By: Clifford M. Sonnie, M.D.
I was cleaning my desk this weekend and reading all kind of journals I never asked for but get anyway. They usually line the bottom of my gecko’s cage or I just throw them away. One journal however, called “Alternative Therapies”, is an excellent journal. It is a peer review journal, meaning that other MDs and DOs read them and say “hey this is legitimate or not legitimate”. One of the articles I read was called “Factors Associated with Medication-Herbal Interactions”. You know I thought about that for awhile, and I’m familiar with the interactions between the traditional world and the herbal remedies, but I wondered how many others are aware that this can be a problem.
In previous articles I have mentioned a variety of different vitamins. Vitamin C, D, K, calcium, magnesium, etc. I really haven’t dwelled on the herbal preparations out there although I have a whole list I want to bring to your attention in future writings. Anyway, as I was reading this journal, I thought it would be a good idea to write a very short article regarding what some side affects may be. No, no science now, sorry. I can hear the tumultuous applause!!! What I would like to do is say this, that herbal preparations are essentially available to the public without a prescription. In fact, for all intents and purposes, you need no training what so ever to sell herbal preparations. I for one want to keep that freedom, but at the same time want to make sure that everyone is aware that herbal medications are not just some strange tasting teas. For example, the plant Foxglove, is the plant from which Digitalis was first discovered. Of course, the Digitalis of today has been synthetically altered to be longer acting and stronger etc. But the fact is, if you take Digitalis and Foxglove tea together you would be putting yourself at increased risk for an overdose. Like wise, Red Yeast Rice is the plant all the cholesterol lowering statin drugs are based upon. So, if you already take a statin drug (which I do not advocate), taking Red Yeast Rice in addition to it would put you at an increased risk for lowering your levels too much. The other issue is that anyone can sell it. So, I will advise anyone out there taking an herbal preparation, who is also taking prescription medication, to PLEASE check with your physician to make sure there is no interaction. Or if a medical professional actually gave you the herbal, make sure with them that there is no interaction with the prescription medication you are taking. If the herbal medication was given to you by someone who has had no training in pharmacological preparations, I suggest you check it out with an MD or DO to make sure it is safe to take together. Now, what if you aren’t taking any prescription medications? Same advice applies. For someone with a normal heart, taking Foxglove shouldn’t have any adverse affect. But for someone with a weakened heart and it has not been diagnosed, taking Foxglove could have an effect similar to Digitalis resulting in a heart attack. Likewise, other preparations could have adverse affects and unless you are prepared or knowledgeable, you place yourself at increased risk.
What the previous paragraph was trying to say was, “don’t take herbals lightly or blindly”. Make sure that whoever gave them to you was properly trained or is licensed in pharmacological studies to prescribe traditional medicine, and also has a knowledge of the herbal medication. Now I’m sure a lot of you out there are thinking “Ok, fine. He has only suggested 2 weird plants that I have never heard of before so it can’t be that dangerous! Well, ladies and gentlemen I’m sure you have heard of Garlic, Ginko Biloba, St. John’s Wort, Glucosamine, Saw Palmetto, and Ginseng. All of these can have a detrimental effect when taken with certain prescription medications. And unless you know what both things do, they could interact dangerously.
In the future I want to address the myriad of herbs. I personally take herbs on a daily basis. I also take some on an intermittent basis as I need them. Herbals for the most part are natural and very agreeable to the human body. Any and all of the synthetic medications are harder for your body to process and get rid of. In any case, we’ll talk more about herbs. I don’t go without garlic or Echinacea, and will be happy to help you figure out what can help you too. As always, check with your M.D. or D.O. before starting a new regiment. And yes of course, a smart healthcare consumer is informed and aware.
Clifford M. Sonnie, M.D. is the physician at the Balance of Life Clinic.