New study warns that herbal supplements and medicines don’t always mix well.

What’s the harm, the question goes, if herbal supplements don’t actually help cure anything? Well, they could kill you if you’re on certain types of real medications:

Researchers are warning that popular herbs and supplements, including St. John’s wort and even garlic and ginger, do not mix well with common heart drugs and can also be dangerous for patients taking statins, blood thinners and blood pressure medications.

St. John’s wort raises blood pressure and heart rate, and garlic and ginger increase the risk of bleeding in patients on blood thinners, the researchers said. Even grapefruit juice can be risky, increasing the effects of calcium-channel blockers and statins, they said.

via Vital Signs – Study Warns That Some Supplements and Medicine Do Not Mix – NYTimes.com.

People don’t tend to think of herbs as being a type of chemical, but they are and they can have an impact on any other chemicals you might be taking:

The paper includes a list of more than two dozen herbal products that patients should approach with caution, as well as a list of common drug-herb interactions. Among the products listed are ginkgo biloba, ginseng and echinacea, as well as some surprises like soy milk and green tea — both of which can decrease the effectiveness of warfarin — and even aloe vera and licorice.

The abstract to the paper will get your attention:

More than 15 million people in the U.S. consume herbal remedies or high-dose vitamins. The number of visits to providers of complementary and alternative medicine exceeds those to primary care physicians, for annual out-of-pocket costs of $30 billion. Use of herbal products forms the bulk of treatments, particularly by elderly people who also consume multiple prescription medications for comorbid conditions, which increases the risk of adverse herb-drug-disease interactions. Despite the paucity of scientific evidence supporting the safety or efficacy of herbal products, their widespread promotion in the popular media and the unsubstantiated health care claims about their efficacy drive consumer demand. In this review, we highlight commonly used herbs and their interactions with cardiovascular drugs. We also discuss health-related issues of herbal products and suggest ways to improve their safety to better protect the public from untoward effects.

Visits to so-called complementary and alternative medicine practitioners exceeds those to primary care physicians? Really? Have we all gone that nuts? The $30 billion a year in money wasted doesn’t surprise me that much, we’ve been a nation willing to waste tons of money on shit that doesn’t work for quite a while now, but the fact that the woo-woo practitioners are seeing more people simply shocks me.

Given that they’re talking about health effects from supplements made from a single herb, consider what that means when you take something like (We-Can’t-Say-It-Cures-Colds-Anymore-But-It-Kinda-Does-Wink-Wink) Airborne which contains a shit load of herbs and vitamins. According to the official site it has the following in it: Vitamins A, C, and E, Zinc, Selenium, Manganese, Magneisum, Riboflavin, Amino Acids, and a proprietary herbal blend that includes Lonicera, Forsythia, Schizonepeta, Ginger, Chinese Vitex, Isatis and Echinacea.

That’s quite the mix and you have no idea what the dosages are for most of the ingredients. Consider that it contains 5,000 units of Vitamin A per tablet and you are encouraged to take five tablets a day or more. Did I mention that taking more than 10,000 units of Vitamin A a day is considered unsafe? Not to mention that it also contains high doses of Vitamin C which can lead to kidney stones, among other problems. Combine that with the fact that several of its components are known to interact with legit medicines and you could be doing quite a bit of harm by taking it.

But hey, it was created by a school teacher and they know better than any stupid old doctor what’s best to put in your body, right?

6 thoughts on “New study warns that herbal supplements and medicines don’t always mix well.

  1. the fact that the woo-woo practitioners are seeing more people simply shocks me.

    Go back and read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, again. Mark Twain noticed America’s penchant for snake oil a hundred and fifty years ago, and we have only become more gullible. The internet simply reaches more people more quickly, the people have changed little. 🙂

    Peace.

  2. I had a coworked that was popping airborne and cold-eeze (however its spelled). When he got sick. I just shook my head cause I knew he wouldn’t listen to me and just think me of some kind of jerk for bringing it up. Its amazing after having to pay out $25 million for getting sued by 25 states attorney generals that Airborne is still going strong.

  3. I have normally intelligent friends who go to their doctors, who tell them there’s nothing wrong with them, and then take it upon themselves to read up on “alternative treatments” on the internet, and then pay tons of money to visit holistic practitioners. These people believe that doctors are all “idiots” and never know anything. Which… I’m sure there are some idiot doctors out there, sure. But then you’re going to turn around and pay a holistic practitioner a hundred bucks to sell you another hundred bucks worth of vitamins and herbal supplements? It’s so disturbing to me.

  4. Visits to so-called complementary and alternative medicine practitioners exceeds those to primary care physicians?

    This isn’t actually all that shocking when you think about it. One tries to cure people, the other sells them fairy dust that doesn’t help in any way. The latter is bound to create more repeat customers, since nothing is ever found and nothing is ever fixed. Right up until the person dies, but by that time 5 suckers have taken their place.

    I have a friend that goes to get her aura calibrated (or whatever it is) 5 times a month. It takes a lot of normal people going to the doctor to counter 60 visits a year to that one practitioner from that one person. And none of them ever go to a single woo peddler.

  5. “Visits to so-called complementary and alternative medicine practitioners exceeds those to primary care physicians? ”

    In addition to JThompson’s post, some peole may be going to the alt-med peeps because they don’t actually have a primary care physician.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.