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Jack Sisson's Life Ethics Blog

We must find new ways through many ethical issues, especially regarding bioethics, medical ethics, and criminal justice. Jack Sisson's 'Life Ethics' blog focuses on numerous areas of concern, including the philosophical and ethical dilemmas surrounding stem-cell research, abortion, medical research, and health care.

From the Nursing Times:

Herbal remedies such as echinacea and St John’s Wort “could make medication dangerous”, the Daily Mail has warned.

The story is based on a large review of evidence that aimed to identify potentially harmful interactions between supplements (herbal and dietary) and conventional medicines.
These types of supplements are increasingly popular, and include:
  • St John’s Wort – used in an attempt to improve mood
  • gingko – used in an attempt to boost energy
  • echinacea – used in an attempt to strengthen the immune system
The study found that the supplements St John’s Wort, magnesium, calcium, iron and gingko had the greatest number of interactions with conventional drugs. The medicines warfarin, insulin and aspirin had the greatest number of interactions with herbal and dietary supplements.
Warfarin was reported to have more harmful interactions than any other drug. Most adverse events – across all supplements and medicines examined – were “moderately severe” and included abdominal problems, seizures and psychiatric disorders.
The herbal products flaxseed, echinacea (often taken for colds) and yohimbe (popular for libido problems) had the largest number of reported ‘contraindications’. A contraindication is where the products should not be used because they are known to interact with conventional medication or they can worsen a pre-existing health condition.
The UK market for herbal and dietary supplements continues to grow, with many people mistakenly viewing them as “natural” and therefore harmless.
Anyone taking conventional medication is advised to speak to their GP or pharmacist before using a herbal or dietary supplement.


The researchers found 1,491 different interactions between herbal and dietary supplements and medicines. These involved 213 different supplements and 509 medications.
  • Herbal and dietary supplements containing St John’s Wort, magnesium, calcium, iron and gingko had the greatest number of reported interactions.
  • The drug warfarin (an anti-clotting drug that ‘thins’ the blood) had by far the largest number of reported interactions with supplements (105). This was followed by insulin (41 reported interactions), aspirin (36), digoxin (32) and ticlopidine (23).
  • Medications affecting either the central nervous system or the cardiovascular system were those most commonly associated with interactions.
  • 42.3% of the interactions were due to “altered pharmacokinetics” (the supplement interfered with the absorption or action of the medication in the body).
  • 240 (about 16%) were described as major interactions – that is interactions that posed a potentially significant risk to health, such as triggering excessive bleeding.
  • 152 contraindications to supplements were found. The most frequent of these were gastrointestinal (16.4%), neurological (14.5%) and kidney or genitourinary disease (12.5%).
  • The herbal products flaxseed, echinacea (often taken for colds) and yohimbe (taken for libido problems) had the largest number of reported contraindications
  • Herbal remedies were reported as having more drug interactions and contraindications than dietary supplements.
Read the entire article here.

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