Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.


Bad Mixers


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

People who combine certain herbal medicines with prescription drugs may be putting themselves at considerable risk. So says Adriane Fugh-Berman, a physician at George Washington University School of Medicine who has been collecting case reports and studies of hazardous herb-drug interactions.

Fugh-Berman has learned that Saint-John's-wort, a popular mood-lifting herbal remedy, may increase the risk of confusion, nausea, and diarrhea--symptoms of an excess of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain--when taken with antidepressants such as Prozac. Ginkgo biloba can trigger bleeding in people taking warfarin, a drug that reduces the risk of blood clots. Yohimbine, an anti-impotence herb, can provoke hypertension when combined with tricyclic antidepressants.

Herbal medicines alone can be trouble as well, Fugh-Berman warns. Asian herbal medicaments have been found to be contaminated with lead or arsenic, and some have even been "doctored" with drugs such as steroids. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the use or sale of herbs. But Fugh-Berman, who proffers herbs in her own practice, isn't counseling avoidance--just awareness. "Herbs with known interactions should have to be labeled, as should herbs with adverse effects. Right now, that's optional, which is nuts," she says.

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 50%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In