Supplement and Medication Interactions to Avoid

Filed Under: Heart Health, Nutrients and Additives
Last Reviewed 03/27/2014

Can you safely take supplements with pharmacological drugs? For the last two decades, most of my patients have used combinations of vitamins and minerals with conventional drugs (while reducing their reliance on medication) without any serious medication interactions.

Supplement and Medication Interactions to Avoid That doesn't mean you shouldn't be cautious, however. The literature is loaded with studies demonstrating that herbs—like drugs—can trigger adverse and dangerous reactions. The New England Journal of Medicine, for example, reported that eight patients who used a commercial combination of herbs to treat prostate cancer experienced medication interactions that produced negative side effects like swelling of the veins, blood clots and skin rash.

7 Medication Interactions You Should Avoid

  1. Never take long-acting niacin if you take statin-like drugs. A combination of the two could cause excessive metabolic stress to the liver. Remember, long-acting niacin in gram doses acts like a drug. Small doses of short-acting preparations are fine.
  2. Do not take standard dosages of Gingko biloba (120-240 mg daily) if you're on the blood-thinner Coumadin or aspirin, as bleeding may occur. 
  3. If you're on Digoxin, take hawthorn berry only under a physician's guidance. This medication interaction could slow your heart rate too much. 
  4. If you're taking Digoxin with beta blockers, avoid large doses of vitamin E (more than 800 IU) and magnesium (more than 600 mg), as this combination may cause additional heart-rate slowing. 
  5. Never use St. John's wort, a natural supplement for depression, with anti-depressive drugs like Paxil, Prozac, or Zoloft. An overdose of serotonin, the brain's "happy hormone," may occur. This medication interaction results in serotonin excess, which manifests itself as irritability, dry mouth and insomnia.
  6. Do not use the herbs valerian root or passion flower if you take tranquilizers like Valium or Xanax, because this combination can make you drowsier.
  7. To avoid medication interaction, never take grapefruit juice with any prescription drug. The liver can be literally overwhelmed metabolizing grapefruit. It does so via the P450 pathway—the same metabolic superhighway your body uses to break down and absorb many common drugs.

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