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Herbal supplements

Created date

April 26th, 2010

Herbal supplements are more popular than ever. Some people use them as alternatives to conventional prescription medicines. Common herbal supplements and their uses are St. John s wort for depression; kava for anxiety; ginkgo biloba for memory enhancement; glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis pain; ginger, chamomile, and cinnamon for digestive problems; and saw palmetto for enlarged prostate urinary symptoms. [caption id="attachment_11478" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Taking herbal supplements with prescription medicines can lead to unpleasant side effects. (File photo)"]Linden Ponds. For instance, some recent studies have shown that cinnamon can lower blood sugar. It s important for a physician who is treating someone with diabetes to know if that patient is also taking cinnamon. Older adults have more health conditions, which can make them especially vulnerable to the effects of herbal supplements, he adds. We can only monitor for toxicity and interactions with other medicines if we know what our patients are taking.

More research needed

Research about herbal supplements is ongoing. A recent study of people 85 and older with no existing memory problems showed that taking ginkgo biloba had no clear-cut benefit on the risk of developing memory problems in the future. Further research needs to be done to determine benefits and risks of herbal supplements for particular health conditions, Samuelson says. In the meantime, before you start any new supplements, talk to your doctor about possible interactions or side effects.

Prescription drugs plus herbal supplements

Combining the two can cause unwanted side effects
Prescription drug Herbal preparation Possible interactions
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blood thinners aspirin, Coumadin (warfarin sodium), Plavix (clopidogrel)
  • chamomile, dong quai, feverfew, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, green tea
  • ginseng
  • increases chance of ' bleeding, difficulty clotting
  • increases chance of ' developing blood clot
--------------------------------------------- --------------------------------------------- -----------------------------------------
diabetes medications for lowering blood sugar insulin, Diabinese (chlorpropamide)
  • chromium, cinnamon, garlic, ginseng
  • increases chance of blood sugar going too low
--------------------------------------------- --------------------------------------------- -----------------------------------------
diuretics (water pills) Lasix (furosemide), HCTZ (hydrochlorothiazide)
  • dandelion, goldenseal, juniper, yarrow
  • increases urination and the risk of dehydration
--------------------------------------------- --------------------------------------------- -----------------------------------------
Treatment for heart failure and rhythm disturbances Lanoxin (digoxin)
  • milkweed, motherwort, foxglove, wild ipecac
  • ginseng
  • St. John s wort
  • increases digoxin s activity on the heart
  • causes inaccurate readings of digoxin levels
  • decreases digoxin s ' effectiveness