Mixing Standard Medication and Herbal Remedies
As much as holistic believers and others would like to think that herbal remedies are harmless they are not. They are drugs. Just as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) have serious side effects so does ginkgo biloba or garlic.
Many of todayís medications are chemical duplicates of natural remedies that were used for years. But mixing standard medications and herbal remedies is dangerous. For instance, digitalis, a common heart medication, is actually a chemical duplicate of the substances found in Foxglove, a common garden flower.
Pharmaceutical companies duplicate the substances so they can control the quality and quantity of the chemical delivered in each pill. There has been research that shows that taking the chemicals in their natural form has better results than those that are duplicated in the lab.
The problems that happen when mixing standard medications and herbal remedies are called drug interactions. Drug interactions come in three categories. There are drug/drug interactions, drug/food interactions and drug/condition interactions. Mixing standard medications and herbal remedies would fall under the drug/drug interaction category. However, herbal remedies can also interact with foods or other medical conditions as well.
Herbal remedies do not fall under the regulatory arms of the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). This can be both good and bad. Since they canít regulate the industry the quality of some supplements can be called into question. However, on the flip side, if the health food industry was regulated the range of herbal supplements that really do work would not be available as the pharmaceutical industry has a vested interest in people using their duplicated chemicals and not the natural substances.
According to the May 2005 Annals of Rheumatic Diseases only 25% of people who took supplements understood there was a potential for a drug interaction; and 10% of patients taking NSAIDís increased their risk of bleeding by taking ginkgo biloba, garlic or devilís claw.
In drug/drug interactions the medications interact with each other. These can be prescription, over the counter or herbal. Even vitamins and Tylenol have the potential to interact with medication you are already taking. When two drugs interact the overall effect may be greater than desired, or less. For instance, certain antiacids taken with antibiotics decrease the antibiotics effectiveness by decreasing the absorption into the blood.
Drug/food interactions happen when something you eat or drink interferes with the medication you are taking. For instance certain foods you eat will interfere with blood thinners making them less effective or drinking grapefruit juice may increase the amount of cholesterol lowering drug in your system. Mixing alcohol with drugs is also a dangerous cocktail. The combination can increase your risk of liver damage, stomach bleeding, slow your reaction time even further or may you more tired.
Drug/condition interactions happen when a medicine reacts with a condition. For instance taking decongestants can raise your blood pressure, which can be dangerous in someone who already has high blood pressure.
There are specific things you can do to prevent these types of interactions mixing standard medications and herbal remedies. The first thing you can do is read the labels on both the standard medications and the herbal remedies. Second, tell you doctor and/or pharmacist of ALL the medications you use.
Note: Although your doctor has a broad knowledge of all things medical your pharmacist as an intensive knowledge of all things medicine. The pharmacist should be your first line for questions.
Ask you doctor or pharmacist for advice before adding any medication to your regimen, which includes over the counter medications or herbal remedies.
Before mixing standard medications and herbal remedies always consult your pharmacist and you wonít go wrong!