Herbal supplements may not mix with heart medicines

Some herbal supplements can have dangerous interactions with heart medications. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Herbal supplements are natural, so they must be safe, right? Not necessarily. Herbal supplements can have strong effects in the body, and some can interact with prescription medications used to treat heart and circulatory problems, such as high blood pressure and heart failure. Some of these interactions can even be dangerous.

Herbal supplements and prescription medications

At least a quarter of adults who take prescription medications also take dietary supplements, including herbal supplements. That number is even higher among adults older than age 70 — three-quarters report using both prescription medications and dietary supplements.

Yet many herbal supplements interact with medications for cardiovascular disease — which are widely prescribed for older adults. The chances of herbs and drugs interacting are high. Indeed, 8 of the 10 most widely used supplements interact with the blood-thinning medication warfarin (Coumadin). Here are just a few of the herbal supplements that can affect warfarin:

  • Danshen
  • Dong quai
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Garlic
  • Ginkgo
  • Ginseng
  • St. John's wort

That's why it's so important to talk with your doctor before taking herbal supplements if you take prescription medications. Your doctor and pharmacist can help you avoid risky interactions.

Nov. 04, 2011 See more In-depth