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Study: Don't mix herbal remedies and heart drugs

Posted February 8, 2010

Herbal supplements, including ginkgo biloba, garlic and St. John's wort can pose risks when taken with medications for heart disease, according to a new study.

More than 15 million Americans use herbal remedies or high-dose vitamins. But the elderly should be especially careful when taking supplements since they are already at risk for bleeding, the study authors say.

“I think that one of the most common misconceptions that people have about herbal remedies is that they are natural and therefore they are good for you, and that couldn't be further from the truth,” said Nieca Goldberg, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

The study found that the St. John's wort, which is often taken to treat anxiety, can reduce the effectiveness of certain heart drugs.

Ginkgo biloba and garlic supplements can increase bleeding risk when taken with blood thinners, according to the study.

Another concern is that people are not disclosing the use of herbal remedies, which are not subject to same regulations as traditional medications, to their doctors.

“Not telling your doctor is probably the most dangerous thing that you can do for yourself,” Goldberg said.

The supplement industry also urges people taking herbal remedies to speak with their doctors.

“I try to be very careful that I don't take anything that might interact,” said Dale Burg, who takes herbal supplements. “You can't diagnose for yourself just because it's in the store and available without a prescription."

The study is slated for publication in an upcoming Journal of the American College of Cardiology issue.

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  • marmar13 Feb 10, 2010

    This headline could be misleading. It should say certain meds or the specific medication: Coumadin(rat poison). It's also very important to state the reason why: These herbals can do the same thing that Coumadin does w/o the horrible side effects like liver failure). Most Mds do not have more than a few hours of instruction in nutrition and herbals, so they're not going to recommend something they are not trained to do like an herbalist or nutritional physician.It IS of utmost importance to let your physician know, but provide copies or addresses of studies, give them informative books on the topics. If your doctor is genuinely interested in helping you, (and many are)make it easy for them to get informed.It can take up to 20 yrs for published medical research to reach practitioners. If they are not open to options that might help you, find another doctor. Ultimately you are the one responsible for your own health. Most difficult cases are solved by the patients themselves.

  • wayneboyd Feb 9, 2010

    NOT THAT LONG AGO, AROUND NEWS TIME IN THE AFTERNOON COMMERCIALS WERE FILL WITH CELL PHONE COMMERCIALS ASKING"CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?, CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?' TODAY IN THE SAME TIME SLOTS THESE HAVE BEEN REPLACED WITH "ASK YOU DOCTOR, ASK YOUR DOCTOR IF BLANK BLANK IS RIGHT FOR YOU. IS AMERICA REALLY THIS SICK? MORE AND MORE BETWEEN THESE COMMERCIALS FOR EVERYTHING FROM DIET PILLS, TO PENIS ENLARGEMENT, AND SEXUAL ENHANCEMENT TO HEART MEDICINES,AND INTERSPERSED BETWEEN THEM, COMMERCIALS LIKE "IF YOU OR A FAMILY MEMBER HAVE TAKEN.....PLEASE CALL THE LAW OFFICES OF BLANK, BLANK I WONDER IF THESE WILL BE THE ONES THAT BOMBARD US IN THE FUTURE WHEN WE ARE WATCHING OUR FAVORITE AFTER DINNER PROGRAMMING?