If you have specific health issues, including chronic conditions like diabetes or cardiovascular disease, you should use extra care when taking herbal remedies. If you're taking medicines as part of a long-term treatment plan, be sure to get your doctor's approval before using herbs. Some can amplify the effects of medicines and interfere with cytochrome P450 (CYP), an enzyme that's critical to drug metabolism.
While herbs have been used for centuries to help manage chronic diseases and conditions, you shouldn't treat yourself. If you have any of the following health concerns, talk with your doctor before using herbal products:
Blood clotting problems
Cardiovascular disease (including heart disease and/or hypertension)
Clinical depression or another psychiatric condition
Eye diseases, such as glaucoma
Immune system problems
Surgery and Anesthesia
If you're scheduled to have surgery, be sure to talk with your doctor about any herbs you're taking. In most cases, she will tell you to stop taking them a few weeks before your operation.
Some herbs can interfere with the results of common lab tests. For example, American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) can conflict with blood glucose tests, and evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) can affect your cholesterol levels (and skew the results of a lipid profile). Talk to your doctor about the herbs you're taking before scheduling any tests.
Several herbs, including ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) and turmeric (Curcuma longa), can cause problems during surgery by interfering with the anesthesia or increasing the risk of bleeding.
Prescription and OTC Drugs
Many prescription and OTC drugs can interact with herbal products. Herbs can affect the way your body processes a pharmaceutical agent — and vice versa. For example, Saint John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) can affect the absorption of certain drugs, increasing the amount that's absorbed in some cases and reducing it in others (meaning you're not getting enough of the drug to treat the condition it's supposed to be treating).
You should talk with your doctor before combining herbs and any pharmaceuticals, but be especially careful if you're taking any of these:
Antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, or any other psychotropic medications
Anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs (also known as blood thinners)
Heart medicines, such as beta blockers or nitrates