Those suffering from any sort of malady may have consulted both prescription medication and pursued natural herbal treatments as well. A press release from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, announced today that taking both prescription medication and herbal supplements at the same time can have adverse consequences. This study has been published in the July 2007 version of The Annals of Pharmacotherapy.
A literature review and comprehensive survey of 132 pharmacists revealed that 47% of the pharmacists surveyed had come in contact with an individual who had experience an adverse event by taking an herbal supplement. However, only 1.5% of these pharmacists reported those negative side effects to authorities. By contrast, 19% of adverse side effects resulting from the use of prescription or non-prescription medications were reported to authorities.
The study asserts that adverse herbal consequences are either not being reported or are being drastically underreported. A doctor involved with the study, Dr. Vohra, stated, "The public is less likely to see natural health products as risky." Many individuals assume that natural herbal treatments won't negatively interact with their prescription or non-prescription medications because those herbal products are perceived as being safe, like taking a multi-vitamin. Other natural health products like St. Johns' Wort, Echinacea, or garlic supplements are common items purchased in huge quantities.
The findings of this study in no way assert that herbal supplements are ineffective or harmful, but the results do suggest that patients should inquire as to the potential side effects of taking both prescription medication and herbal supplements at the same time. In many cases, this combined approach to healing will probably not be expected to cause any negative consequences. However, individuals need to understand that reactions are possible even with natural supplements.
Most negative side effects are relatively minor: skin rashes, headaches, etc. However, some reactions can be more serious depending on the person's condition. The press release notes that those using insulin or blood thinners need to be particularly careful about additional supplements.
It appears that pharmacists and doctors don't fully understand the interactions between medications and herbal remedies. If individuals begin to report to their doctor which herbal supplements they are using, the base of data and knowledge in this area will grow substantially over time, and your doctor will be able to give you a better idea as to which herbs are beneficial to take, and which ones may not be helpful, alongside current medical treatment.