there is support for another contention from the latter two papers –  that cardiac glycosides in topically applied oleander extracts may be absorbed in quantities sufficient to cause life threatening heart toxicity – at least when applied to skin that has problems.  Again, we don’t address the issue of dosing, and there is no publication that informs us as to the amount of these poisons in Nerium AD or the amount in a typical folk medicine homemade poultice of Nerium leaves.  But it does definitely put to rest the claims we have heard that such toxins cannot penetrate into the body. Clearly, under some circumstances, they are absorbed, and can cause systemic toxicity.

And again, this literature informs us about extracts of oleander plants, not the product Nerium AD per se, even though it is widely marketed as containing extracts of Nerium oleander as its principal ingredient.  Additional materials (such as a much touted patent for the extraction method) make it clear that maximizing the concentration of cardiac glycosides is the goal of the processing of the nerium oleander leaves.

We make no statements of fact about the toxicity of Nerium AD, and we have not tested it as such. We do offer valid scientific concerns and encourage open scientific debate on the general topic of cardiac glycosides as active ingredients in anti-aging skin care. We do not claim to have a corner on the truth.  Rather, we seek answers to these important questions. We invite discussion and publish opposing viewpoints. Any scientists out there wish to chime in?

We here at BFT can well  identify with Ralph Nader - a whistleblower from an earlier generation – we thought we would acknowledge his contribution to public health and safety by recalling his seminal book:  Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile

As a hat tip to Mr. Nader we thought of a book title appropriate to our whistleblowing mission: Unsafe at Any Concentration: The Designed-In Dangers of Poisons in Skin Care Products


  1. RE says:

    I have a document obtained by a freedom of information act request to the Texas Attorney General’s office that you would find interesting regarding Nerium. You may obtain it yourself by sending a request the office of Attorney General of Texas Greg Abbott or I can scan it and email to you. Their turn around time is pretty quick, I only waited a few weeks and my request was sent 6 months ago. There may be even more info now if you do your own request. I requested any information available on complaints about Nerium to the Consumer Protection Division.

    I suspect that there is minimal oleander in this – I don’t have a link, but in a video they put out a pediatrician claims a toddler can drink 400 bottles of this stuff and not get sick – so not much in it or this doc is insane. But Nerium is proud to point people to this recording.

    Another bit of interesting reading is found at the patent office – search under patent applications for Nerium.

    Have you seen the “clinical trial” reports? Google this file name… nsc4finalreport07172011v5.pdf

    Thanks for your work!

    • drjohn says:

      The clinical trial results are quite humble, so to speak. A 20-30% improvements in an anti-aging skin care trial is not particularly impressive. Please do scan and e-mail the document you mention to We have seen marketing materials with pictures of immense fields of oleander in S.A. Some sources document that a single leaf is enough to kill a child (e.g. READ HERE, but many other professional level references). If correct, a single plant with 250 leaves would be enough oleandrin to make 100,000 bottles of Nerium AD (250 leaves x 400 bottles per leaf = “toxic dose). There is probably enough N. oleander growing in any 100 yards of southern California freeway to supply the whole world with this for decades, if that is the case. ? So, why the field of oleander? Wouldn’t that be deceptive? Sell the farm!

    • Sue says:

      Thanks for the link to the pdf. I noticed that the report states that the active ingredient was not “absorbed systemically” into the blood of any patients. What exactly does that mean. They did not say was not “absorbed” into the blood.

      Here is my question. These reputable people put their name, reputation, and careers on the line ( Are they doing it to make a buck? Have they been misled and as such are answering the wrong questions? Are they very smart men who happen to be gullible in this situation? Or do they have a point about the safety?

      I have yet to see anything from Nerium that explains “how” it works…. hmmmm….

      • drjohn says:

        I suggest you contact the scientists who appeared on the video and ask them yourself. We tried and got no reply, but maybe you will have better luck. Here are some questions you might ask:

        1. Did you receive payment or any recompense to appear on that video, or for anything else to do with Nerium?
        2. Is Nerium oleander extract (cardiac glycosides) a know poison or not?
        3. For any toxin or drug with no proven efficacy, what is the correct dose based on a risk/benefit ratio analysis?
        4. How do you respond to the three papers here showing the skin effects of Nerium oleander – is it safe on skin?
        5. How do you respond to the papers showing systemic absorption of topically applied Nerium oleander?
        6. How can a substance scientifically proven (by Dr. Newman) to cause massive oxidative stress be good for skin?

        Please share the answers if you get any. Seems to me if they really believed in the absolute safety of this stuff they would be willing to engage in a legitimate scientific debate on the subject. We stand ready to publish anything they say to answer these key questions. If there is evidence, and sound logic, we can be convinced.

        • Robert Zoellner says:

          So your telling me that all that was substantiated by ST&T Research is a hoax? Go to at look at the clinical tab and scroll down to the report from ST&T. They certify FDA approvals and safety for this product as well as many other products that work. And yes I’m sure they were paid for their services, but I don’t believe Nerium bought the report.

          • drjohn says:

            Are you suggesting that Nerium did not pay for the report, or they didn’t buy the results??? if it’s the latter, then I find myself in agreement – I don’t buy the results either!

            We have reported on ST&T in the past. Not a hoax, just weak research, from study design to results. Small number of subjects, no control intervention, and thus no blinding. Compared to results you often see from other companies (e.g. 60-70% improvement) there was only 25-35% improvement in a small number of measures. Mind you I don’t necessarily believe the other company’s results either. And I don’t think 4 weeks is enough to detect true anti-aging changes beyond that achieved with simple moisture restoration. Before and after pictures used as evidence have major barriers to believability. Dr Fan, who lent his name to the study, achieves some redemption by distancing himself from certain Nerium before/after pictures: “My suspicion is that it is certainly possible that they could have had additional treatments, said Dr. Fan.“[]. He also “admitted his study alone doesn’t address safety when it comes to the general population.” He said: “Absolutely not, based on this study” [ibid]. And no, ST&T doesn’t give FDA approvals, the FDA does. And the FDA has not approved Nerium AD. Mind you, Nerium Biotechnology, Nerium Skincare, and Nerium International has not applied for approvals, as far as we know.

            Nerium Biotechnology (or its progenitor company) did apply for approval to market Anvirzel™ (an anti-cancer drug containing Nerium oleander extracts, with the same cell toxins, as Nerium AD). This is from the American Cancer Society website. “An injectable oleander extract with the brand name of Anvirzel was available at one time, but it has not been approved for marketing by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In March 2000, the FDA warned Anvirzel’s manufacturers to stop promoting the product as safe and effective after it found misleading information on their Web site. The FDA noted that claims were being made based on preliminary and inconclusive data. A company cannot claim a drug is safe and effective unless it has been fully tested and shown to be so.”

            Also from the American Cancer Society: “The oleander plant is poisonous, and many people have died of heart failure or respiratory paralysis after eating parts of the plant or drinking tea made from it. Some of the symptoms and signs of oleander toxicity are nausea, vomiting, colic, appetite loss, dizziness, drowsiness, high potassium levels, dilated pupils, bloody diarrhea, seizures, loss of consciousness, slow or irregular pulse, and heart block — a blockage of the electrical impulses that stimulate the heart to contract. There have been reports of death occurring after oral and/or rectal administration of the extract from the plant. The FDA has received reports of at least 2 deaths linked to Anvirzel.”

            And again from the ACS: “Skin irritation from contact with oleander has occurred and allergies are possible. One report observed that, when oleander was taken by a pregnant woman 12 hours before delivery, her baby was affected with seizures and a slowed heart rate. No other cause for the seizures and low heart rate was found. This herb should be avoided, especially by children and by women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.”

            OK, so we have Nerium International making claims through company websites, Facebook pages, and various brand partners, basically claiming that Nerium AD, containing Nerium oleander extracts, works “amazingly” well, is perfectly safe (even for children to eat), and that there has never been any toxicity associated with Nerium oleander topical application. Oh really? Suggest you read the post above.

            I guess it boils down to who you believe. For me, the American Cancer Society has more credibility in this debate than any of the Nerium companies, or their paid spokespersons, or the results of their paid studies.

  2. Timov Muiren says:

    I would like to thank the Docs for taking the time to disseminate valuable information to all of us… which also includes the portion of the population that chooses to continue suffering from self-induced leucotomies.


    That being said, my virgin post on this wondrous blog would like to reiterate to the Nerium International acolytes that science is an evolving process just like folklore… and that’s probably the only similarity. Oh yeah, and that breasts are functional and entertaining at the same time.


    Now, its hard to leave any room for disagreement that Nerium oleander, oleandrin, etc is a cytotoxin, causes oxidative stress, etc. and the purported scientific validity of the Nerium AD cream is seriously lacking in “real” research methodology that provides statistically significant results or validity to the claims of anti-oxidant properties, anti-aging, and the next best thing since castor oil. (or pumpkin pie whichever you prefer)

    Anyone with a half a brain and one working hand could spend a few hours doing due diligence and find plenty of information which massively contradicts the religious claims of the Nerium skin cream product. I know this for a fact because I am 86.5% positive my father was a rabid orangutan. So you other two-leggers have no excuse to play make believe and pretend that reality isn’t reality in your constructed universe.

    Now for the good stuff… I would like to hear the good Doctors’ feedback and opinions on a few things. Something of note that struck me (like Daddy used to when I asked him if I could have the last banana in the bunch) in one of the studies of Nerium Oleander, specifically with Anvirzel and Oleandrin was an interesting finding in loss of telomere length, TRF2 reduction and triggered DNA damage induced signals resulting in cell arrest or apoptosis. Now I am not a biology nut by any means (just a plain nut) but the red flags started going off when I came across (drum roll please) telomere length.


    For the rest of us “Uninitiated to the League of Cell-Flows” (speaking in Bane voice)… This is the process that causes aging….huh? What? What did you saaay? Yes. The Telomere is the area of your nucleotide sequences that protects the end of your chromosome from deterioration or fusion with neighboring chromosomes. This is why the research has been done to test its effects of “killing” cancer because cancer cells increase the telomeres and replicate out of control. But when you remove it from normal cells it induces (SURPRISE!)…. AGING. I don’t know about you, folks… but that seems like a pretty strange property for an “Anti-Aging” cream, wouldn’t you say?


    Anyway. What do I know? I still suck my thumbs and occasionally wet my bed. But I would like to hear what the Docs wanna opine about this.


    Once that has settled in, I am also curious about another study (Newman was again involved) which hypothesizes that Oleandrin suppresses NF-kB which may block inflammatory responses. What effect would a compound that induces apoptosis and inflammation while also blocking NF-kB and be potentially anti-inflammatory have on human tissues? I’m not sure if I am asking the right questions but I am sure greater minds will prevail. Could this be the link of an alleged anti-oxidant property within the Nerium skin cream?


    ….. oh yeah! Before I forget. Not that it really matters at this point in our education… but I would like to point it out anyway because it looks like some dang Europeans think we must be auditioning for the sequel to Idiocracy (Luke Wilson will return) after they concluded that cardiac glycosides induce cell death in human cells by inhibiting general protein synthesis. They scientifically deduce we are ‘tards for the ongoing clinical trials to test CGs as anti-cancer agents in humans.


    Again, I invite the good Doctors to bestow any wisdom they choose to impart upon us.


    Thanks again for all your hard work. It is very much appreciated.

  3. Frank C says:

    This is scary stuff but I have to say that I am a 47 year old man with very rashy skin especially in the winter. My mother bought into the pyramid thing with the company, which I refuse to do since I have a full time job in sales, I don’t need to sell my friends. The crazy thing is the stuff has made my face look good no way do I look younger one bit but the rashy face is gone. I have gone to dermatologists and used cortizone based medications and Nizoral (Ketoconazole) which never really worked. After reading the stuff on this site I am thinking about stopping using this stuff. Again it does nothing on aging for me but it definitely clears up my face. Do you think there is any long term effects I should be worried about.

    • drjohn says:

      Frank, We have written extensively about our concerns regarding cytotoxins applied chronically. Please read the related posts on the list. Rashy skin especially in the winter is highly suggestive of issues with hydration. Maybe the aloe is helping. You might consider trying a simple, inexpensive deep moisturizer.

  4. jon o says:

    So does the aging start when u stop taking it? Cus young guys who have been in the company for years look really aged lately.

  5. cheryl says:

    I just thought you docs would be interested in this article from the San Francisco CBS affiliate regarding NeriumAD. There are very interesting quotes from CEO Jeff Olson but more interesting are those from plastic surgeon Dr. Fan of San Francisco who conducted Nerium’s ‘top secret’ clinical testing. There is also an interesting aftermath.

    SF channel 5 news CBS


    • drjohn says:

      cheryl, yes indeed. Seems like a circle the wagons mentality. If you seriously challenge the science (or safety) they drag out the lawyers and the hired guns. We have already experienced this personally. What do they have to hide?

  6. M says:

    If, in fact, so little of the plant is required to make so much of the product Nerium, why the $100 cost? Why not market nationwide to drug stores & Walmart at $20 a jar? They would sell much more. I was given a sample. It didn’t do more or less than the basic lotion I use. But it STINKS, it smells vile. That alone indicates poison to me,

  7. Dean says:

    I am always leery in the validity of ANY face cream that indicates that it does amazing things. I am also leery of ANY new medications out there that claim they do all these amazing things. Cell phones are bad for you, drinking is bad for you, your water is not safe to drink, your food has poison on it, they add ingredients to McDonald’s fries to make you crave them, and to tell you the truth, breathing the air is bad for you. What it boils down to, there can be a negative effect with everything you do these days. I use Nerium AD and I do so knowing the risk because I did the research to find out the good/bad effects of the product. People are going to make their own decisions as to whether or not they will use a product. That being said, thank you for being an informative source.

    • drjohn says:

      We agree. To borrow a phrase…”we inform, you decide”. The question for you is this: why would you pay so much for a product that has any risks at all, and no more benefit that products selling for much less? The answer of course is that it is not a face cream, but a way to make money. As a face cream alone, it can’t compete. As a dream – well thats a different matter. Same reason people play the lottery, despite the long odds. A wish and a hope. Caveat emptor!

      • Lasheda says:

        This article that you’ve posted is a wish and a hope. Your wish (or desire) is that you provide people with “secret” information about a product YOU are skeptical about, in hopes they believe your point of view and take on your skepticism…the whole world is built on that formula…so then what makes your point of view better than that of the people selling Nerium AD? Do you believe that it has to do with people not having to spend money to read this article? Yet, people had to take the time to read this article….time=money…somehow, someway. Time always=money. Electricity used to read this article runs on dollars. Internet service runs on dollars…so you see, once you break it down their is risk in everything, including reading this article.

        P.S. McDonald’s cheeseburgers are FDA approved…does that make them any more safe to eat?

        • drjohn says:

          No, the FDA does not “approve” foods. Nonsense. This is argumentum ad absurdum. And this blog is not about points of view (although it’s fine to have one and express it) , its also about cold facts and science. Good you have a point of view, but better if you are able to back it up with some solid evidence, and to defend your point of view against the mountain of evidence that contradicts the marketing hoopla.

  8. jill says:

    I know many will argue…but I need to put my two cents in since I happened to run across this article. My stepmother had a heart condition she took medication for. Just april 1st, she was snorkeling in the virgin islands and died. She did not drown…she said she felt funny and as my dad helped her out of the water she collapsed. They summed it up to her heart giving out. Today, I met a dr who stopped using nerium after going to a cardiologist and finding out it was causing a slowed heartbeat, dizziness, and fatigue. She asked me if my stepmom had ever used nerium since she fond out she herself had a heart condition only after the nerium making it worse…my stepmom used nerium religiously. Now I sit here wondering why there is a cream out there on the market that does not require a warning label for people with heart conditions when nerium could have been a contributing factor to my stepmoms death at a young age of 54 . Thank you for this article. I will now continue to do research and pray this cream did not.have nything to do with the death of someone i loved so dearly..

    • drjohn says:

      Jill, we are deeply sorry for your loss. There is no way to tie Nerium oleander exposure and sudden cardiac death together without investigation. May we ask, was there a coroner involved who may have taken blood samples? Often blood samples are saved, and could be analyzed to measure the concentration of cardiac glycosides in her body at the time of death. We would like to talk to the Dr you met today, if at all possible, to compare notes. No warning labels would be expected to appear on Nerium AD because Nerium International claims their product is a cosmetic, not a drug, even though Nerium Biotechnology (a parent company/ part owner) sells (in third world countries) a drug called Anvirzel as a cancer agent which contains the same ingredient (extract of Nerium oleander) which contains the cardiac glycosides, the substance that may cause heart problems if enough enters the bloodstream.

  9. MC Smith says:

    I applied Neruim AD cream to my face, carefully applying a SMALL amount to my crows feet and lower jaw as instructed. Within an hour my whole face turned red, puffy and my throat became swollen making it difficult to swallow. I only used this product ‘one’ time and it was enough to scare me. How can a company sale a product with such bad, serious side-effects? This is NOT a safe product and is pitched/sold like it is a safe/tested skin cream. I a consumer with no hidden agenda or seeking financial reimbursements. Just a gal who wants to pass-on the truth about a dangerous product made to look like the new ‘fountain of youth’.

  10. B Snyder says:

    I am a licensed Esthetician researching the negative/positive effects of the Nerium product and it’s main marketed ingredient the Nerium Oleander plant. The first person I wanted to use as case-study has heart issues, low blood pressure.. etc. I have been contacted by a “Brand Partner” on claiming the product to be safe… but can not tell me how or why it is safe.. He offered to give me a contact number to some one he knows that works as a nurse in the ICU department who might be able to give me information on the safety of the product… But I am not sure if that is a logical or reliable source to obtain information from? I’ve read the previous comments above and am concerned, definitely. Before I invest my time and put my name out there to represent and sell this product I’d like to obtain as much information as possible. I was wondering if anyone could point me in the right direction as to WHO I should be asking? A dermatologist? Scientist? Doctor? I don’t want to rely solely on the safety information the Nerium company provides… which are all videos.

    Links, Articles, Contact Information would be greatly appreciated…

    • drjohn says:

      You have it right – ask the opinion of skin care professionals who understand the science. Why not ask some of your esthetician colleagues who are members of Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP)? They have a Linked In group where you can ask questions and gather opinion…. And look here on BFT for all the evidence-based science you will need.

  11. Vi Aguirre says:

    Hi, I’m a 34 year old female. I came across Nerium AD (night cream) last week from a previous co worker that wants me to help her sell the product in Mexico once it’s ready to launch. I felt extremely uncomfortable with the rapid results shown. It’s my experience that rapid results are NEVER good. I kept thinking of the time when X ray came out as a form of hair removal. Everyone jumped on it and of all of those poor people ended up suffering with cancerous growths. I don’t know why it came to mind, but it did. I was given a sample of Nerium, which I tried for a couple of nights. How can a cream work so drastically on the cellular level, to make it so that my lines are reduced, my skin is firmer and soft and my blemishes are virtually gone? It feels like it’s changing my skin on the cellular level drastically. Two nights and I see a huge change. It’s like phen phen or anything out there that comes out with real proven results and ends up harming us in one way or another. At least that’s how I feel about it. It works, I’ve confirmed it for myself. However, I will not sell it and I will not use it. Nothing is worth history repeating itself over and over again.

  12. Marc F says:


    I know I’m not that smart and never got the far in chemistry. However I have been around the block once or twice and know a scam when I see one. I think more attention needs to be paid to what MIGHT be in Nerium that is NOT on the label.

    Do you know if anyone has done an analysis of the cream? Specifically to see if it contains hormones? Or other unsafe chemical(s) they “accidentally” forgot to put on the label. Maybe a combination of ingredients? My first thought would be to test for progesterone….

    The above conversation aside, I do not believe all the people buying and using Nerium are seeing no results. Therefore, I wonder why its working for many people. Thanks.

    • drjohn says:

      The reason most products give “results” or the perception of “improvement” within days or weeks is hydration. People who are walking around not using any product faithfully often have dry skin. They start using any product – even a cheap moisturizer from Target, the see “results”. Then there is micro-inflammation of the skin from daily application of inflammatory substances. Inflammation by its nature draws water to the area. Puffs up skin, makes up for lost b=volume (fat) and “rounds out” surfaces, stretching to mask wrinkles that have formed in the “dry lake bed”. Problem that causes is that inflammation is slowly destroying more collagen, disrupting the dermal-epidermal junction, bad matrix cross links and loss of elasticity. Skinflammaging. Something you want to avoid in the long run.

      • drjones says:

        Full disclosure: I am a physician and my major was biochemistry. I have been a Nerium Brand Partner since last year, and I have not had anyone complain of heart side effects. Only two of my customers stopped samples due to a burning sensation. That said, have you seen the article from International Journal of Molecular Medicine, Dec 2007, “Stimulation of collagen biosynthesis by flavinoid glycosides in skin fibroblasts of osteogenesis imperfect type I and the potential mechanism of their action”? Oleandrin is one such glycoside. The compounds they tested stimulated the activity of prolidase which catalyzes the final step of collagen degradation and plays an important role in collagen biosynthesis. Maybe this is the mechanism of action you all are wondering about. None of the flavinoid glycosides at the 30 microM concentration they used displayed any toxicity. Still, one needs to recognize the other dangers of glycosides, so people should not use it on open skin, ulcers, mucous membranes… they also should not use it if they have an allergy to aloe or oleander.

        • drjohn says:

          Welcome to the debate, DrJones. It’s nice to have someone with background to understand the complexities join us here. Allow me to comment on your comments:

          1. Two patients developing a burning sensation is not insignificant in a single practice. That’s a whole lot higher than the incidence from skin care products in general. You can read in these pages many reports of adverse reactions submitted by readers.

          2. You have confused cardiac glycosides with flavonoid glycosides (which is the subject of the paper you mention). Plant glycosides are a large class of chemicals, and there are numerous subclasses or divisions. See e.g. The term flavonoids refers to a class of chemicals that are responsible for color in some fruits & vegetables, and are well known to have beneficial activities including antioxidant effects (see e.g. Oleandrin is not a flavonoid glycoside; it belongs to a group of glycosides with high toxic potential (bufalin, ouabain and digoxin are a few toxic cardiac glycosides.). Oleandrin does not increase the synthesis of matrix proteins in fibroblasts – rather it decreases it and reduces the secretion of Fibroblast Growth Factor ( and also causes “massive oxidative stress” (e.g. and apoptosis. This is why oleandrin-related compounds show potential as a anti-cancer agents, although the FDA had concerns about safety and it failed to get approved in this country as drug.

          3. Here is what another of our physician colleagues had to say about Nerium:

          To promote a skin product that purports to be an extract of a potentially lethal substance without safety data while advertising that it is somehow safe because it was used by “herbal practitioners” and dismissing a wealth of data on poisonings as “negative stories” is so ludicrous it’s beyond belief. (

          4. We have also documented in these pages some of the “ethically challenged” acts of the company when legitimate scientific questions were asked (and never answered).

          I sincerely hope you will continue to do your research and return to discuss this with us. We promise to maintain a civil debate. Thanks.

  13. Jodi says:

    So glad to have found this as I was approached on twitter by one of the Nerium tier members to buy into this million dollar company and continued tweets of how beneficial this product is and what it can do for ones skin. I at first was curious and answered several replies. Believe me he was relentless UNTIL I informed him that my Dr and his partner was going to look into the product and get back with me with their findings HE stopped contacting me immediately. With the research that I and my Dr has found I am so glad that I not only did not use this product but not buy into the scam as well….thank you

  14. Cristy says:

    I have an acquaintance who has jumped on the Nerium bandwagon. You should hear some of the things she repeats. “We have an enzymatic molecule, the NAE-8 extract, that comes from an auto-immune source from a non toxic breed of oleander combined with pure Aloe Vera. Patented!! It has a small molecular structure and literally seeks out in the dermis where new cells turn over and find abnormal broken down autoimmune issues like aging and turn back the hands of time in a cosmetic night treatment. We have more plans for this breakthrough technology in our future and global rights. We give back 30% of all we do for the continual & future medical studies and the creation of new amazing uses of our coveted molecule, that we call NATE (NAE-8)!” Ridiculous in my opinion. And my research scientist, doctor, husband, just raises his eyebrows and says, “That’s one smart molecule.”

    • drjohn says:

      Jiberish, mumbo jumbo, meaningless chants learned in endless rah-rah sessions. Words strung together in a malaprop fashion clearly indicating that the speaker has no clue as to what they mean. The “we give back 30%” claim is a debunked myth from way back. Nerium Biotechnology and/or its Nerium Skin care wholly owned subsidiary (both for profit companies) owns a 30% interest in Olson’s Nerium International. That’s income, not research expenditures. Line their pockets, not a charity. Such deception! It’s all of course part of the art of illusion. A shell game. Don’t get me started on what the patent actually says. Breakthrough technology? How about break out technology? I think the object lesson is less about smart molecules but more about savvy snake oil salesmen.

  15. Sarah says:

    It is a little disturbing to know Nerium’s new product that is marketed in Mexico and Canada now DOES NOT CONTAIN OLEANDER!! Why???? Oleander is their “signature” ingredient that supposedly makes NeriumAD effective on wrinkles and saggy skin. They also changed the name to Optimera. Why? There are millions of bottles of Nerium out there in use in the US and still being delivered containing this poison. I come to the conclusion they must know it is bad for you, but they are only into it for the money and they will continue selling this product in the US containing a known poison to the unknowing public as long as they have product to get rid of.

  16. maria alvarado says:

    I know a person friend from church& she sells & goes on & on about this product however I do have a heart condition so now iam very concerned ! ?

    • drjohn says:

      The toxin from the Nerium oleander plant is indeed a heart toxin. In fatal poisoning cases (in animals & humans) the heart electrical system goes haywire and the heart stops beating. We don’t know how much of that toxin is in the product you refer to, as they have not told us. They have said there is not enough to cause a problem. However, the same company has said other things that we know for sure are not true. So caveat emptor (latin for “let the buyer beware”).

  17. drgeorge says:

    The company has trumpeted loudly that a one year old child could drink 400 bottles without harm (in a video of a panel of pharmacology experts). That means the concentration of nerium extract in the product is (allegedly) quite low . The low molecular weight and lipid solubility of the cardiac glycoside ensures that penetration of the skin barrier is likely.

    BFT concedes systemic toxicity is probably not a problem. BUT, what is the effect of daily application of a toxin, known to kill cancer cells via creation of massive oxidative stress, on normal cells? That’s the key question we raise about this product and the one the company has steadfastly refused to answer. At one time we were led to believe that the product is an “antioxidant”, the exact chemical opposite of creating oxidative stress. So, what is it? Still waiting for the answer to that extremely critical question. The other issues surrounding the Nerium brouhaha on BFT are secondary. Adverse product reactions, dissatisfaction with refund policies, stress in family and friendships, notwithstanding.

  18. Hans says:

    For all who are interested in further reading and information on Oleander …. it’s application in cancer patients and in particular Oleander soup…go to Google search and look up ‘Oleander Soup’. or ‘Dr Ozel’

    • drjohn says:

      Mind you, you will see claims out there that oleander soup cures hepatitis, psoriasis, and AIDS as well as cancer. Now if you believe that, I have a bottle of stinky skin cream I would like to sell you (and then have you sell it for me, and so on).

  19. C. says:


    I was wondering why the product they sell here in Canada (Optimera) does not contain nerium oleander ? Optimera’s first ingredient is SAL-14 (?)… Why wouldn’t they use their “amazing anti-aging” ingredient in the canadian version of their product ? And if there’s no nerium oleander in Optimera, what is so special about it (and what justifies the price?) ? I just want to understand.

    Thanks !

    • drjohn says:

      We would like to understand also. Could it be that they couldn’t get the Canadian government to approve a product whose touted active ingredient is internationally infamous as a poison? We don’t know for sure, but no other explanation makes any sense to us. You can read opinions from many other readers here who share your bafflement. We have asked why???? but never get any answers. Only insults.

  20. drgeorge says:

    After the elaborate and convincing charade about invisible thread and fabric, I am sure it took a while for some of the other spectators to reluctantly concede that what the little boy was saying was true. The emperor was buck naked. Is that the murmur starting to be heard above the din of the Nerium sycophants?


  21. Chuck says:

    None of the claims above are based on Knowledge, only opinion. There are many oleander plants and you can’t lump the Nerium Oleander into that category… It’s clinically proven to be safe and its patented.

    • drjohn says:

      Total bunkum, Chuck. There are several species of oleander and they all contain the poison (cardiac glycosides). These are facts, Chuck, not opinions.Go read the textbooks. Chuck claims that oleander extract is clinically safe. Wrong, Chuck. People die from ingesting oleander. And if you read this post you would see that such extracts are hardly benign when applied to skin. The process of extracting the poison may be patented. So what? What do you think that means? Wrong agin. There is no connection between safety and method patents on extraction. You can patent an extraction method for arsenic, or any other poison. Chuck is guilty of truth bending in the name of commerce because he wants to sell Nerium oleander-based products. Not here, Chuck. We sentence you to read every word on BFT. Get with the science program.

  22. Cindi Herring says:

    If a plant is TOXIC? The FDA has NOT Approval it. There is not enough time base data in Research to show its safe. Ect. These are RED FLAGS!!!! Thank You for your Inf94mation.

  23. Noy says:

    I used the product 2 days ago and I felt sick after 5 mins. Had to rinse my face off right away. I have got headache, dizziness, and nausea. Just want to let everybody know that this product has the ingredient that could make you sick. I don’t know what is in it until I found this site. Thank you so much for the information.

  24. NotADr says:

    I was invited to a seminar on this MLM yesterday and I took to the internet to investigate this item. I am currently trying to lead a “clean” lifestyle. When I arrived to the seminar I was told how great my skin looks, what do I use. Coconut Oil. $15 for 8 lbs of coconut oil and not a wrinkle on my face.

    What made me concerned about this product was the word “oleander.” I am reminded of a movie with Michelle Pfeiffer White Oleander and recollected that it was a poisonous plant. The fact that the “nerium oleander” is not allowed in Canada leads me to believe that this product is not safe for the skin.

    Thank you for posting all of this information.

  25. Traci says:

    So I started using the product a few weeks ago. I have severe acne, as an adult, with no results from anything else Ive ever used. I was actually searching the oleander oil to see if I could purchase that outright, just like you can essential oils. I was doing this so that I wouldn’t have to spend so much on the product. I am glad to come across this discussion, but kinda disappointed too. I found something that helps my skin, greatly! Im so tired of having breakouts that are so bad and often last a month (one area) while of course other breakouts start. Its just frustrating. So, I came on here to say how much this product has helped me when nothing else has. I actually stopped using it for about a week because I started using a few essential oils on my skin, with the hope that I could have good results and stop using Nerium. Keep in mind, my only reason to stop up till now was because of the cost. I just cant justify spending this much on a face product. Anyway, Im thankful to read all of the info presented here and must say I need to stop using Nerium now. So I have a question from all of you smart people ;) Any suggestions on what may be a good product to use on my face??? Thats the real reason for commenting. I sure hope I can find an alternative. Oh, I mentioned stopping Nerium for about a week and within a few days my face started to break out really bad! I thought maybe its because of the essential oils pulling all the bad out. I don’t know, but last night I decided to use the Nerium and this morning my face already started looking better. Id say another night or two and the acne would be cleared up again. Do you know how hard its going to be to stop using this stuff!!???? Please if you all know of anything I could try please let me know. My face is oily and the acne I get is really deep and rooted in a sense. So each spot takes really really long to clear and heal. Often causing scarring. Im not a vain person, but this is really depressing….. Thanks again for all the great info!!!

    • drjohn says:

      We are currently formulating a new approach to acne that looks at multiple aspects of the pathophysiology. We are employing human growth factors & cytokines, botanical extracts, and boro-lipids (a new class of chemicals). There is a good body of evidence for the benefit of certain botanicals (plant derived chemicals) on acne. Here is a recent review of 23 different possibilities. You can rent this paper for 48 hours for $6 which could be a good investment for you. What you want to find is a botanical or herbal approach that derives from plants without known toxins. Keep the good part, avoid the bad part. You will see here that tea tree oil, seaweed extract, Kampo formulations, Ayurvedic formulations, rose extract, basil extract, EGCG, and tea extract are all good possibilities, and are anti-inflammatory rather than inflammatory. Which is of course what you want.

      A few insights (edited) … “Research is ongoing to discover the specific phytochemicals within extracts that may be responsible for the beneficial effects of plant extracts. The three phytochemicals described in this review have known anti-acne properties. Resveratrol is a phytoalexin extracted from the skin of grapes and other plants. Only one clinical study sup-ports the use of resveratrol for acne treatment. The study design had rigorous quantitation, and clinical results were further assessed with histopathology. In vitro, resveratrol interferes with hyperkeratinization, inflammation, and P. acnes proliferation. It also has antioxidant effects , which may decrease acne severity by several mechanisms, including a decrease in the production of comedogenic lipid peroxidation products. Epigallocatechin gallate and polyphenon-60 are catechins found in Camellia sinensis and in several other plants. Both have been noted in clinical studies to reduce the number of inflammatory acne lesions, although polyphenon-60 did not alter the presence of closed comedones. In vitro evidence suggests EGCG affects all four major pathogenic mechanisms involved in acne development. EGCG inhibits the growth of P. acnes, induces apoptosis of sebocytes, and suppresses key inflammatory cascades normally induced by P. acnes . Additionally, it may have an indirect inhibitory effect on abnormal keratinization through decreased interleukin-1α expression in keratinocytes. The antiproliferative effects of EGCG on keratinocytes have been reviewed elsewhere.”

      Good luck with your search.

  26. Susan Rubano says:

    Smooth, smart and sassy writing style Dr. John. Very informative, brilliant scientific understanding yet easy to read for anyone, even non-science types like myself.
    Thank you for your integrity.

  27. Liz G. says:

    I wanted to first address Traci, who posted earlier about her acne. Acne, especially severe acne is not necessarily best tackled with topical applications alone. The source of acne is often found in an overworked liver, food intolerances (especially to dairy), hormonal imbalance and/or good old stress. So if you’ve already been to a dermatologist and not gotten results, maybe you would do well for yourself to find a good herbalist, acupuncturist, naturapathic or holistically trained MD that can run some tests and get to the root of your problem and get your system cleared from the inside out. Additionally for dealing with the topical discomforts, there are many natural and gentle and INEXPENSIVE ways to deal with the inflammation, breakouts etc. But you have to look inside the body also.

    Now as far as Nerium is concerned, I was recently invited to sample the product as a way of introduction. I did so because when I asked my friend if the product was “clean” she emphatically assured me that it was, bringing up that it was plant based. Full disclosure, I’m a herbalogy student in my second year and have a decent grasp of how plants can be of benefit and how plants can do harm, (well actually the user or dispenser of the plant can ). I trusted that my friend who has been steeped in the world of retail natural health would know the difference, that was lazy of me, I admit it. I used the product for about 5 days together (day and night creams) I didn’t really see any earth shattering results. What I did notice is that since there was still enough night cream to continue for several more days, that I woke in the morning of the 7th day with a huge blotch of irritation on my right cheek and several small measles looking dots on other areas of my face including directly under my left eye. I was nursing a cold at the time so I thought maybe it was from that. However that night when I began to put on the last of the night cream I noticed my skin was feeling more sensitive to it and rather uncomfortable. I sat down at the computer and started immediately web searching past all the Nerium marketing sites to some find some good scientific info on the plant Nerium oleander and found reputable site after site that tells the tale of topic irritation from the plant. I will note that the poison aspect of the plant didn’t totally avert me, as such plants as digitalis, are the basis of life saving medicine or death depending on how they are use. I’m glad I found this discussion group as I was considering to become a Brand Partner to augment my massage practice but now I’m passing the “opportunity” and putting my faith and attention on my true herbal studies.
    Thank you for the many interesting posts and views and educational windows.

  28. Tracy R. says:

    Glad I found this site. My son’s partner has become a full-fledged snake oil MLM pain in the rear using Nerium AD as his ticket to a new Lexus next year (that’s what their promising him). I am saddened and embarrassed to see his never ending Facebook posts on the subject. Glad to have an exhaustive counter argument at this site for the day he approaches me. He may not…he may have sensed that I’m kinda proud of my wrinkles. I earned them.

  29. drjohn says:

    Not when you see how weak an antioxidant aloe vera is. BTW you can buy aloe vera for a few dollars a quart at Trader Joe’s.

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