Herbs and some meds don’t mix
Herbal remedies may be used to treat symptoms of many conditions and can often be a viable tool in an overall health plan. But there is a dearth of research evaluating the use of herbal medicines, particularly in clinical trial.
However, The Mayo Clinic says about one-half of adults in the United States reports having used at least one dietary supplement in the previous month, though research indicates that only about 34 percent of people who take herbal supplements tell their doctors about it, even those who are taking a prescription medication.
Just because a substance is naturally derived does not make it entirely safe to use in all instances. In fact, many herbs can interact poorly with other drugs.
According to the article “Use of Herbal Medicines and Implications for Conventional Drug Therapy Medical Sciences,” published in 2013 by researchers at the University of Texas and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, although many benefits can be derived from the use of herbs, potential areas of concern include possible product contamination and/or adulterations, potential toxicity and high potential of known and unknown drug/herb interactions.
Herbal medicines are not standardized and monitored like prescription and over-the-counter medication, so safe use cannot be guaranteed.
The information provided here should not replace the advice of a qualified physician. However, these are some known medication-herbal interactions that can occur.
Several popular supplements, including Coenzyme Q-10, St. John’s Wort and Danshen, can interact with common heart medications. It is important to read how these herbs can interact with Warfarin, calcium channel blockers, anticoagulants, and digoxin, among others. Interactions can include everything from reductions in drug efficacy to increased risk of bleeding to irregular heartbeat, states the Mayo Clinic.
Women who are going through menopause and have experienced hot flashes, painful menstruation and other vaginal conditions may take black cohosh. But there is concern that black cohosh may enhance liver toxicity when taken with certain medications, such as astorvastatin, acetaminophen and alcohol, according to Drugs.com.
Colds and respiratory health
Historically, goldenseal has been used for various health conditions of the skin, ulcers and respiratory infections. Goldenseal is a potent inhibitor of liver enzymes. A 2012 review from the National Institutes of Health found that goldenseal has a high herb-drug interaction risk.
Herbal remedies may help people treat anxiety, insomnia and depression. Kava and St. John’s Wort are two herbs used for these conditions. There is some evidence that use of kava while taking CNS depressants, such as benzodiazepines and sedation drugs, can increase risk of drowsiness and motor reflex depression, says NIH. St. John’s Wort has many documented significant interactions with oral contraceptives, coumadin, immunosuppressant drugs, and benzodiazepines, among others. Taking St. John’s Wort in conjunction with other antidepressants can lead to serotonin-related side effects.
Although herbs can be used successfully, caution is needed when combining them with other medications. They should be treated just as any drug and discussed with a medical professional or pharmacist prior to use.