Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Herbal Health Products--What You
Aren't herbal health products safe
because they're natural?
Not necessarily. Don't think that herbal health
products are safe just because they come from plants. Even some plants are
poisonous. Although herbal products are advertised as "natural," they aren't
natural to the human body.
Unlike prescription medicines, herbal products
don't have be tested before they're sold to prove that they work well and are
safe. In addition, herbal products may not be pure--they might have other things
in them, like plant pollen, that could make you sick.
Do any medical problems make it more
dangerous to take herbal health products?
Yes. It may not be safe to take herbal medicines
if you have certain health problems. If you have any of these problems, talk to
your doctor before taking herbal products:
- High blood pressure
- Thyroid problems
- Psychiatric problems
- Parkinson's disease
- Enlarged prostate gland
- Blood clotting problems
- Heart disease
- History of stroke
It is also very important to tell your doctor
about any herbal products you take if you are going to have surgery.
What are possible side effects of
herbal health products?
Herbal health products aren't tested to be sure
they're safe, so they may cause problems. The following are exmples of problems
caused by herbal medicines:
- If you're taking Ginkgo biloba, you may have
bleeding as a side effect.
- If you're taking St. John's wort, you may have an
upset stomach, a tired feeling, dizziness, confusion or dry mouth. You may also
sunburn more easily.
- If you're taking an ephedra product (also called
ma huang), you could have many problems. You might get high blood pressure or an
uneven heartbeat. You may feel nervous, have headaches or have trouble falling
asleep. You could even have a heart attack or a stroke.
- If you're taking kava products, you may feel
sleepy, get a rash or have strange movements of your mouth and tongue, or other
parts of your body.
Be sure to
tell your doctor if you have a health problem while you're taking an herbal
Can herbal health products change
the way prescription medicines work?
Yes. Some medicines shouldn't be taken with
- Don't take Ginkgo biloba if you're taking
aspirin, warfarin (brand name: Coumadin), ticlopidine (brand name: Ticlid),
clopidogrel (brand name: Plavix) or dipyridamole (brand name: Persantine).
- Don't take St. John's wort if you're taking an
- Don't take ephedra if you're taking a
decongestant or a stimulant drug, or if you drink caffeinated beverages.
- Don't take kava products if you're taking a
benzodiazepine, a barbiturate, an antipsychotic medicine or any medicine used to
treat Parkinson's disease. Also, don't drink alcohol if you take kava products.
If you take a prescription
medicine, check with your doctor before taking any herbal health product.