Herbs: Toxicities And Drug Interactions (cont.)

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Keep in mind that the information in the "Uses" section is for the most part unsupported by verification of scientific studies. It should be noted that simply because herbs are "natural" treatments, they are not necessarily free from side effects.

Chamomile

Uses: Chamomile is often used in the form of a tea as a sedative.

Reactions: Allergic reactions can occur, particularly in persons allergic to ragweed. Reported reactions include abdominal cramps, tongue thickness, tightness in the throat, swelling of the lips, throat and eyes, itching all over the body, hives, and blockage of the breathing passages. Close monitoring is recommended for patients who are taking medications to prevent blood clotting (anticoagulants) such as warfarin (Coumadin).

Echinacea

Uses: Largely because white blood cells in the laboratory can be stimulated to eat particles, Echinacea has been touted to be able to boost the body's ability to fight off infection.

Reactions: The most common side effect is an unpleasant taste. Echinacea can cause liver toxicity. It should be avoided in combination with other medications that can affect the liver such as ketaconazole (izoral, Extina, Xolegel, Kuric), leflunomide (Arava), methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall), isoniazid (INH, Nydrazid, Laniazid).

St. John's Wort

Uses: St. John's Wort is popularly used as an herbal treatment for depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. It is technically known as Hypericum perforatum. Chemically, it is composed of at least 10 different substances that may produce its effects. The ratios of these different substances varies from plant to plant (and manufacturer).