Herb Drug Interactions
Herb Drug Interactions are Usually a Good Thing
Plants are part of anyone's healthy diet. The goal of that diet is to reduce the need for drugs and medications. In other words, when we eat well, we're seeking positive herb-drug interactions.
Similarly, positive herb-drug interactions are the main reason we use herbal formulas. Many worry about negative herb drug interactions, where a drug is interfered with by a herb, but clinical surveys of real patients rather than laboratory petri dishes show negative interactions are rare, and much less common than positive interactions.
Positive herb-drug interactions mean that when someone starts to eat healthily and take better care of themselves, their medication doses may need to be re-assessed and lowered. Likewise, drug doses may need to be re-evaluated by a doctor once a person or animal starts taking herbs.
What about the Four G's and St. John's Wort?
The Four G's generally top the list of any concerns about herb drug interactions. They are:
These herbs are speculated to interfere with blood clotting, raising the risk of bleeding during surgery or in patients on anticoagulants. Critical reviews suggest these effects are either seldom clinically observed or are easily attributable to other influences. Nevertheless, users may want to keep in mind that Ginger and Ginseng have shown some limited anticoagulant effects in the laboratory.
Of more concern is St. John's Wort. It increases the breakdown of drugs in the liver, such that drugs may not work as well because they are being cleared from the body faster. St. John's Wort is not used in products available on this site.
What about Use of Herbs with Cancer Drugs?
It is commonly speculated that Chinese herbal formulas may interfere with chemotherapy and radiation. Very large scale clinical trials, meta-analyses and systematic reviews have found this not to be the case, and for any interactions to be of a positive nature.
Nevertheless, integrative oncologists recommend ceasing herbal formula use from the day before to the day after radiation and injectable chemotherapy treatment.
Handling Negative Interactions
Negative herb drug interactions are extremely rare. Cease use of a formula in a patient receiving drugs if:
- The drug is not working well since the herb was introduced
- The drug effects are crucial to comfort or safety
- The herbal formula is not producing a significant benefit
In the latter case, a more appropriate formula should be prescribed.