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As Use of Herbal Remedies Soars, Patients Taking These and Cardiovascular Medications May be at Heightened Risk of Dangerous, Po

Posted Mar 30 2010 6:13am

More and more Americans are turning to herbal remedies to help manage chronic conditions or promote general health and wellness. But many of today’s popular herbal supplements, including St. John’s wort, gingko biloba, garlic and even grapefruit juice can pose serious risks to people who are taking medications for heart disease, according to a review article published in the Feb. 9, 2010, issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The use of these products is especially concerning among elderly patients who typically have co-morbidities, take multiple medications and are already at greater risk of bleeding, according to authors.

“Many people have a false sense of security about these herbal products because they are seen as ‘natural,’” said Arshad Jahangir, M.D., cardiologist at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and senior author of the study. He added that more than 15 million Americans reportedly use herbal remedies or high-dose vitamins. “But ‘natural’ doesn’t always mean they are safe. Every compound we consume has some effect on the body, which is, in essence, why people are taking these products to begin with,” he added.

In addition to their direct effects on body function, these herbs can interact with medications used to treat heart disease, either reducing their effectiveness or increasing their potency, which may lead to bleeding or a greater risk for serious cardiac arrhythmias.

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