Interactions Between Herbs and Prescription Medication

October 29, 2012

A recently published study[1] in the International Journal of Clinical Practice identified the following findings when investigating herb and prescription medication:

  • Patients with cardiovascular or central nervous system conditions who are taking medications are especially at risk for potentially dangerous herb and drug interactions
  • The herbs and dietary supplement ingredients that have the greatest potential for causing negative interactions with drugs are calcium, echinacea, flaxseed, ginkgo, iron, magnesium, St. John’s wort, and yohimbe
  • Drugs that had the greatest number of reported interactions with herbs and dietary supplements were aspirin, digoxin, insulin, ticlopidine, and warfarin
  • Types of problems associated with combining herbs or dietary supplements with medications included abdominal pain, chest pain, headache, and mild to severe heart problems
  • Slightly more than 26 percent of the herb and drug interactions were major
  • More than 42 percent of the drug interactions were caused by the herb or dietary supplement changing how a drug was absorbed, metabolized, and eliminated from the body
  • Herbs and other botanical remedies were more likely to have reported drug interactions than were dietary supplements such as vitamins, minerals, and amino acids


There are three thoughts that cross my mind when reading the findings of this recent study. First and foremost, it is important to disclose to your Herbalist what you are currently taking. He/she will be able to identify areas of risk and give you guidance. Secondly, it’s essential to your prescribed drugs away (2 hours at least) from your supplements and prescribed herbal formulas. Talk to your herbalist about the best time to take your prescribed Chinese herbs and follow his/her advice.

Often less is more and if you are being prescribed Chinese herbs it’s often for a condition and not as a supplement. So in some cases, it might be appropriate to pause some of the supplements. And thirdly, why are we taking so many (chemical) prescription medications anyway? Are we so out of touch with our bodies, healthy eating habits and lifestyle choices that we do need to compensate with medication?

Image courtesy of nuchylee /

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