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Herbal Remedies May Be Harmful to Health

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Washington, DCA recent study suggests that some widely-used herbal supplements may be harmful to patients who take heart disease medication. Although not a lot is known about the risk of drug interactions between herbal remedies and prescription medications, the study indicates that further testing should be done to ensure that mixing supplements and medications is not harmful to patients.

Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology on 2/09/10, the study found that common herbal remedies, including ginko biloba and St. John's wort, may increase or decrease the strength of prescription heart disease medication. According to the study, combining the herbal supplements and the prescription medications could also result in heart rhythm problems, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and bleeding.

Other herbal remedies mentioned in the report include ginseng, garlic, black cohosh and echinacea.

The report noted that the elderly are more likely to be affected by such problems because they are often already taking multiple prescription medications and are at higher risk of bleeding.

According to the study, St. John's wort—frequently used to treat depression and anxiety—actually affects the body's ability to absorb prescription medications. Combining it with heart medications could increase the risk of arrhythmias and high blood pressure. Meanwhile, combining aspirin or Warfarin (coumadin) with ginkgo biloba could increase the risk of bleeding.

Compounding the issue is the fact that many patients do not consider herbal supplements to be unsafe, even though they are not regulated as closely as prescription medications. Patients often neglect to tell their doctors when they take herbal supplements, so the doctors are unaware that the patients could be exposed to any increased risks.

According to Reuters on 2/01/10, the Council for Responsible Nutrition, an industry trade association, called the article biased and poorly written, noting that many supplements offer healthful benefits.

However, noted on 2/01/10 that because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve supplements before they go on the market, the products may contain inconsistent amounts of the active ingredients.

Patients concerned about the risk of combining herbal supplements with heart medications should speak with their doctor. When discussing medications, it is important to let your doctor know which herbal remedies you are taking so he or she can examine any potential interactions.



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