For many people prescription medications are a fundamental necessity to maintaining good health. While some may need it for physical health, others may need it for stabilizing their emotional health. But in either case prescription medications perform a number of important functions; balancing body or brain chemistry, interacting with cells or targeting specific receptors, medication can help manage overall well-being. For some, prescription medications can actually be life sustaining. But no matter the need, they can play an important role in keeping a person healthy. Taking them as prescribed by a doctor is essential.

Herbal medications or supplements have become very attractive to a lot of people, including those already on prescription medications, and have expanded in popularity because of their “all-natural” label leading people to believe that it’s better for them. But just because something is natural, doesn’t mean it’s safe, especially when interacting with prescription medications. Knowing which work together is imperative to maintaining your good health.

Herbal/Prescription Interaction Awareness Month is “to inform the public that herbal supplements can cause potentially dangerous drug interactions when taken with certain medications.,” according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. They report that 25% of U.S. adults say they are taking prescription and herbal medication (classified as dietary supplements), concurrently.

Most doctors will ask what medications you are on each time you go in for a visit. What they don’t always ask is what herbal supplements you may be taking and it’s critical that they are told in order to minimize the risk of serious drug interactions.

Whether you have been prescribed medication, are taking over the counter drugs or using herbal remedies, there are risks associated with all medications. And risks increase when taking multiple medications as drug interactions can sometimes prove fatal.

Examples of some of the more common supplements used and interactions:

  • St. John’s-Wort and Goldenseal can cause significant issues when taken with certain prescription medications.
  • Fish Oils, can negatively interact with high blood pressure medications, birth control and blood thinners.
  • Saw Palmetto, which is a common ingredient in supplements can be dangerous during pregnancy, cause issues with birth control, hormone therapy and also blood thinners.
  • Echinacea, used to reduce cold and flu symptoms, can interact with certain chemotherapy agents, caffeine, liver medications, and medications that effect your immune system
  • Ginkgo, taken to improve memory, has been shown to have negative interaction with aspirin, diuretics, anticonvulsants, antidepressants and blood thinners.
  • Cranberry Extract can interact with blood thinners and should not ever be used while on blood thinners.

Herbal supplements can be a great addition to your healthcare regimen if used correctly, but again can also cause dangerous interactions with other more mainstream medications. The bottom line is to always check with your doctor before introducing any new treatments. Chemicals interact. Be sure to be safe and not sorry; always check with your doctor.