Richard G. Petty, MD

Interactions Between Drugs, Herbs and Other Therapies

The first reports this morning on the condition of Vice President Cheney suggested that he had developed mild heart failure as a result of being given medications for arthritis. We do not yet know if this is accurate: as I am writing this, it is only four hours since he was admitted to the hospital.
Update: He has been released from the hospital — See article and Article #2.
But the reports remind us of the importance of interactions between medications: fluid retention with many anti-inflammatory agents is extremely well known, and can become very important in somebody who already has cardiac problems. I have seen countless people run into this particular problem. Every year, very many require hospitalization as a result of drug side effects, and a high proportion of those are due to drug interactions. Most pharmacies have access to databases detailing drug interactions, and there are a number of excellent reference books on the subject, including a huge, and highly recommended volume produced as a companion to the Physician’s Desk Reference, better known as the PDR.
Yet it is often forgotten that herbs and supplements may also interact with prescription medications and with each other. Some years ago I was on television program and upset many of my friends in the holistic health movement when I pointed out that just because something is natural, does not necessarily mean it is safe. After all, arsenic, Deadly Nightshade and hurricanes are all natural!
There are several useful resources on the topic of drug/herb, herb/herb and drug/herb/supplement interactions:
The first is a website (Ibis Medical) that sells some very good software, but is also a treasure trove of useful information.
Second is a book that I have found useful, though no book can ever produce the “final word”: things change too rapidly, and it is a huge job to try and keep up with everything.  However,
Lininger and colleagues book, A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions. Roseville, California: Prima Publishing, 1999 — seems to be a good start.
Finally, I would also direct you to a program that I wrote for health care professionals, but it contains a very large number of references and summaries of the different types of interactions that can happen with some of the more common herbs and supplements.

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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