July is Herbal and Prescription Awareness Month, calling attention to a topic about which we should all be informed─especially since more than 50 percent of all insured Americans take prescription medications regularly, according to a recent study. Numbers gathered in recent years by Medco Health Solutions Inc., which manages prescription (Rx) benefits for about 1 in 5 Americans, reveal how many people take medications in various demographic groups:
- Almost two-thirds of women 20 and older
- 1 in 4 children and teens
- 52 percent of adult men
- 3 of 4 people 65 or older
- 28 percent of women and nearly 22 percent of men over 65 take 5 or more Rx drugs regularly
The most widely used drugs are prescribed to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol— problems often linked to heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Unfortunately, not all patients consider what else they’re taking, like herbal supplements and over-the-counter medications. Prescription drugs activate numerous chemical processes in your body, and adding an over-the- counter herbal supplement could alter the situation.
- Feverfew (used for migraine prevention), ginger, cranberry, St. John’s Wort and ginseng can interact with the anti-clotting drug Warfarin
- Feverfew, ginger, and gingko can interact with aspirin
- Garlic can interfere with anti-clotting medications and the immunosuppressant drug Cyclosporine
- Valerian (used as a sedative) can intensify anesthetics
- St. John’s Wort can interact with immunosuppressive drugs and potentially lead to transplant rejection
It’s also important to consider nutrient depletion caused by many Rx drugs. According to a
recent report, 9 of 10 Americans are deficient in 11 key nutrients, including calcium, vitamin
D, potassium, and more.2 Many drugs such as statins, antibiotics, and diuretics set you back
nutritionally by interfering with the absorption and utilization of important vitamins and minerals.
If you do take one or more Rx drugs, inquire about herbal interactions as well as nutrient depletion, so you can compensate with extra vitamins and minerals as needed. Don’t hesitate to ask your primary care provider whether diet, exercise and other healthy lifestyle changes might negate your need for Rx drugs─and their side effects─entirely.