Dietary supplements, including vitamins and herbal formulas, are heavily marketed throughout the U.S. Many supermarkets and drug stores have large sections devoted to them. While many supplements are safe, it’s important to remember that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t hold them to the same standards that it holds prescription and over-the-counter medications.
Unfortunately, dietary supplements can cause profound impacts on the body that can change the way prescription or over the-counter drugs work. In some cases, they can make those drugs more potent, while in other cases, they can nullify their active ingredients.
It’s important to talk with your doctor if you take any of the following supplements before you’re prescribed a new medication:
- John’s Wort – An herbal supplement marketed to treat the symptoms of depression, St. John’s Wort can have numerous interactions with common medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, some birth control pills, and some HIV medications.
- Saw Palmetto – Saw palmetto is sometimes used to treat benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) due to its effect on male hormones, but it can be dangerous when combined with other hormone drugs, including finasteride. Saw palmetto also may increase the risk of bleeding, making it dangerous to combine with blood thinners.
Because there are hundreds of vitamins and herbal supplements on the market, it can be difficult for doctors to rule out all interactions when first prescribing new medications. Make sure you mention any supplements you take to your doctor to avoid a potentially dangerous interaction.