Back in June I shared a guest post by my friends at the Kelley-Ross Pharmacy Group, and it definitely struck a cord with you guys. Being an advocate for your own health, creating a conversation around sensitive topics and understanding the value in personalized pharmaceutical care is both relevant and necessary. Today’s post involves the ins and outs of mixing herbal supplements and prescription drugs…something that is often used way too casually and in a potentially dangerous manner. I urge you take a few moments, read through and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
HERBAL SUPPLEMENTS AND PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
By: Katie Mahan, Community Practice Resident for Kelley-Ross Pharmacy Group
From your Facebook feed to Gwyneth’s Goop to the grocery aisle, it seems herbal supplements are being recommended everywhere. But before you reach for a “natural” cure for what ails you, it’s important to consider the safety risks.
Many seemingly safe vitamins, minerals and supplements sold over the counter can interact with prescription medications in potentially dangerous ways. And with more than half of all American adults taking dietary supplements to improve or maintain their overall health, and upwards of 60 percent taking prescription drugs, it’s good to know what might cause you or a loved one trouble.
Here’s what your doctors, pharmacists, and medical providers want you to know about herbal-prescription drug interactions.
There’s no such thing as TMI…
When it comes to your wellbeing, one thing all health care providers agree on is there’s no such thing as too much information. One of the easiest and most effective ways you can avoid harmful herbal-prescription drug interactions is to let your doctors and pharmacists know everything you are taking to improve your overall health. It may seem obvious, but studies estimate only 23 percent of all supplement products were used at the recommendation of a health care provider.
Talk to your doctors—including all specialists, naturopaths and primary care providers—and your pharmacists about everything you take. This includes all over the counter and prescription drugs, dietary supplements, vitamins, botanicals, minerals and herbals, as well as the foods you eat. Keeping a list in your purse, wallet or smartphone can make it easy to update and share this information. In addition to drug and supplement names, it’s recommended you include the strength, frequency, and route of administration.
These days, there are herbal options promising everything from lower blood pressure to weight loss to less joint pain. But just because these “natural” cures may work, it doesn’t mean they are always a good idea for chronic conditions.
Sometimes, taking a prescription drug and a herbal supplement together may increase the effects of your medication, making the dosage too strong and heightening the risk of side effects. Alternately, other combinations may decrease a drug’s effects, meaning a patient isn’t getting the full benefit their doctor intended.
Patients taking prescription medications for cardiovascular diseases and heart conditions should exercise particular caution when it comes to herbal remedies. Commonly prescribed blood thinners, statins and blood pressure medications are known to interact with many popular herbal supplements, including St. John’s Wort, CoQ10, ginkgo, red yeast rice and more.
Alternative remedies for diabetes are also prevalent, but individuals with diabetes need to be careful too. Though ginseng, turmeric, milk thistle, and even cinnamon may show promise as helpful for type 2 diabetes, these herbs may increase the effects of diabetes drugs by increasing the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
Not everything is what it seems…
What’s on a vitamin or supplement label might not accurately reflect what is in the bottle. Dietary supplements are classified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) differently than drugs, and they are subject to far less regulation and testing than over-the-counter and prescription medication. In addition to interacting with prescription medication, they can be ineffective, contaminated, mislabeled or include unwanted fillers. What’s more, there might not be information about potentially harmful interactions simply because studies have yet to be conducted.
If you want to take herbal supplements, it’s recommended you look for seals of approval, certification or verification from well-known and highly respected organizations, such as United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or NSF International (NSF). While they can’t assure you total safety, the seals confirm that the product was properly manufactured, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and doesn’t have harmful levels of contaminants.
The bottom line is this: talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking herbal medications. They can provide you the best advice on potential benefits, harmful interactions, and suspicious claims—saving you money, time, and maybe even your life.
If you’d like to learn more or schedule an appointment with the Kelley-Ross Pharmacy in Seattle go HERE!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. The opinions expressed here represent my own, which I take great pride in providing pure honesty…because I’m OBSESSED with sharing the Good!