(NBC) - A new warning for people who use herbal remedies to help manage chronic conditions, or for overall health. A report in the new edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology says mixing medicine with herbal products can be dangerous, even deadly.
Grapefruit juice is a healthy choice, right? Well, maybe not if you're on heart medicine, according to a new report on herbal remedies. The juice can increase effects of certain drugs, like beta and calcium channel blockers. The result is a potential for dangerously low blood pressure, or liver toxicity.
St. John's Wort, one of the top selling herbs in the U.S., is used to treat everything from depression to the common cold. It can also increase heart rate and blood pressure, according to the review which looked at two nationwide surveys conducted in 1990 and 1997.
"The supplement can, in some instances, be harmful," said Dr. Richard Stein of the American Heart Association. "But in many more instances interfere with a drug you're taking making it either far less potent or over potent."
About half the patients in the review failed to tell their doctors they're taking supplements, especially concerning for people taking multiple medications, like many elderly.
"We have no way of knowing which patient is going to have a minor problem or which patient is going to have a serious problem, in large part because we can't understand how pure and what form the herb they're taking is, and what dose," Dr. Stein said.
Some herbal remedies are regarded as food products so they're not subject to the same scrutiny as traditional medications. But a spokesman for the Council for Responsible Nutrition says the review contains inaccuracies.
In a written statement, Dr. Douglas MacKay said the potential risk for a drug interaction can be eliminated by speaking openly with your doctor.
The review notes that herbs have been used for centuries with many benefits, but that more study is needed to fully understand potential harm when taking them with certain modern medications.
The review also says garlic, used to help boost the immune system and to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, can increase the risk of bleeding among those taking Warfarin. Ginkgo Biloba used to improve circulation and sharpen the mind increase bleeding in those taking Warfarin or aspirin.
You can see the full report in the February 9 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
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