Herbs: Toxicities And Drug Interactions (cont.)

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Uses: Ginger has been used as a treatment for nausea and bowel spasms.

Reactions: Ginger may lead to blood thinning. It is not recommended to be taken with medications that prevent blood clotting (anticoagulants) such as warfarin (Coumadin).

Saw Palmetto

Uses: Saw palmetto has been most commonly used for enlargement of the prostate gland. Saw palmetto has also been touted as a diuretic and urinary antiseptic to prevent bladder infections. However, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is insufficient scientific evidence to support the use of saw palmetto for treatment of enlarged prostate or any other conditions.

Reactions: Saw palmetto can cause upset stomach. This herb may affect the action of the sex hormone testosterone, thereby reducing sexual drive or performance. Dr. Miller states that "While no drug-herb interactions have been documented to date, it would be prudent to avoid concomitant use with other hormonal therapies (for example, estrogen replacement therapy and oral contraceptives...")

This listing represents only a small portion of herbal treatments. Nevertheless, the popularity of herbal therapies is unquestionable. Doctors routinely confront the unknown with their patients who are using herbs. Doctors simply do not have any way of helping you to decide whether these herbs are helpful or harmful for you, or whether they are interacting with your current medications. There are no data.

References: L. Miller. "Herbal Medicinals." Archives of Internal Medicine 1998;158:2200-2209.

UpToDate. Clinical use of saw palmetto.

Last Editorial Review: 6/13/2014