A good number of people (particularly seniors) take multiple medications that have the potential to negatively interact. When you add herbs to the mix, the chances of some type of interaction may increase significantly.
And today, herbal remedies are not just for health food stores anymore. Herbals have gone main stream, and as sales continue to rise, so do concerns about their interactions with prescription and more traditional over-the-counter drugs.
Does that mean you should stop taking medication, supplements or forget about herbs?
No, absolutely not! But you do want to be aware of possible interactions and exercise caution.
Just a few years ago, most Americans would not have known St. Johns wort, ginkgo biloba, black cohosh, ginseng or dong quai. But today, these and other herbals are not only familiar, but the products are staples on drugstore shelves.
Overall, herbs are safe to consume and can provide significant benefits without the potential side effects of many medications.
Medications and herbs can be taken concurrently. But again, you need to be aware of the potential for possible drug-herb interactions.
- For starters, always treat herbs with the same respect you treat prescription medications. Remember, herbs are drugs too.
- Always notify your health care provider and pharmacists of the over-the-counter medications, herbs or supplements you are taking.
- If you take herbs, know what they will do and how they should effect you.
- Be mindful of taking medications and herbs that essentially do the same thing (you probably don’t want to do this).
- If you are taking a medication such as Coumadin (warfarin), make sure you research the herb or supplement before you start taking it. It does not take much for the INR levels to get “out of wack” (If you take this…you’ll know what this means).
- Write out a list of everything you take (including the dosages and how many times per day), and keep it with you. You never know when you will need it.
There are a number of different herbal traditions, amongst them western herbs and Chinese herbs. One of the main differences between them is how herbs are used and consumed.
In the western herbal tradition, herbs are most often used by themselves. Compared to the Chinese herbal tradition, where herbs are typically used and consumed within a group of herbs, called “formula”.
Both of these traditions are widely utilized today. However, if you take a Chinese herbal formula you want to know what the ingredients in the formula are.
Chances are you’re working with an Asian Medicine practitioner who suggested that you take the formula to begin with and the practitioner will take all of the above into consideration. Consuming herbs on the recommendation of a practitioner is really the best practice.
However, if you’re taking some Chinese herbal on your own, over the counter, make sure you know what all is in the formula, particularly if you take a medication such as Coumadin.