Jose Ness, M.D., UI assistant professor (clinical) of internal medicine, and Nicole Nisly, M.D., associate professor (clinical) of internal medicine and director of the UI Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Clinic, published a letter on polyherbacy in the May issue of the Journal of Gerontology.
The physicians said that oftentimes patients take herbal supplements in conjunction with their regular medicine regimen. However, combining conventional medications with herbal supplements without first talking to your physician can lead to possible adverse interactions with medication or illness.
Prior to taking an herbal supplement, a patient should have established a treatment goal, researched reliable sources for herbal information and consulted with their physician or pharmacist about safety and efficacy of the herbs.
"Patients should always discuss with their primary physician any medication, herbal or conventional, they're taking," Ness said. "Physicians can then find out about possible side effects and help prevent unexpected complications."
Patients should also talk to their physician or pharmacist about conventional treatment options that are available to ensure the proper and best treatment is given, Nisly said.
"A patient is more likely to begin taking herbal supplements if they do not see desired results from more conventional methods," Nisly said.
Herbal supplements should not be used by children or anyone who is pregnant, lactating or receiving chemotherapy, HIV treatment, transplant medications or anticoagulants, due to increased risk of adverse side effects.
Commonly used herbs include ginseng, ginkgo biloba, garlic, St. Johns Wort, aloe, and Echinacea. Sea algae and licoric
Contact: Becky Soglin
University of Iowa