Herbal Supplements May Interact With Antidepressants

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Jan. 30, 2018

Some herbal supplements, such as St. John’s Wort or ginkgo biloba, can pose serious health risks if taken with prescription drugs. a new study reveals. While these risks are well known to physicians, the authors say, increased patient awareness – and more discussion of the interactions between supplements and prescription drugs – is needed to avoid unwanted side effects and health ramifications. .

The study1, published Monday in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, analyzed 49 adverse drug reaction (ADR) case reports, as well as two observational studies including 15 additional ADRs. The subjects included patients treated with prescription drugs for depression, anxiety, heart disease, cancer, and kidney transplants. Possible interactions were evaluated using Interactions with Stockley’s Herbal Medicine and the Roussel Uclaf Causality Assessment Method, a tool for measuring drug-induced liver damage.

Of the 64 cases studied, 51 percent showed “probable” signs of a herb-drug interaction, the authors said. Only 8% of interactions were found to be “highly probable”, but less than 4% of cases were rated “doubtful”. Patients taking antidepressants, in particular, often experienced worsening of symptoms when combining prescription drugs with herbal supplements. Additionally, patients with physical illnesses who took herbal supplements to treat concomitant depression frequently had problems with blood clotting and other potentially dangerous side effects, the authors said.

The results underscore the need for larger and more robust studies on the potential risks associated with combining drugs with herbal supplements, the authors conclude. “This approach will inform drug regulatory agencies and drug companies of the need to update information in drug package inserts to avoid unwanted side effects, based on available data,” they write.

The study’s findings do not completely rule out the use of supplements. Some, like ginkgo and ginseng, have shown positive effects on ADHD symptoms, while herbal remedies like St. John’s Wort may help with milder forms of depression when taken correctly. The main goal of the study, according to the authors, is patient awareness – it is vitally important that patients disclose to their doctor any medications or supplements they take regularly, so that they can keep up. account for all interactions and stay away from any possible side effects.


1 Awortwe, Charles, et al. “Critical Appraisal of the Assessment of Causality of Herb-Drug Interactions in Patients.” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 2018, doi: 10.1111 / bcp.13490.


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