Many people utilize herbal supplement in hopes of improving their health, even without the Food and Drug Administration’s stamp of approval. I have been using herbal supplements to aid my own health for years. There are herbal supplements available to help treat countless ailments and improve an individual’s overall well-being. Herbal supplements are inexpensive and many people, like me, prefer to try a more natural approach to addressing their health concerns before resorting to medications. Herbal supplements, although natural, can have interactions with other medications.
Herbal supplements are not regulated the way medications are
If you are going to use herbal supplements, it is important to understand how herbal supplements are regulated. Herbal supplements are not subject to the same standards of regulation as prescription medications and over-the-counter medications are. Herbal supplements, unlike medications, are considered to be a food product and not a drug product and are therefore not subject to the extensive testing, manufacturing, labeling regulations and mandatory clinical trials that medications are.
The labeling of herbal supplements
Herbal supplement manufacturers are not permitted to claim that a supplement can treat, cure, prevent or diagnose any condition. Herbal supplements cannot advertise that a supplement can “cure cancer,” “prevent headaches,” or “treat a cold,” however, they are permitted to advertise the effects that the supplement may have, such as “improve energy,” or “boost mood.” The labels of herbal supplements are very vague and should not be relief on when making health decisions. While a bottle of aspirin will likely have a list of warnings and possible interactions listed on the label, an herbal supplement will not and therefore, you should never rely on the product label to guide your decisions.
Always tell your physician what supplements you are taking
Although herbal supplements are a more natural approach to improving health, it is vitally important that you report all supplements you are taking to your physician. Herbal supplements may seem harmless and safe, but certain supplements can have serious interactions with not only prescription medications, but with over-the-counter medications as well. If you are prescribed a medication to treat something, always ask your physician if the supplements you are currently taking will interact with the medication.
Interactions between medications and supplements
Medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, can cause a adverse interaction when combined with certain herbal supplements. In some cases, these interactions may not be serious, such as the negating effect of taking immune-boosting zinc or echinacea with immune-suppressing medications such as corticosteroids. In other cases, such as taking high amounts of vitamin E, fish oil, garlic or ginkgo biloba with the anticoagulant medication warfarin, can lead to an increased risk of abnormal bleeding; a condition that could potentially be life-threatening.
Research any possible interactions
Many physicians, despite their best efforts, are not always well-educated when it comes to the use of herbal supplements. Unless you are visiting a naturopath, your physician may not be aware of any potential interactions and therefore, it is vitally important that you do your own research. Before taking a medication while you are using herbal supplements, try to find out if there are any possible interactions between the supplements you are taking and the medication you are considering taking. There are countless websites available that offer information about medications and herbal supplements.
An excellent and thorough resource to check for interactions between herbal supplements and medications is Dr. Oz’s Herb and Supplement Interaction Checker. Dr. Oz’s Herb and Supplement Interaction Checker has hundreds of popular herbal supplements listed and provides information on possible interactions with medications, other herbs and laboratory testing.