Let me share a story about herbal drug interactions. I was diagnosed with a health condition a few years ago and was put on medication. I started to research natural ways to treat my condition and came across herbal supplements. I read that these herbal supplements could help me feel better and improve my condition. I decided to try them, but I did not tell my doctor at first.
I started taking the supplements and I noticed that my condition improved, but I also started to experience side effects. I realized that the herbal supplements were causing interactions with my medications. I stopped taking the supplements and my side effects went away.
The story above is true, and what happened is not just possible, it’s real. I wanted to share it so you would be aware of the potential for herbal drug interactions. If you are considering taking supplements, please speak with your doctor first. Herbal drug interactions are a real concern and can cause serious side effects.
I learned the importance of knowing herbal drug interactions, the hard way
I cannot stress how extremely important it is to research potential interactions between supplements, including herbs and natural remedies, and prescription medications, first because the impact of these interactions on the body can be significant.
Prescription drugs for many ailments and conditions, for example, heart and circulation issues, excessive blood pressure and heart failure, can have negative, and even harmful, interactions with herbal supplements. This is why it’s essential to know what you’re taking, and to be aware of the potential risks involved.
The best action step is to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. At the very least, due diligence in researching the possibility of herbal drug interactions should be regarded as an urgent first step.
Avoidance of Interaction is Key
The best way to avoid the problem in the first place is to tell your health care provider about all the herbal remedies you’re taking.
If you’re not sure whether a herbal remedy is safe to take with your other medications (or even if you only think you are), ask your health care provider or a qualified herbalist. You can also check the literature that comes with the herbal remedy or look it up in a reliable reference book.
Our recommendation is to use MedlinePlus or Medscape. They are simple, convenient and user-friendly online tools at your disposal.
The material provided by both on the interactions between prescription medications and dietary supplements is extensive. This includes information on specific herbs, as well as general tips on avoiding potential interactions. In addition, MedlinePlus also provides a list of other supplements and products that have been reported to interact with prescription medications.
Herbal drug interactions can cause a wide range of side effects
These can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Upset stomach
Some of these side effects are mild, but others can be more severe. In some cases, herbal drug interactions can even be life-threatening. If you experience any of these side effects after taking, stop and talk with your doctor.
While concerns about herb-drug interactions are not always backed by solid study or research, it is still an important step to know about the potential for them. The majority of reported herb-drug interactions in current publications are mostly speculative, and based on indirect approaches; however, interactions can and do happen and should be taken seriously.
Herbs are natural, how can they cause serious problems?
Some poisons are natural, too! You know that.
The active elements in herbal supplements may come from plants or herbs, but they may also be strong chemicals. And, herbal supplements aren’t always tested for safety or purity. That means it’s possible to have a severe reaction from taking them.
The fact remains, herbal supplements can interact with other medications you’re taking. They can even have dangerous interactions with other herbal supplements.
Before you take any herbal supplement, talk to your health care provider. Tell them about all the medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements you’re taking.
It is usual practice to take herbal remedies along with prescription drugs, particularly in individuals with hypertension, diabetes, cancer, seizures, and depression. This is troublesome, especially for medications with high enough doses to be effective without adverse events. (Already pushing the limit!)
Some herbal medications have been associated with life-threatening toxicity when taken in large dosages or with other herbal medications.
Examples of herbal drug interactions
The herbal stimulant ma huang (Ephedra sinica) can cause high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, stroke, and seizure when taken in large dosages or with other stimulants such as caffeine.
Kava (Piper methysticum), a herbal remedy used to treat anxiety, can cause liver damage when taken with other medications that can damage the liver.
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), a herbal remedy used to treat depression, can interact with many drugs, including antidepressants, birth control pills, cyclosporine (used to prevent organ rejection), digoxin (used to treat heart failure), and HIV protease inhibitors (used to treat AIDS).
Even some foods can have drug interactions! For example:
- Grapefruit juice can interact with some medications. Cranberry can interact with warfarin (a blood thinner).
- Tyramine-rich foods (aged cheeses, smoked fish, certain meats) can interact with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), a type of antidepressant.
- Dairy can interact with tetracyclines (an antibiotic).
- Forgive me here, but even chocolate can interact with certain medications!
The point is, herbal drug interactions are possible, so it’s important to be aware of them.
Talk to your doctor.
Herbal drug interactions can be dangerous and are often underestimated. Be sure to talk to your health care provider about all the medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements you’re taking before starting any new herbal remedy.
Also consider, I am not a qualified medical professional. Just a lover of nature and life-long learner. (If I could figure out how to be paid for learning, I’d have it made. Oh wait! I’m kind of doing that here… Thank you for your support!
Much love and God Bless!