July is Herbal/Prescription Interaction Awareness Month. There is a common misconception that just because something is natural makes it completely safe to take. Such is the case when it comes to people taking certain dietary supplements that are made with all-natural ingredients. However, the truth is that most of these natural formulations can interact with certain prescription medication. For instance, herbal supplements with cranberry extract as the primary active ingredient are known to interact with blood thinning medications and taking the two should be avoided. The public health and awareness campaign was created for this specific reason so people taking medication will take the necessary precaution to avoid adverse effects from taking natural supplements.
There are a number of potential drug and herbal supplement interactions so people need to be very careful when taking these. The best ways to prevent problems and protect yourself or loved ones is by keeping a thorough record of all prescription or over-the-counter medications and vitamins or herbal supplements you or your loved ones are taking. It would also be best to inform your healthcare professional of all the vitamins and supplements you are taking especially when you are under medication. Also, you should check the label of medications you are taking especially the warnings in regards to what you should avoid. You can also ask your pharmacist any questions related to the medications you are purchasing. This includes how the drug/s interacts with each other, food, vitamins and herbal supplements.
Purpose of Herbal/Prescription Interaction Awareness Month
The main purpose of the public health and awareness campaign is to inform the public that herbal supplements can cause potentially dangerous interactions when taken with certain medications. It aims to get rid of the common assumption that just because something is all-natural, then it must be completely safe. It is also for informing the public that herbal supplements are actually not regulated by the FDA and consistency/quality may differ from one brand to another. In fact, consistency and quality may even differ from one batch to another from a particular brand. There are also no established standards for growing and/or harvesting herbs that are used in the formulation of some supplements. Some may even be exposed to dangerous pesticides.
Herbal/Prescription Interaction Awareness Month is also for educating the public about the common herbal supplements on the market and their known interactions with certain drugs.
Herbal Dietary Supplements
- Echinacea: This is commonly taken for strengthening the immune system
- Evening Primrose Oil: It is a common remedy for reducing the symptoms of arthritis
- Feverfew: This is known to relieve migraine headaches
- Garlic: It is a common remedy for high cholesterol and people also take it for cardiovascular conditions
- Ginger: This is also for cardiovascular conditions and ailments related to arthritis
- Ginkgo: It is for poor circulation and to improve memory
- Ginseng: This is popular in Asia for increasing energy levels
- Goldenseal: It offers healing and antiseptic properties
- Fish Oils: Known for improving cardiovascular health and bone support
Common Herbal/Prescription Interactions
- Ginkgo: studies have shown that it may interact with aspirin, diuretics, anticonvulsants, antidepressants and blood thinners
- Echinacea: it is known to interact with particular chemotherapy agents
- Saw Palmetto: this popular active ingredient in supplements may interact with birth control medication, anticoagulants and estrogens
- Fish Oils: it may interact with hypertension medication, birth control pills, Xenical and some anticoagulants
What You Can Do Herbal/Prescription Interaction Awareness Month
- Use social media to spread awareness about the public health awareness campaign.
- Distribute educational materials and posters about the dangers of drug/herbal interactions.
- Contact your local television station to create a program about Herbal/Prescription Interaction Awareness Month.
- Organize an event in your community to inform the public about the goals of the public health and awareness campaign.
- Help your family or friends research about possible interactions of herbal supplements they are taking.
- Urge your local newspaper to write an article about Herbal/Prescription Interaction Awareness Month.
- Contact your local television and/or radio station to make a public service announcement about the public awareness campaign.
- Always check the label and research thoroughly the supplements you or your loved ones are planning to take.
Message of Herbal/Prescription Interaction Awareness Month
The message of the public health and awareness campaign is pretty clear: before taking any kind of herbal supplement, you need to research carefully. This is especially the case when you are taking medication. It would be best to discuss the matter with your physician before starting to take any type of supplement even those that are 100% natural.