Some Herbal Remedies Risky for People on Heart Meds

Some popular herbal remedies can cause harm to some people taking cardiac medications. According to CNN, citing an emerging study, those on heart medications might want to reconsider taking <"">herbal supplements such as ginseng, saw palmetto, and Echinacea, which can interact with cardiac drugs.

“These products are not by themselves dangerous,” said lead author, Dr. Arshad Jahangir, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, quoted CNN. “But when taken with medications for cardiovascular diseases, a relatively safe compound can become dangerous,” added Dr. Jahangir.

“Ginseng, ginkgo, garlic, black cohosh, St. John’s wort, hawthorn, saw palmetto, and Echinacea” have negative effects on the efficacy of a variety of drugs and are known to “dilute, intensify, or exacerbate” the side effects of prescription cardiac medications, said CNN. For instance, these supplements can have effects on blood thinners and statins, which lower cholesterol, explained CNN. Other reactions include heart and blood pressure rate increases, said CNN.

The report appears in the February 9 issue of the Journal of the American College of
Cardiology and lists over 25 herbal products that cardiac patients should avoid, reported CNN. The list includes 12 of the 20 most popular herbal supplements in the United States, said CNN, citing the American Botanical Council.

St. John’s wort is often taken to help with depression and anxiety, but also affects how the body absorbs some drugs, minimizing how some blood pressure and heart medications work. Garlic and ginkgo can impede the efficacy of blood thinners, while increasing bleeding risks, reported CNN.

“Stay away from the four G’s: garlic, ginkgo, ginseng, and ginger,” said Dr. Elsa-Grace Giardina, a cardiologist at Columbia University, in New York, quoted CNN. Dr. Giardina is an expert in herbal remedies and heart drugs but was not part of the research team. “They all have effects on bleeding,” she added.

Ginkgo biloba is often taken to improve memory. In addition to issues with potential links to adverse effects in heart patients, the largest and longest study of its kind to look into ginkgo biloba—the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory study—found that the herb neither improves memory nor prevents a decline in cognition in the elderly, wrote USA Today previously.

Ginkgo biloba is an herb from the ginkgo tree that has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Today, it is one of the top selling herbal supplements in the U.S. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, Americans spent $107 million on ginkgo biloba products last year. Over the past three decades a number of manufacturers have made claims that the herb improves memory, dementia, issues with cognition, and Alzheimer’s disease, said USA Today.

Ginkgo biloba supplement manufacturers have also claimed that the herb promotes blood circulation to the arms, legs and brain, which increases physical activity levels; can ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety, premenstrual syndrome, sexual problems, and other ailments; and can help treat intermittent claudication (a blood vessel disorder that causes pain in the legs when walking), Lyme Disease, heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, allergies, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

In November 2008, JAMA published early results of a study concluding that ginkgo biloba supplements did nothing to prevent or delay dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Of note, those who took ginkgo biloba were slightly more likely to be diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

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