Herbal remedies often work just as well as conventional Western medications, but when it comes to the health of your heart, make sure it’s one or the other. A 2010 report from the Mayo Clinic documented 30 herbal remedies that could be dangerous for people taking heart medications. Because herbal remedies often have the same effects as heart medications, taking both herbal remedies and heart medication doubles the effect, thinning blood to extremes, lowering cholesterol to dangerous levels, and in some cases interfering with how the medication works.
If you’re taking heart medication, here are a few herbal remedies to avoid.
Green tea may contain heart-protecting compounds such as polyphenols, but the vitamin K in green tea can interfere with warfarin, a common heart medication. Photo By minato/Courtesy Flickr.
Garlic thins blood and lowers bad cholesterol and blood pressure, but when mixed with anti-clotting medications such as warfarin, garlic increases the risk of bleeding.
Ginkgo improves circulation, but, like garlic, when mixed with warfarin, ginkgo increases the risk of bleeding.
Grapefruit juice may promote heart health and even help you lose weight, but this citrus juice also blocks an enzyme that prescription heart medications need to be properly absorbed, resulting in high concentrations of the medicine in the blood stream.
Ginseng boosts energy and stimulates the body; consequently, it also raises blood pressure.
Green tea contains many heart-healthy compounds, such as polyphenols, but green tea also contains vitamin K, which counteracts the effects of warfarin.
Garlic naturally lowers blood pressure and thins blood, helping to lower high blood pressure, but its anti-clotting properties can be dangerous when mixed with prescription heart medications. Photo By niznoz/Courtesy Flickr.
Ginger has a number of health benefits and may even help lower cholesterol, but ginger can also slow the clotting of blood, so it shouldn’t be taken with blood-thinning medications like warfarin.
St. John’s Wort, which is commonly taken for anxiety and depression, affects how the body absorbs other medications, reducing their effect. St. John’s Wort can also increase heart rate and blood pressure.
Saw palmetto can help fight problems caused by an enlarged prostate gland, but it also increases the risk of bleeding when taken with warfarin.
Echinacea may boost immune function, but taking it with cholesterol-lowering statin medications, niacin and fibrates can damage the liver.
Hawthorn lowers high blood pressure, but when taken with drugs designed to lower blood pressure, hawthorn can intensify the effects of these medications.
Aloe vera causes a drop in potassium levels, a mineral essential to normal heart function, and interferes with heart medications. Photo By Powerhouse Museum/Courtesy Flickr.
Aloe vera, used topically to treat skin problems and internally for conditions such as asthma and diabetes, causes a drop in the blood’s levels of potassium, a mineral essential to normal heart function. Aloe vera also interferes with the heart medication digoxin.
Licorice root, another stimulant, can raise blood pressure and cause a drop in potassium levels.
Black cohosh provides relief to menopausal women, but, like St. John’s Wort, this herb can interfere with how the body absorbs medications and can lead to liver damage.
These herbs are part of a bigger list, which also includes bilberry, fenugreek, Irish moss, kelp, oleander and other herbs. For a complete list of herbs that shouldn’t be taken with heart medications, see the original study. If you’re taking heart medication, consult with your doctor before taking herbal remedies.