Chemistry Question #1774

Charl Mai, a 20 year old female from Vancouver, Canada asks on January 4, 2004,

Do herbal medicines interfere with the effectiveness of prescription medicines? If so, how does it affect one another?

viewed 16314 times

The answer

Barry Shell answered on January 4, 2004

Yes. As far as we know, chemically and physiologically, the active ingredients in herbal and prescription medicines work the same. Hence they must interfere, or better we say interact. For thousands of years, people boiled willow bark and drank the tea to get rid of headaches and fever. At some point in the 1800s a German chemist figured out that the active ingredient was a chemical called acetylsalicylic acid--now also known as Aspirin, or ASA. So if you were to drink a cup of willow bark tea and also have a couple aspirin for a headache, you would be getting a double dose. It's important to realize that about 75% of all prescription medicines originally came from traditional herbal sources belonging to many cultures around the world, especially those in tropical rainforests where the natural herbal sources are the most abundant.

Any herbal medicine mixed with any prescription medicine can have an effect. The interactions could be complex. They could be good or bad. Herbal medicines may also have other active ingredients that work together with the main ingredient in a way that is not yet understood scientifically.

If you are concerned about combining herbal with prescription medicines you should consult your chemist, doctor, or pharmacist because many factors may be involved requiring individual attention for reliable advice.

Add to or comment on this answer using the form below.

Note: All submissions are moderated prior to posting.

If you found this answer useful, please consider making a small donation to