Herbal supplements and heart medicines may not mix

Many herbal supplements interact with medications for cardiovascular disease. Some of these interactions can be life-threatening.

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. 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

About one-half of adults in the United States report having used at least one dietary supplement in the previous month. But research suggests that only about 34 percent of people taking an herbal supplement tell their doctors about this use — and most of those people also are taking a prescription medication.

Yet many herbal supplements may interact with medications for cardiovascular disease. For example, several popular herbal supplements interact with the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven).

Here are just a few of the herbal supplements that can affect warfarin:

  • Danshen
  • Licorice
  • St. John's wort

There are several others. 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.

Sept. 16, 2017 See more In-depth