herbs and medications

Interactions between Herbs and Medications

Interactions between Herbs and Medication

– Potential Adverse Effects or Interaction between prescribed drugs and nonprescribed drugs – usually herbal preparations/supplements.

Bach, Flower, Remedy, EssenceMedicinal Plants, Chamomile

Reality of Prescribed or Non-prescribed Medications

Today, many people still look for miracle drugs, though they have never existed. And they all come along with their unique side effects or adverse effects and limitation for certain conditions. Their some commonly known facts are:

  1. Before being marketed, their effects, safety, adverse effects, and precautions in use in the young or the elder, in pregnancy, under breastfeeding, and with poor function in liver or/and kidneys.
  2. Every medication has its own unique benefits for an organ/system but still bears some minor effects to other organs/systems.
  3. Because any medication has its effects on some other parts of the body of much less degree, they may induce so-called adverse side effects.

Reality of Non-conventional Medications

This group of medications usually comprises all forms of natural herbal supplements, which bear their similarity and difference in comparison with the conventional medications as follows:

Similarities are: As those stated above.

Differences are:

  • Their health benefits are largely based on historical anecdotal experiences among various cultures and have little or no real clinical studies.
  • They are little or not clinically studied and then much less regulated.
  • The quality and quantity may be quite different to suit companies’ branding and marketing for commercialism.
  • Oftentimes, they may add marginal ingredients like multiple vitamins, minerals, herbs, etc., and beautify their labels for attraction.


Some Common Examples 

To most people’s mind, all natural herbal preparations are much safer and fewer side effects and less drug interaction. However, this assumption is not true. Here come with some common examples for your rethinking and taking precautions so to maximize enjoying their potential benefits and better safety as follows:

  • Chamomile
    • Use, effect, & benefit: It is known for its sedative effect, prepared in the form of tea, and has been used as an aid for a good sleep or relaxation. 
    • Drug side effect, interaction, & precaution: It may include allergy especially in someone with an allergy to ragweed, manifesting symptoms of abdominal cramps, tongue thickness, tightness in the throat, swelling of the lips, throat, and eyes, itching all over the body, hives, and airway blockage with short of breath. So take precaution at taking the blood thinner for clot prevention like Warfarin or Coumadin.
  • Echinacea
    • Use, effect, & benefit: It is known for its potential effect to boost white blood cells to devour invading particles based on few laboratory testing so it has been promoted to fight infection.
    • Drug side effect, interaction, & precaution: Its notable common side effects are its poor taste and its possible bad effects onto the liver, so avoid its use with the drugs like such as ketoconazole (Nizoral, Extina, Xolegel, Kuric), leflunomide (Arava), methotrxate (Rheumatrex, Trexall), isoniazide (INH, Nydrazid, Laniazid).
  • St. John’s Wort
    • Use, effect, & benefit: It is known as Hypericum perforated, has a calming effect, and has commonly used as a herbal treatment for depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders.
    • Drug side effect, interaction, & precaution: Its most common side efect is sensitivity to sun causing burning skin, especially for the light-skinned persons; it may cause some nerve changes in sunburned area so avoid other drugs with high potential of skin burning like tetracycline/Achromycin, sulfa- containing medications, piroxicam (Feldene); it may cause headache, dizziness, sweating, and agitation when taking serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like fluoxetine (Prozac) and paroxetine (Paxil).
  • Garlic
    • Use, effect, & benefit: It has been used to possibly lower blood pressure and cholesterol though not well-ducumented in clinical setting, also may decrease blood clotting.
    • Drug side effect, interaction, & precaution: Causes bad breath; allergy with skin inflammation; take precaution for its use with blood thinner (anticoagulant) like warfarin (Coumadin).
  • Feverfew
    • Use, effect, & benefit: most commonly used for migraine headache.
    • Drug side effect, interaction, & precaution: may cause allergy, especially in those allergic to chamomile, ragweed, or yarrow; nonsteroidal anti-inlammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil), naproxan (Aleve), Motrin may reduce its effects so leading to so-call post-feverfew syndrome with symptoms like headache, nervousness, insomnia, stiffness, joint pain, tiredness, and nervousness; may impair platelet function so not to use it with anticoagulants like warfarin (Coumadin).
  • Ginkgo Biloba
    • Use, effect, & benefit: known to relax capillaries and thin blood so to improve brain circulation and potentially improve thinking; hence it has been used for age-related dementia, especially in Europe.
    • Drug side effect, interaction, & precaution: may cause some stomach upset and headache; not use with other drugs with blood thinning effect like aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil), naproxan (Aleve) or Motrin, or anti-coagulants like warfarin (Coumadin); avoid its use in the patients with epilepsy taking anti-seizure drugs like phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), and phenobarbital.
  • Ginseng
    • Use, effect, & benefit: known to stimulate adrenal glands so leading to energy boosting and possibly decrease blood sugar.
    • Drug side effect, interaction, & precaution: may cause blood pressure elevation, headache, vomiting, insomnia, and nose bleeding; may induce falsely abnormal blood level of digoxin (Lanoxin) for “weak” heart; may affect menstruation so using it with caution; may have a significant blood thinning effect so no to use it in patients taking aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such
      as ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve) or Motrin, or medications to prevent blood clotting (anticoagulants) such as warfarin (Coumadin); may cause headache, tremor, nervousness, and sleeplessness; do not use it in patients with manic disorders and psychosis.
  •  Ginger
    • Use, effect, & benefit: known to soothe the stomach so to be used for treating nausea and bowel spasm.
    • Drug side effect, interaction, & precaution: may induce blood thinning effect so not to use it in patients taking anticoagulants like warfarin (Coumadin).
  • Saw Palmetto
    • Use, effect, & benefit: thought to decrease the prostate and touted as diuretic and urinary antiseptic so to be used for treating prostate enlargment and preventing urinary tract infection, though, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is insufficient scientific evidence to support the use of saw palmetto for treatment of enlarged prostate or any other conditions
    • Drug side effect, interaction, & precaution: may cause stomach upset; may reduce sex drive or performance due to possible decrease in testosterone; hence it is reasonable to avoid its use with other hormonal use like estrogen.


Hands, Shaking Hands, Handshake

The above list is just a small part of herbal uses. Nevertheless, herbal therapies is unquestionably popular. Doctors frequently confront many of the unknown from their patients who take herbs. In reality, your doctors can not firmly decide if these herbs are helpful or harmful for you, or whether they are interacting with your current medications. There are no data.

So use it with causion as recommended from the companies and as described above.

Remember: Quality healthy lifestyle without overindulgence and obsession is still the core foundation of all medical care and the long-term best medicine.

More on the related subjects? Go to 18 Herbal Supplements with Risky Drug Interactions and Interaction Search: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.


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One Reply to “Interactions between Herbs and Medications”

Kerrie Claire

December 10, 2017 at 4:22 am

Thank you for sharing this important information. Many believe that since herbs are natural, they are safe…and do not do research on side effects. I will share this post with my network. All the Best!


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