Herbal Supplement, Food and Drug Interactions

By: kristines


The advent of the new millennium has brought significant advancements in the field of medicine where treatment has become more sophisticated. Recently, however, there seems to be a steady rise in the popularity of herbal products and dietary supplements among health-conscious individuals in today's modern world. Although the use of herbs has been a traditional practice since ancient times, the efficacy of certain plants and its extracts in curing various ailment such as stomach pain, headache, skin infections, as well as the treatments of wounds have remained popular to those who cannot afford the high cost of modern medicine. Others simply advocate the “go natural” idea as a healthier option for preventive and therapeutic purposes. Besides, even herbal medicines are no longer limited to the traditional fresh or dried plants but now come in the form of tablets, capsules, powders, or as teas.

Drugs and Herbal Medicines

Prescription and non-prescription drugs are chemical substances that can cure and reduce the symptoms of an illness and have powerful ingredients interacting with the human body in different ways. Different lifestyles have a way of influencing the efficacy and ability of certain drugs to work in the body. Foods, beverages, alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, and herbal supplements may cause drug interaction by reducing the efficacy of the medicine or it may lead to serious side effects.

Herbal medicines may be effective in treating and curing many health problems. However, they must be taken properly and with caution to ensure safety and avoid possible drug interactions. Herbal products are not regulated for purity and potency and are not tested with the scientific rigor required of conventional drugs. Its manufacturers are not required to submit proof of safety and efficacy to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in order to market their products. Thus, the adverse effects and drug interactions which may be associated with herbal medicines caused by impurities such as allergens and pollen are largely unknown. Moreover, some herbal products have high potency which may increase the possibility of its ill effects. Therefore, herbal products are not supposed to be marketed for the diagnosis, treatment, cure and/or prevention of disease. In fact, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 enables these products to include in the labels statements about their alleged effects on the human body such as alleviation of fatigue or how they can help in promoting the general well-being of a person such as mood enhancement. These declared effects of herbal products have been analyzed and are proven to resemble claims of clinical efficacy for various diseases and conditions.

Side Effects of Herbal Remedies

Herbal products are widely available without a need for any prescription. And there are people who fail to inform their doctors about the supplements they are taking. Medical guidance is necessary to avoid potential drug interactions such as the following:

Gingko Biloba Extract is widely known to be a brain booster which aids a lot of students and professionals in enhancing memory functions. However, it has been reported to be causing spontaneous bleeding, and interacts with anti-coagulants and anti-platelet agents. St. John's Wort, advertised as a treatment for depression, has been implicated to be cause an increase in the level of serotonin, dopamine and neropinephrine. Though it does not interact with foods that contain tyramine, it should not be used with prescription antidepressants. Herbal products containing ephedrine have been linked to adverse cardiovascular attacks, seizures, and deaths. Ginseng, popularly known for its physical and psychological effects, is generally well-accepted and tolerated but is reported to cause decreased response to warfarin.
This is the reason why physicians should be aware of their patient's dietary supplement use. Herbal supplements have become so popular that physicians need to ask questions about its use by their patients as part of the medical history.

Safety Precautions

In taking your medicines, always follow the instructions of your doctor carefully in order to obtain the maximum benefit with minimal risk. Changes in the efficacy of medicines due to drug interaction with food, alcohol, caffeine, or herbal supplements are very important. However, there can also be other factors which may affect such variations like dosage, age, weight, sex, and the general health condition of the patient.

When you take medicine, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions carefully to obtain the maximum benefit with the least risk. Changes in a medicine's effect due to an interaction with food, alcohol or caffeine can be significant; however, there are many individual factors that influence the potential for such variations, like dose, age, weight, sex, and overall health.

This information about possible drug interactions should not replace the advice of your physician or health care professionals. Any problems or questions concerning possible drug interactions should be consulted with them. Remember, drug interactions may cause serious medical conditions.

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