The C.A.M. Report
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fair, Balanced, and to the Point
  • About this web log

    This blog is intended as an objective and dispassionate source of information on the latest CAM research. Since my background is in pharmacy and allopathic medicine, I view all CAM as advancing through the development pipeline to eventually become integrated into mainstream medical practice. Some will succeed while others fail. But all are treated fairly here.

  • About the author

    John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.

  • Common sense considerations

    The material on this weblog is for informational purposes. It is not medical advice or counsel. Be smart, consult your health professional before using CAM.

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    If you found the information here helpful, please consider supporting this site.If you found the information here helpful, please consider supporting this site.

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  • Recent Comments

    Safety review of popular herbal products

    Dr. Darrell Hulisz from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio reviews popular herbals.

    Let’s focus on safety issues.

    Echinacea

    • Common side effects include unpleasant taste and allergic reactions.
    • Because the flower is related to ragweed, cross allergenicity may occur in people allergic to ragweed.
    • Not recommended in patients with progressive or autoimmune disorders.

    Garlic

    • Might lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.
    • Use cautiously in people with bleeding disorders or in those taking antiplatelet therapy.
    • Monitor for deceased blood levels of warfarin (Coumadin).
    • Malodorous breath and garlic-like body odor.

    Ginkgo biloba

    • Mild gastrointestinal side effects and headache.
    • Avoid in patients using anticoagulants (eg, warfarin; Coumadin) or antiplatelet therapy (eg, aspirin or clopidogrel [Plavix]), or in those with active bleeding such as peptic ulcer disease.
    • Not recommended in patients with seizure disorders.

    St. John’s wort

    • Should not be taken with serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), as symptoms of serotonin syndrome might occur (headache, sweating, dizziness, and agitation)
    • Avoid during pregnancy.
    • Associated with photosensitivity.
    • Can reduce blood levels of digoxin (Lanoxin) and indinavir (Crixivan).
    • Cases of heart transplant rejection were associated with a reduction in cyclosporine (Sandimmune) blood levels.
    • Breakthrough bleeding and unwanted pregnancies reported in women who also took oral contraceptives.

    Valerian

    • Restlessness and palpitations.
    • Additive effect with other central nervous system depressants.
    • Caution if operating machinery when starting treatment.
    • Headaches, excitability, and uneasiness.

    Chamomile

    • Allergic reaction.
    • Sedative effects — use with caution when taking drugs with sedative side effects, or with alcohol.

    Ginger

    • Prolonged bleeding
    • Caution in people taking anticoagulants.
    • Mild gastrointestinal upset, including heartburn, diarrhea, and mouth irritation.

    Ginseng

    • Avoid in people with heart disease who take other stimulants.
    • Rarely associated with reversible breast pain and tenderness, and postmenopausal bleeding.
    • Overuse associated with diarrhea, hypertension, nervousness, dermatologic eruptions, and insomnia.
    • Don’t use in people with active bleeding.
    • Use cautiously with anticoagulants and/or antiplatelet medications.

    Saw Palmetto

    • Headache and intestinal upset.

    Black cohosh

    • Rash or intestinal upset.
    • Don’t use in lactating or pregnant women.
    • Avoid in women with a history of estrogen-dependent tumors or endometrial cancer.

    The bottom line?
    Many of the side effects listed here are supported by limited data. Check with the article for more details and guidelines.

    11/25/08 22:22 JR

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