It’s a good idea to get into the habit of talking with your doctor whenever you start something new for your health. After all, you should be partners in your effort to stay healthy.
But when you’re on medication of any kind, you should ALWAYS have that chat before starting on any new herb or supplement. Because certain drugs and herbs simply don’t mix well.
I recommend seeking out the advice of an integrative physician, or a naturopathic doctor, who is skilled in natural medicine. He can help you decide which combination of traditional and mainstream treatments is best for you.
3 risky herb and drug combinations to avoid
Following are three, potentially risky, herb and drug combinations that you should be aware of…
1. Garlic and blood thinners:
Garlic is a natural blood thinner. That makes it the perfect choice for folks who are looking for a heart-healthy supplement that can help them lower their blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, without the harsh side effects of drugs.1,2,3,4,5
But because this herb naturally thins your blood, if you’re already taking any blood-thinning (anticoagulant) medications, such as warfarin, a garlic supplement could become a problem. The combination of the drug and herb may thin your blood too much, putting you at risk for bleeding.
Avoid mixing garlic with any blood-thinning medications until you speak with your doctor, and he has given you the thumbs up.
2. Ginkgo and blood thinners:
Similar to garlic, ginkgo has the ability to thin your blood. Traditionally, the herb is used to increase blood circulation and for increasing alertness, improving memory problems, and alleviating symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s.6,7
However, if you’re taking any medications that slow blood clotting—such as warfarin—you need to be cautious about taking ginkgo as well. The herb and drug combination could be too effective, which may lead to bleeding.
If you’re taking a blood-thinning medication talk with your doctor before you try ginkgo.
3. Licorice and diuretics or blood pressure drugs:
Licorice is an herbal anti-inflammatory. Typically, the supplement is taken to relieve occasional heartburn, soothe indigestion and help relieve the discomfort of stomach ulcers or a leaky gut.8,9
And, according to a study published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, the root may relieve adrenal fatigue by helping your body better manage its cortisol production.10
However, if you’re taking a diuretic (“water pill”) drug a large dose of licorice root could work against the medication. The result is swelling and eventually an increase in your blood pressure.
If you’re on a blood pressure drug don’t try licorice without clearing it with your doctor first. But if you’re on a diuretic or blood pressure pill and still interested in using licorice there may be another option.
The compound glycyrrhizin, found naturally in licorice root, is responsible for the combo side effects. Supplements with the glycyrrhizin removed—deglycyrrhized (DGL) licorice—are widely available. Still check with your doctor before taking them, of course, but a DGL supplement may be just what you’re looking for.
Because they’re natural, and not manufactured in a lab, some folks dismiss herbal supplements. That’s a mistake because they can be quite powerful.
In fact, they can be so effective in some cases they can even replace drugs. This is why doing your homework to find out about any potential drug interactions is so critical.
If you’re on any prescription drugs always chat with your doctor before starting a new supplement. And don’t forget, your pharmacist is an excellent resource too.
1. “Aged garlic extract lowers blood pressure in patients with treated but uncontrolled hypertension: a randomised controlled trial,”
Maturitas. 2010 Oct;67(2):144-50
2. “Potential of garlic (Allium sativum) in lowering high blood pressure: mechanisms of action and clinical relevance,” Integr Blood Press Control. 2014; 7: 71–82
3. “Aged Garlic Extract Reduces Low Attenuation Plaque in Coronary Arteries of Patients with Metabolic Syndrome in a Prospective Randomized Double-Blind Study,” J. Nutr., January 13, 2016
4. “Garlic and Heart Disease.” J. Nutr. February 1, 2016, vol. 146 no. 2 416S-421S
5. “Effect of garlic on cardiovascular disorders: a review,” Nutr J. 2002; 1: 4
6. “Effects of Gingko biloba supplementation in Alzheimer’s disease patients receiving cholinesterase inhibitors: data from the ICTUS study,” Phytomedicine. 2014 May 15;21(6):888-92
7. “Effects of Ginkgo biloba on mental functioning in healthy volunteers,” Arch Med Res. 2003 Sep-Oct;34(5):373-81
8. “An Extract of Glycyrrhiza glabra (GutGard) Alleviates Symptoms of Functional Dyspepsia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study,” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012; 2012: 216970
9. “Antiulcer activities of liquorice and its derivatives in experimental gastric lesion induced by ibuprofen in rats,” International Journal of Pharmaceutics, Volume 119, Issue 2, 9 June 1995, Pages 133-138
10. “Liquorice and glycyrrhetinic acid increase DHEA and deoxycorticosterone levels in vivo and in vitro by inhibiting adrenal SULT2A1 activity,” Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2011 Apr 10;336(1-2):102-9