Not all herbs and supplements are safe, especially if you have certain medical conditions or take some drugs. Find out which ones you may need to skip. An herbal health product or supplement (also called a botanical product) is a type of dietary supplement that contains one or more herbs. Patients need education about the potential pitfalls of taking herbal supplements.
a Supplement? Herbal is What
Other supplements are known to cause heart problems, whether or not the consumer is also taking heart medications. Unlike prescription medications, herbal remedies are classified as dietary supplements and therefore bypass the tight Food and Drug Administration scrutiny that prescription medications must undergo. In fact, the Dietary Supplement Health Education Act of October doesn't require manufacturers of herbal products to prove that their products are either safe or effective.
To make matters worse, computer software used by pharmacists to alert them to potentially dangerous drug interactions don't recognize adverse interactions with herbal products. If the lure of, say, improved memory or relief from arthritis pain seems strong, do your heart a favor and talk to your doctor before trying a "safe" herbal remedy. Reviewed by Mandy Leonard, Pharm. Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center.
Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Helpful or Harmful Although herbs seem harmless, some can be potentially dangerous, especially to anyone taking medication for a heart problem. Cleveland clinic cardiologists warn cardiac patients against taking these herbal remedies If you take digoxin, diuretics, hypoglycemics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, spironolactone, or warfarin, do not use the following supplements, without first checking with your doctor.
Name of remedy Uses Risks Ephedra Ephedra sinica , also called Ma-Huang To treat coughs and obesity Dangerous and life-threatening increases in heart rate and blood pressure. Has potentially fatal interactions with many cardiac medicines. Garlic Allium sativum To lower cholesterol; to prevent and treat colds and certain infections.
Increases the risk of bleeding when taken with blood-thinning drugs. Ginkgo Ginkgo biloba To improve memory, circulation, and mental function as well as to prevent altitude sickness Increases the risk of excess bleeding when taken with blood-thinning drugs. Acts as an anti-inflammatory May decrease or increase blood pressure. Berberine ingredient of goldenseal has also been associated with heart rhythm abnormalities.
Hawthorn Crataegus species To alleviate congestive heart failure and high blood pressure Increases the risk of bleeding when taken with blood-thinning drugs. Aloe - used internally to relieve constipation and externally to soothe irritated skin and burns. When taken internally, aloe can cause abnormal heart rhythms with prolonged used. Arnica Arnica montana - applied externally to reduce pain from bruising, aches and sprains, and to relieve constipation.
Arnica is potentially toxic to the heart and can raise blood pressure if taken internally. Black cohosh Cimicifuga racemosa - used to relieve menopausal symptoms. Can cause lowered blood pressure when taken at high doses. Feverfew Tanacetum parthenium - believed to prevent and treat migraines, arthritis and allergies. Feverfew can interfere with blood clotting when taken internally. Some dietary supplements can have unwanted effects during surgery. It is important to tell your doctor about vitamins, minerals, herbs or any other supplements you are taking, especially before surgery.
Elderly people should not take herbs without the approval of a doctor. It is a good idea for everyone to check with their health care provider before taking dietary supplements. Take time to study about your supplements so you know about them and can avoid problems. Adverse effects from using dietary supplements should be reported to MedWatch the program for reporting problems with FDA-regulated products.
You, your health care provider, or anyone may report a serious adverse event or illness to the FDA if you believe it is related to the use of any dietary supplement product. The FDA would like to know when you think a product caused a serious problem, even if you are not sure that the product was the cause or do not visit a doctor or clinic.
This list is a sample and does not contain all herbs that may cause the listed or other conditions or hazards. All herb use should be approved by a health care provider. Who is responsible for safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements? By law, manufacturers of dietary supplements are responsible for making sure their products are safe before they go to market.
They are also responsible for making sure that the claims on their labels are accurate and truthful. The government does not review dietary supplements before they are marketed, but the FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe supplement product that reaches the market. When searching the Web for information on dietary supplements, try using directory sites of respected organizations rather than blind searches with a search engine. Ask yourself these questions:.
Who operates the site? Is the information written or reviewed by qualified health professionals, experts in the field, academic world, government or the medical community? What is the purpose of the site? Is the purpose of the site to objectively educate the public or just to sell a product? Be aware of practitioners or organizations whose main interest is selling products, either directly or through linked sites.
Commercial sites should clearly distinguish scientific information from advertisements, but do not always do so. Most nonprofit and government sites contain no advertising, and access to the site and materials is usually free. What is the source of the information and does it have any references? Has the study been reviewed by recognized scientific experts and published in reputable peer-reviewed scientific journals, like the New England Journal of Medicine?
Is the information current? Check to see when the material was posted or updated. Often new research or other findings are not reflected in old material, eg, side effects or interactions with other products or new evidence that might have changed earlier thinking.
Ideally, health and medical sites should be updated frequently. How reliable is the Internet or e-mail solicitations? While the Internet is a rich source of health information, it is also an easy way to spread myths, hoaxes and rumors about supposed news, studies, products or findings.
Beware of such phrases as: Contact the manufacturer for more information about the specific product you are purchasing. If you cannot tell whether the product you are purchasing meets the same standards as those used in the research studies you read about, check with the manufacturer or distributor.
Ask to speak to someone who can address your questions, some of which may include:. What information does the firm have to substantiate the claims made for the product? Does the firm have information to share about tests it has conducted on the safety or efficacy of the ingredients in the product? Does the firm have quality control systems in place to determine if the product actually contains what is stated on the label and is free of contaminants? Has the firm received any adverse event reports from consumers using their products?
Does it sound too good to be true? Do claims for the product seem exaggerated and unrealistic? Are simple conclusions drawn from a complex study to sell a product? While the Web can be a valuable source of accurate, reliable information, it also has a wealth of misinformation that may not be obvious. Learn to distinguish hype from evidence-based science. Nonsensical jargon can sound very convincing.
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Herbal supplements, sometimes called botanicals, are one type of dietary supplement available for purchase. Herbal supplements aren't new. Check out this guide to anti-inflammatory herbs, vitamins, and supplements for rheumatoid arthritis. Find out what works and what doesn't. Herbal supplements are non-pharmaceutical, non-food substances marketed to improve health. Herbalism (herbal medicine, botanical medicine) is the use of.