Dr. Seeds’ Chill Pills: Misleading Marketing Based on Rodent Studies

Dr. Seeds’ Chill Pills are said to be “meditation in a bottle.” They allegedly relieve stress and anxiety. Is meditation a cure for anxiety? If so, it requires a lot of time and effort. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get all the benefits of meditation by simply swallowing a pill? What does the scientific evidence say?

Scientific studies lacking

The active ingredient in Chill Pills is dihydrohonokiol-B (DHH-B), a derivative of magnolia bark. Magnolia bark has been long used in traditional medicine for a large variety of conditions, from asthma to anxiety. There have been a few human clinical studies of various magnolia formulations, but they were only small pilot studies.  A search of PubMed for dihydrohonokiol-B yielded only 3 in vitro studies in cultured mouse hippocampal cells. There is also a study of a related compound, honokiol, measuring its behavioral effects on rats in an elevated plus-maze test. Prolonged time spent in the open arms of the maze “suggested” an anxiolytic effect. (But rats can’t tell us if they feel anxious; there might have been another explanation for their behavior.) There are no clinical studies of DHH-B in humans.

What is it supposed to do?

Amazon sells it for what amounts to $2.50 per pill. They say,

  • LIVE WITH A CALM SENSE OF SELF – Let go of feelings of stress and anxiety and float into a new calm sense of self. With Dr. Seeds Chill Pill envelope your body in the positive mood you deserve to be in.
  • BACKED BY SCIENCE – The team at Dr.Seeds established the Chill Pill as the go to mood support to boost feelings of calm support and let go of stress and anxiety
  • SAFE & EFFECTIVE SUPPLEMENTATION – Dr Seed’s Chill Pill is made right here in the USA, within a GMP-certified facility. High absorption and potency makes this formula an essential in letting go of stress and anxiety
  • STRESS RELIEF SUPPORT PILLS – With our 30 day supply of stress relief capsules. Dr. Seeds Chill Pill will alleviate anxiety, boost positive mood, and enable you to chill.
  • DR. SEEDS SATISFACTION GAURANTEE – Experience a calm, happy boost with our mood support supplement. We are so confident in our product and research that if you don’t like it simply reach out and we will provide you with our 100% money back guarantee.

From the customer reviews, it is apparent that people are using it for anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. Some customers claim it is effective; others say it didn’t work. That’s just what we would expect from an ineffective product that elicits only subjective placebo responses.

On Dr. Seeds’ website, there is a link to “read more about dhh-b’s study.” The link is to this 20-year-old studythat compared the “anxiolytic-like” activities of honokiol, diazepam, and various honokiol derivatives in mice. Both diazepam and DHH-B were more effective than the other derivatives in prolonging time in the open arms of the maze. That’s good to know if your intent is to improve maze performance in mice, but it says nothing about the efficacy of DHH-B in humans.

That study did have some interesting information about the pharmacokinetics. “Following administration of 1 mg/kg of DHH-B, anxiolytic-like activity was observed at 1 h after administration and persisted for up to 4 h, peaking at 3 h.”  The label for Dr. Seeds’ product says it contains 7.5 mg per serving, and the various ads claim it provides relief in less than 20 minutes or provides “instant relief.” It does not say how long the effect lasts or how soon the dose can be repeated. The advertising for Chill Pills is inconsistent with the pharmacokinetics demonstrated in the mouse study.

Is this product safe?

There is no information about DHH-B, but magnolia bark has been reported to cause side effects. It may cause bleeding and should not be used prior to surgery or when taking anticoagulants. Due to lack of information, it should be avoided during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

Who is Dr. Seeds?

He is an MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine and total joint treatments. He claims to be the world’s leading authority on peptide therapies. On his “about” page he claims to have “consulted, trained, or operated on” athletes from the NFL, NBA, Dancing with the Stars, and other groups. Under “board certifications,” the items he lists are not board certifications at all. He says supplements are essential, and he sells a variety of his own supplement formulations, for instance “Thyroid Support” for all-day energy and “Body Protective Complex” for recovery from aches and pains. On his blog, he advocates all kinds of questionable treatments, including essential oils, IV vitamin C for Covid-19, inhaled hydrogen, nasal ozone (held in the sinuses, not inhaled), boosting the immune system, “optoceutics,” anti-aging remedies, and more. He believes water fluoridation decreases the IQ of children, and he lists 50 benefits of CBD. He has published no studies on dietary supplements.  In my opinion, he is not a trustworthy source of health information.

Other chill pills

In addition to Dr. Seeds’ Chill Pills, Amazon sells a number of other products they call chill pills. Some of them are essential oils, others are mixtures of vitamins, minerals, and herbs. Elsewhere, magnesium, holy basil, taurine, and L-theanine are promoted for stress and anxiety. And then there’s Happy Saffron Plus. And Ayurveda offers daily oil massages and herbal remedies.

Then there are the real chill pills that have been scientifically tested and proven to work: benzodiazepines and antidepressants. And of course, cognitive behavioral psychotherapy can help.

Conclusion: probably just a placebo

Chill Pills are not supported by scientific evidence. If you are suffering from stress and anxiety, they might produce placebo effects, but you would probably be better off consulting a science-based health care professional. 

This article was originally published in the Science-Based Medicine Blog.

Dr. Hall is a contributing editor to both Skeptic magazine and the Skeptical Inquirer. She is a weekly contributor to the Science-Based Medicine Blog and is one of its editors. She has also contributed to Quackwatch and to a number of other respected journals and publications. She is the author of Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon and co-author of the textbook, Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.

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