Combining Herbs and Prescription Drugs

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Interviewer: Can people mix herbal medicine with traditional, depending on
the condition, and do you find that most traditional physicians are
becoming more and more open to combining?

Roy Upton, RH DAyu: Yes and no. The people that really, the integrated docs
that really delve into learning integrated medicine and so get rid of the
fears of herbal medicines, they're doing it. They have no problems doing

And, for example, in Germany too and up until the early 1990s it was
routine practice that you would use herbs and drugs simultaneously. Again,
yesterday, I'm talking to a natural products chemist from Germany who I
just met for the first time, but we know a lot of the same people, and he
himself was telling me, "Yeah, we would give, as a pharmacist, we would
fill the prescription that the doctor gave and then give an herbal tea."
Almost always give like an chamomile tea in conjunction with any GI or any
sleep drug that was prescribed. It was routine.

Germany used to always also do an interesting thing. When they would, a lot
times, when somebody has a week heart and they might be prescribed Agoxin,
the digitalis glycoside, synthetic drug. Used to be derived from digitalis
plant. But it's really strong and might not quite be indicated yet. So what
the German doctors would do, they'd say take a digitalis in the morning,
take hawthorn in the middle of the day, take digitalis at night. And then
as the person got stronger, they'd reverse that. Take hawthorn in the
morning take digitalis middle of the day, take hawthorn at night and
ideally you'd wean them off of everything.

Same thing with anti-inflammatories that say, you know, you're not quite
there. You need a really hard cord anti-inflammatory, so we'll give you the
aspirin or NSAID in the morning, take willow bark in the middle of day and
take an NSAID if you need it at night. And then reverse that. Take willow,
NSAID, willow.

Interviewer: Mm-hmm.

Roy: So there was a complete integration, but because the greatest fear the
physicians have is are negative interactions. Most of which have been
stimulated because of invitro work, not really clinical work. So you look
at St. John's Wart for herb drug interactions.

Interviewer: Mm-hmm.

Roy: Well, there's a dear friend of mine who's one of the leading medical
researchers on depressive studies and Alzheimer's for the National
Institutes of Mental Health. He considers most of it bunk because it was
all based... most of it was based on invitro work or the changes in drug
profile that were being seen were not resulting in clinically relevant
changes in parameters. So maybe the area under the curve of the bloodstream
of the drug was changing, but then it changed the clinical effect of the
drug. So there's a lot of misinformation and there's still a lot of fear
about using drugs in conjunction with natural therapies.

But somebody who was really is used to good patient management care, no
problem whatsoever. And they're with exceptions. Garlic, you would never
take garlic in conjunction with some of the garlic or Chinese Salvia or Don
Qui in conjunction with blood-thinning medications because they do have
clinically relevant effects on thinning the blood. So, there's reality to
some of the adverse effects, but it's been exaggerated.

But anybody who's really skilled at it or not even really skilled, just
knowledgeable about the, you know, management care, there's no problem
Should you or can you combine the two? Roy Upton, executive director of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, discusses the thought of combining herbal medicine with traditional drugs. He discusses the acceptance of doctors and how it varies in different countries.

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