Today’s emphasis is on getting healthy and staying that way for as long as possible. The plan of action to reach that goal is a combination of eating right, exercise and taking necessary drugs and herbal supplements. A noble goal, but one that could be deadly if the wrong drugs and herbs are taken together. Certain drugs and herbs don’t mix, and often we forget to tell our doctor about the herbal supplements we take. Here is a short list of some of the more popular herbs and their drug interactions.
Ginseng is taken for it’s purported ability to increase energy, reduce fatigue and relieve stress. Ginseng will also reduce the effect of anticoagulant drugs (blood thinners like Coumadin). Diabetics who are taking insulin to keep blood sugar stable may need to reduce the amount of insulin taken if it’s mixed with ginseng.
The popular herb that is taken to improve mental function, protect against Alzheimer’s and boost circulation should not be mixed with drugs that thin blood, including aspirin.
Ginkgo is a natural blood thinner, and when mixed with prescribed or over-the-counter blood thinner it could result in internal bleeding. Ginkgo should not be taken several weeks prior to having surgery.
This herb that has a candy named after it is used to soothe indigestion and treat a variety of stomach and respiratory problems. However, if licorice is used in large amounts or over a long period of time, it can cause the body to retain sodium, lose potassium and counteract the effect of prescribed blood pressure medication. Licorice can also negatively impact the effect of corticosteroids like prednisone. Women who are pregnant, nursing, taking oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy should not take licorice because the herb will compound the side effects. Anyone being treated for heart disease, high blood pressure, glaucoma, diabetes, liver or kidney disease should avoid the use of licorice also.
St. John’s Wort
An herbal supplement most often used to alleviate symptoms of mild depression. This herb interacts with many drugs and should be taken without consulting your doctor.
This herb is used to treat insomnia and ease nervous tension, but it should not be mixed with any drugs that cause drowsiness or alcohol because it will increase their sedative effect. Kava is another herb that carries the same uses and warnings.
The seed extract from milk thistle is used to treat liver problems like hepatitis and cirrhosis, it is also used to detox the liver. It will also lessen the effectiveness of oral birth control pills.
Goldenseal is used externally to treat sores and inflammation and it is taken internally to treat sore throats and ease digestive disorders. It can also cause uterine contracts and should not be used, either externally or internally, by a pregnant woman. Goldenseal can also hinder the with blood thinning drugs.