Taking Herb Supplements Increases Bleeding Risk, Experts Say

Most food, herbs, and supplements are safe if taken in moderation; however, patients on warfarin must be careful of the higher risk of bleeding when taking these herbal and food supplements, according to a recent study.

Photo: Herb Supplements | InStyleHealth


Particularly, patients should be mindful of the effects of the following: Chinese wolfberry, chamomile tea, cannabis, cranberry, chitosan, green tea, Gingko biloba, ginger, spinach, St. John’s Wort, sushi, and tobacco smoking.


What is warfarin?

Warfarin is commonly called a "blood thinner," but the more correct term is "anticoagulant." It helps to keep blood flowing smoothly in your body by decreasing the amount of certain substances (clotting proteins) in your blood. It is sold under the brand name Coumadin among others.


Warfarin is used to treat people who have had a previous blood clot, such as a blood clot in the leg (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT) a blood clot in the lungs (pulmonary embolism).


The experts showed an updated overview on the safety of the concurrent use of food, herbal, or dietary supplement and warfarin. Experts performed a systemic review on five databases from inception up to 31st December 2019 and classified such use depending on the possibility of interaction and supporting evidences.


There was a total of 149 articles identified, reporting 78 herbs, food, or dietary supplements that had interactions with warfarin.


Furthermore, 20 unique herbs and dietary supplements were found by experts to be correlated with minor bleeding events, including purpura and gum bleeding, as well as major events such as intracranial bleeding that could lead to death.


Experts suggest that, “Patients should be counselled to continue to seek advice from their healthcare professionals when starting any new herbs, food, or supplement.”

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