Can herbal supplements interact with my heart disease medications?

Answers from Martha Grogan, M.D.

Yes, many herbal supplements can interact with medications to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart rhythm problems and other conditions. Some interactions can be dangerous. Tell your doctor if you take any vitamins or herbal supplements, and always talk to your doctor before beginning to take a new vitamin or herbal supplement.

Some common herbal supplements, foods and vitamins that can interact with heart disease medications include:

  • St. John's wort
  • Ginkgo
  • Ginseng
  • Garlic (in supplements due to a higher concentration, not foods)
  • Grapefruit and grapefruit juice
  • Saw palmetto
  • Danshen
  • Licorice (in supplements due to a higher concentration, not foods)
  • Hawthorn
  • Yohimbe
  • Dong quai
  • Vitamin K

If your doctor tells you it's OK to use an herbal supplement combined with a medication, make sure you follow dosing instructions carefully. Keep in mind that dosing instructions for herbal supplements can vary widely. Watch for any unusual signs or symptoms that you could be having a drug interaction, such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Skipped or rapid heartbeats
  • Increased or decreased blood sugar (blood glucose)
Jun. 04, 2010