Even if you’re healthy now and take no medications, or only take natural supplements, chances are, at some point, you’ll be offered a prescription medication by a doctor. And when that happens, it’s important to be aware of the potentially harmful ways that medication can interact with supplements.
Here is a list of popular herbal supplements, along with possible drug interactions. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list! If you take a supplement, be sure to tell your doctor the next time you get a prescription. You may not have to give up your supplement, but it’s better to be safe!
St. John’s Wort and Antidepressants
St. John’s Wort is a popular natural treatment for depression. In fact, many people can attest to its success. Unlike antidepressants, St. John’s Wort can be bought without a prescription, and it may be much more affordable for some people.
However, if you take prescription antidepressants already, you may want to avoid St. John’s Wort. Antidepressants interact with a brain chemical called serotonin, and St. John’s Wort may cause dangerous side effects related to serotonin.
Ginkgo and Blood Thinners
You may want to double-check with a health-care professional if you’re on blood thinner medications, as ginkgo may interact with these. Blood thinner medication is typically given to patients with certain heart conditions, such as atrial fibrillation or congenital heart defects.
While ginkgo is generally safe, raw or roasted ginkgo seeds can be poisonous, so avoid these.
Aloe Vera and Glucose-lowering Medication
Aloe vera is a popular ingredient found in many topicals used to treat skin conditions. Indeed, there is scientific evidence to suggest it may be useful in treating psoriasis and some rashes.
Less is known about aloe vera took orally. If you have diabetes and use a glucose-lowering medication, be cautious around oral aloe vera, because this herb can also lower your glucose levels. As much as you’d like to lower glucose, being excessive is not good either!
Asian Ginseng and Blood Thinners
Using ginseng short-term is safe for most people, and drug-ginseng interactions are considered low. However, if you take an anticoagulant or blood thinner like warfarin, talk to your doctor. Ginseng may have an effect on blood sugar and blood pressure. If you are a diabetic or person with high blood pressure, also check in with your physician first before consuming ginseng.
Chamomile, Cyclosporine, and Blood Thinners
If you’re a tea drinker, you’re probably familiar with this soothing, tasty herb. While chamomile consumption is generally safe unless you’re allergic, if you take cyclosporine and blood thinners, you may want to use caution. Cyclosporine is a drug used to prevent the body from rejecting an organ transplant. Scientists speculate there may be other drug interactions as well.
When it comes to drug-food interactions, grapefruit may be the biggest culprit. The humble citrus fruit has been found to interact with a wide variety of pharmaceuticals, including corticosteroids, antihistamines, and drugs that treat blood pressure or cholesterol problems. Harmful interactions aren’t limited to prescription medicine either.
Always examine the information label carefully when buying an over-the-counter drug, herb, supplement, or vitamin. If you have a question, ask a pharmacist.
The Bottom Line
All these interactions may seem scary, but does that mean you have to give up your favorite supplements forever? Nope! For some people, natural supplements are not only helpful but preferred. If you take a natural supplement, just be sure to let your doctor know what it is, the dosage, and how frequently you take it. Your doctor can help you weigh the risks and benefits of continuing the supplement or recommend an alternative prescription drug that is safer.