Herbal medicine is rising in popularity for its “all natural” label. While many herbal medications do work to treat a number of conditions, it’s important to realize that “all natural” doesn’t always translate to safe – and this is particularly the case for people who are taking prescription drugs, as well. Many herbal preparations interact with prescription medications, so it’s important to educate patients about the possibility of interactions, and always ask about any herbal medications they may be taking alongside the prescriptions they pick up in your pharmacy.
Common Herbal and Prescription Drug Interactions
There are a number of known herbal and prescription drug interactions:
- Cranberry herbal supplements used to treat UTI conditions interact with blood thinners, increasing their effect, and thereby potentially thinning the blood too much.
- Black cohosh supplements used to treat menopausal disorders may be toxic to the liver. As such, when combined with other medications and substances, such as acetaminophen and alcohol, may worsen toxicity.
- Evening primrose oil, a source of fatty acids for body growth, may slow blood clotting and increase bleeding risk. As such, it may interact with blood thinners. Anyone taking anti-seizure medications may also be at an increased risk for seizures if using the supplement.
- John’s Wort, commonly used for depression, interacts with a wide number of medications, including: birth control pills, blood thinners, SSRIs, TCAs, HIV medications, and more.
When patients come to pick up their medications from your pharmacy, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a complete and up-to-date list of all medications they are currently taking, including herbal and over-the-counter medications. If there’s a change in medication, ask about herbal supplements, and warn of any particular interactions.
To help raise awareness of the issue in your area, print handouts or pamphlets with information about herbal supplement use and prescription drugs. Include information about how herbal medications are not FDA approved, and are not studied for effectiveness, safety, and dosage amounts. Place a pamphlet in each bag with the medications being picked up at your pharmacy.
Consider holding a seminar or partnering with other local health care professionals to help bring awareness and education to your community. Ask doctors’ offices in your area to remind patients of the importance of keeping accurate medication records, and provide patients with a form they can write all of their medications on.
Share information about herbal and prescription drugs on your social media channels throughout the month – offering information about specific drugs and interactions that may occur.
Pharmacists play a large role in medication safety. In one-on-one consultations with patients, offer as much information as possible about interactions with herbal supplements, especially when a patient is given a prescription drug that has known interactions.