July is Herbal/Prescription Interaction Awareness Month. A common misconception with herbal supplements is that because its “all-natural” it is safe to take. This is especially true for people who may be taking prescription medications. The main purpose of the public health and awareness campaign is to inform the public that herbal supplements can cause potentially dangerous interactions when taken with certain medications. It is also for informing the public that herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA and consistency/quality may differ from one brand to another.
Are Herbal Supplements Safe?1
While herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA as drugs or as foods, they do fall under a category called dietary supplements. It is important to note that the level of regulation and criteria for dietary supplements is not as stringent as it is for food and drug products. The dietary supplement regulations ensure that herbal supplements meet certain quality standards and that the FDA can intervene to remove dangerous products from the market. However, these products can pose unexpected risks because many supplements contain active ingredients that have strong effects in the body. For example, taking a combination of herbal supplements or using supplements together with prescribed medications could lead to harmful, even life-threatening results.
Herbal Supplement Safety Tips
If you’re currently taking prescription medications and thinking about starting an herbal supplement, always talk to your doctor or pharmacist first about possible drug interactions.
Follow supplement instructions
Stick to brands that have been tested by independent sources
Check ConsumerLab.com or U.S. Pharmacopeia Convention (USP)
Keep track of any alerts or advisories. The FDA will notify the public of any supplements that have been reported to cause adverse effects or contain undeclared ingredients.
If you have any additional questions regarding your medications,
reach out to the Tria Health Help Desk: 1.888.799.8742
The FDA has issued a public health advisory warning “consumers to stay away from the herbal supplement kratom, saying regulators are aware of 36 deaths linked to products containing the substance.” The use of the supplement has increased in recent years as a treatment for anxiety, depression, pain, and opioid withdrawal. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that kratom is not approved by the FDA for any use, and that there is no “reliable evidence” to support the claim that kratom is a safe treatment for opioid abuse or addiction. Gottlieb also said that the substance can have similar effects as opioids, “and carries similar risks of abuse, addiction and, in some cases, death.”
At Tria Health, our pharmacists counsel patients on all their prescription medications AND over-the-counter vitamins and herbal supplements. It’s imperative to understand exactly what each item is supposed to accomplish for your health, AND whether there are any potential drug interactions.
If you are taking kratom, please talk to your doctor or pharmacist about this potentially dangerous herbal supplement.
Many people take some type of over the counter product on a daily basis and consider this a safe and natural way to treat or prevent disease. In many cases this can be true, but “natural” supplements and vitamins can cause side effects and worsen conditions in some cases.
Fish oil can be used to help lower triglycerides and reduce heart disease risk. However, this common supplement can also thin blood slightly and in some people actually raises their LDL, or bad cholesterol, too high. Vitamin E, which many people take for its antioxidant properties, is similar to fish oil in that it too can effect platelet function and thin blood. On their own this is usually not a problem, but when taken in combination with Aspirin, an antiplatelet medication like Clopidogrel (brand name: Plavix), or a blood thinner like Warfarin (brand name: Coumadin) this can increase the risk of bruising and bleeding. Sometimes this can even lead to severe bleeding issues.
Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before adding any herbal supplement or vitamin to your daily medication routine.
Promises of miraculous fat burning capabilities have turned raspberry ketones into a multi-million dollar product. This compound found in red raspberries has been traditionally used by the perfume and manufactured food industries to produce a berry-like scent.
Health care providers have turned a curious eye to this “miracle drug” and found two studies in mice and one small study in humans to support its medical use. The human study evaluated the use of topical raspberry ketone cream on hair growth and skin elasticity. There are no human studies evaluating the use of this supplement as a weight loss aid.
Raspberry ketone supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so manufacturers are not required to produce clinical studies that prove its safety and efficacy, rather, they can make claims about its effectiveness without having the actual data to prove its merit.
Physicians and pharmacists utilize medications that have gone through large, placebo-controlled, blinded studies that provide scientific proof that a medication is both safe and effective. Applying this model to raspberry ketones, we have no proof (i.e. large placebo-controlled, blinded human studies) that tells us whether or not this supplement actually results in weight loss.
The prescription for weight loss remains the same, a reasonable diet with fruits and vegetables and 30 to 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least 5 days per week. Until data becomes available, diet and exercise trumps raspberry ketones.
If you have questions, call the Tria Help Desk at 1.888.799.8742.