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Herbal Remedies - Caution With Herbs

Updated on March 1, 2010

Long ago most people turned to herbs to cure their aches and pains. Doctor visits were few and far between. Then came the twentieth century and an explosion in medical technology, and suddenly everyone realized that medical treatment was more effective than the herbs they grew in their backyards. Nowadays, even though people continue to seek medical advice, many folks are turning to herbal medicine or what some may call naturopathic medicine.

The result is that St. John’s Wort, garlic and other herbs have now become household words for curing illnesses. While these products may be effective in bringing relief for some ailments, caution must be exercised when taking these products, especially if you are already taking other medications. The reason is that many of these natural supplements can cause dangerous drug interactions when taken with some prescription or over the counter drugs. Just because it is called natural, doesn’t mean it’s completely safe. Doctors are very careful when prescribing meds so that they don’t interact with each other; the same goes for herbs.

St. John’s Wort has become very popular as a treatment for mild depression. However, if you are already taking medications for this condition, you can experience a serious drug interaction. The active ingredient in St. John’s Wort is hypericin. This produces a reaction similar to monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors. MAOs are antidepressants used to treat depression. Anyone who has ever been on these drugs knows that strict compliance with diet is essential. Eating foods which are contraindicated, such as aged cheese, bologna, processed meats, yeast etc. can cause a dramatic increase in blood pressure, dizziness, confusion and even death. The same thing can happen if you take St. John’s Wort with depression medications.

St. John’s Wort is just one herb that can cause problems when taken with prescription or over the counter drugs. Some persons who find relief with these herbs tend to go overboard and use them for other conditions for which they are not recommended. For example, they may have found relief for depression so they use it for anxiety as well. There is no medical supervision, and so the person is on his own and is likely to make the wrong decision. 

Elderly patients and those suffering from chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and high cholesterol should be careful when using herbal remedies with prescription medications.


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    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 7 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for stopping by, Habee

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Angela, this is great info - important to know! Thanks!