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Taking herbs and prescription drugs can be dangerous, experts warn

supplements
Doctors warn mixing herbs and prescription drugs can cause dangerous reactions  

March 20, 2000
Web posted at: 4:15 p.m. EST (2115 GMT)

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Arline Bragg is 83 years old and stays busy working at her retirement home, going to church and meeting friends. People often ask her, "How do you do it?"

Her answer: vitamins. "I take A, B, C. D, E, P," she says, plus calcium, manganese, zinc and more.

Bragg is one of more than 60 million Americans who use herb products and vitamins to supplement their diet. Heath-care providers say there is a noticeable increase in this use among senior citizens.

But mixing herbs and prescription drugs can cause dangerous reactions, they warn. "You could have problems you didn’t think you would have," says John Carr, a pharmacist.

For instance, drugs used to treat high-blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease -- all common ailments as people age -- should not be taken with products containing ginseng or ephedra (also called Ma Huang). Chemicals in these plants can increase blood pressure.

To help prevent strokes and other vascular problems, many elderly people take "blood-thinning" or anti-clotting drugs, including Coumadin (generic: Warfarin) and Plavix (Clopidogrel). The herbs feverfew and ginko biloba as well as Vitamin K should not be taken with "blood thinners."

"A lot of the elderly look for a quick fix," said Carr. "So they don’t do quite the research. They just believe what they’ve heard on TV or what they’ve read in an advertisement."

Doctors and pharmacists recommend that you tell them about any herbs and vitamins you are taking before starting any new drug therapies.

Correspondent Holly Firfer contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Growing your medicine chest
January 4, 2000
Buyer beware: Shopping for herbs
December 7, 1999
Herbs riding high, especially the healthy ones
November 3, 1999
Viagra anniversary sees herbal competitors by the dozens
March 26, 1999

RELATED SITES:
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements
FDA/CFSAN Office of Special Nutritionals: Information about Dietary Supplements
American Herbal Products Association


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