It’s Only Natural
Kathy Bradley - Your Phriendly Pharmacist - June 08, 2018
Pharmacist: "Please tell me what medications you routinely take."
Patient: "I only take two things - Rx A and Rx B."
Spouse: "Then what are all those pills you take in the morning? I know you take more than two!"
Patient: "Oh, those aren't drugs; they're natural."

The common misconception about over-the-counter (OTC) supplements – be they vitamins, herbals, nutritionals, seeds, nuts, or leaves – is that they are completely harmless. When we refer to medicine, “natural” items don't count.

In reality, they DO count, especially when considering potential actions, side-effects, and interactions.

Let me give you just a couple of examples.
  • Ginkgo Biloba, a supplement often used to enhance mental acuity, can adversely affect anticoagulants, resulting in a significantly increased bleeding risk.​
Danger, Will Robinson!!!
  • St. John’s Wort, a supplement used to alleviate depression, interacts with prescription antidepressants, producing a condition called Serotonin Syndrome, a condition characterized by high body temperature, agitation, increased reflexes, tremor, sweating, dilated pupils, and diarrhea.
Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Aside from the better-known interactions among prescription medications, adding “natural”, herbal, and other supplements into the mix exponentially increases the odds of a major problem.

Don’t misunderstand – I’m not trying to discourage their appropriate use; I want to encourage their judicious use, with the following caveats:
  • Don't assume such supplements have no bearing on any prescriptions you may take.  (And – let’s  think about this – if they have no activity, then why take them?)
  • Be sure to include all of them when discussing your medications with your health professional, no matter how minor they may seem.
 If you have questions, your phriendly pharmacist is your best resource for such information. Don't be afraid to ask!