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Benefits of Herbal Supplements

By on July 27, 2014

The use of herbal supplements has dated back for over a 1000 years.

And for all of the media hype on ‘natural supplements,’ you may think they’re safe, without side effects or drug interactions with other medications. But that’s not always true. In fact, some supplements can have a significant negative impact depending on other medications they come in contact with in the body.

The purpose of this article is to focus on the most popular herbal supplements taken today and the potential drug interaction(s) they may cause with certain medications.

Herbal Supplement Health Benefit/Claim* Drug Interaction(s)**
Garlic  Reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, lowers cancer risk, lowers blood sugar levels Decrease in effect of :HIV medications, Blood thinners
Ginkgo Biloba  Aids in general memory support, brain function Decrease in effect of :HIV medications, Blood thinners, Seizure medications
Golden Seal  Used to treat skin infections, cold/flu, and diarrhea. (Evidence is weak on these claims) Certain antipsychotic medications. May increase effect and lead to irregular heart rhythm.
Valerian  Used to treat insomnia and anxiety, although evidence is conflicting May increase drowsiness when taken with sleep, anxiety, pain, and muscle relaxant medications
St. John’s Wort  Used to help/treat symptoms of depression Do no use with certain HIV medications, blood thinners, anti-depressants
Saw Palmetto  May be effective for mild to moderate Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy(BPH) or prostate enlargement Decrease effect of: blood thinners, BPH medications.
Melatonin  Used for insomnia, jet lag, and other sleep disorders May increase blood sugar levels, alcohol, May increase drowsiness when taken with sleep, anxiety, pain, and muscle relaxant medications
Ginseng  Improves body’s resistance to stress Decreased effect of blood thinners, blood pressure and diabetic medications.
Green Tea  Lowers cholesterol, anti-cancer antioxidant Blood thinners

*There may be other health benefits/claims not listed.  **Talk with your doctor or pharmacist for a detailed summary of all drug interactions.


Before making any decision to take herbal supplements, consult your pharmacist or doctor to check for any drug interactions. Never assume any supplement, labeled “natural,” is safe to take with all medication(s).


Drugs.com.(2014). Herbal Supplements and Drugs: Interactions to Avoid. Retrieved July 7,2014 from: http://www.drugs.com/slideshow/herb-drug-interactions-1069#slide-20

Dr. Cedric L. Salone, Pharm.D., MPH is a residency trained pharmacist and currently works as a  Clinical Pharmacist Program Specialist at the Edward J. Hines VA Hospital in metro Chicago.