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Chinese Herbal Medicine - Drug Interactions

Nov 22, 2007
While mental health is often considered a separate issue from one's physical well-being, the two have always been linked in the practice of traditional Chinese medicine. In TCM, emotions and thoughts are considered to have a direct impact on the physical health of a person, and furthermore, mental and physical health are equally valued. Because of the importance placed on the mind in traditional Chinese medicine, there are many methods available within the profession that are geared toward the renewal, healing, and upkeep of mental wellness. The use of herbs for medicinal purposes have been around since people began keeping track of illnesses and the effective healing capabilities of several botanicals. Even today Chinese herbal medicine remains as a supplement too many conventional treatments used on Chinese patients. For those without the resources to make western medicines available, Chinese herbal medicine may be the only treatment they receive.

In recent years many studies in various countries around the globe have tested Chinese herbal medicine for it healing affects for a variety of illness. While many of the patients in study groups have experienced improvement over prolonged and controlled test periods, there were often complications with patients taking conventional medicine at the same time. Ironically, the use of Chinese herbal medicine was recommended to be discontinued while the patient was treated with synthetic drugs, even though research showed that the herbal medication alone would not cause the same response. A study confirmed that Chinese herbal medicine was successful in offering relief for rheumatoid arthritis in patients, with the herb performing as an anti-inflammatory. It has been credited with offering the same relief realized by patients taking steroidal drugs, without the side effects.

While debate continues on the safety of many products used in Chinese herbal medicine, there have been cases in which people have suffered serious complications when mixing herbs with conventional medicine. The use of herbal medications is not controlled by the United States government and few cases of the natural products causing problems have been reported. However, studies have shown that Echinacea when used for more than eight weeks could cause toxins in the liver and should not be taken with anabolic steroids. Feverfew is another botanical used in Chinese herbal medicine for migraine headaches but studies indicate a reaction with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs could cause a negative interaction.

St. John's Wort, often used for anxiety and stress should not be taken with medicines such as Prozac and Paxil, patients taking prescription warfarin should not combine it with herbs that affect bleeding such as feverfew, garlic, and ginseng as unexpected, uncontrolled bleeding could result. These tests and histories show that herbs used in Chinese herbal medicine may have side effects if used with conventional synthetic drugs, but do not indicate their use by themselves pose any danger to the patients. Continuing studies are being conducted to prove their effectiveness as well as their safety.
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