Cautions about herbal dietary supplements

Keep in mind that herbal dietary supplements can affect other substances in your body, including your medications.

More than 100 million Americans take vitamins or dietary supplements daily—including dozens of herbal nutrition supplements—and with good reason. Research has shown that many herbal nutrition supplements can:

•   Provide essential nutrients •   Boost the human immune system •   Enhance memory and sleep quality

Yet despite the popularity of herbal nutrition supplements to promote better health, not everyone who uses them is well informed about all of their properties or how they may interact—or interfere—with a variety of prescription drugs and other medication. As a result:

•   Many people fail to share information about their use of herbal nutrition supplements with their health providers •   Health providers don’t think to ask if patients are taking herbal nutrition supplements

Both are oversights that could have dangerous consequences.

If you’ve had surgery, you were probably told that you should stop taking aspirin several days before the operation to avoid excessive bleeding, even if you normally take aspirin daily to help protect your heart. (NOTE: There is new information that stopping aspirin therapy suddenly can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.

But what about herbal nutrition supplements that may increase bleeding, decrease the effectiveness of anti-clotting medications, or elevate heart rate or high blood pressure under certain conditions?

Benefits and Side Effects

People who are contemplating surgery, or even taking medications regularly, should become familiar with the power and properties of any herbal nutrition supplements they are taking.

Herbal dietary supplements can provide important health benefits but it's important to know how they react to medication you may already be taking. Before you take Herbal dietary supplements, check with your health care provider to be sure the herbal supplements are safe for you.

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