Herbs, Supplements Can Be Hazardous To Health
6:15 pm PDT May 9, 2006
Alternative medicine isn’t so alternative anymore: Americans spend billions of dollars each year on herbs and supplements to keep themselves healthy.
But as helpful as you might think those supplements are, they can be hazardous to your health — and it’s not because of what’s in them.
Ginko biloba, St. Johns wort, echinacea, ginseng — you’ve heard of them all, and chances are you’ve probably taken them.
Sixty million Americans take herbal supplements. This is nothing new. People have been taking them for generations. But what is new now is that we’re hearing about them more on television and the Internet.
And the herbs we’re buying now come in more concentrated forms and more people mix them with prescription drugs — and that is a
Gingko biloba is a very popular herb used to help maintain memory. But you have to be careful with gingko. Taken with blood thinners like coumadin, the interaction could result in severe bleeding or a stroke.
Another popular herb — St. John’s wort — is used to treat mild to moderate depression. Mix it with prescription anti-depressants such as Paxil or Prozac, and the St. John’s wort actually interferes with the prescription’s effectiveness. The result is you feel weak, tired, even confused.
If you take prescription or over-the-counter drugs, or use alcohol to help you sleep, steer clear of valerian. That combination could cause a dangerous state of oversedation.
The list goes on and on involving other supplements like echinacea, ginseng and salvia.
But most people never hear the warning. Studies show that most patients don’t see the need to tell their doctors about their use of herbal supplements, and many doctors don’t ask.
But a growing number of doctors like Kirti Kalidas, won’t treat a patient until they know exactly what supplements and drugs their patients are taking.
“They need appropriate guidance and support,” Kalidas said.
He took two years off to become a licensed naturopathic physician, so he could help his patients who were turning to alternative medicine.
“They are going to take the stuff, but they need to work with people that are trained in this area,” Kalidas said.
Tom Connelan said he is confident that he’s doing the right thing, because he and his doctor are working together.
“I’m on a regimen that I feel helps prevent any possible interactions,” Connelan said.
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