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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Note: Herbal Supplements

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on a new study that suggests heart patients taking blood-thinning medication should use caution when taking herbs.


ROSS: Coming up, in California, city people and farm folk now have one thing in common, crummy air quality. The reason why the state's rural regions are becoming polluted is just ahead. First, this environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.


TOOMEY: Heart patients who supplement their medicine with alternative treatments after hospitalization may be experiencing some undesired side effects. Researchers at the University of Michigan surveyed 145 people who had suffered heart attacks or severe angina. They found that 34 of the patients were taking herbs and other supplements to help heal. The trouble is, some of these supplements can thin the blood. And these patients were already taking prescription blood thinners such as Coumadin. Researchers worry that the combination of the prescription drugs with the supplements could make the patients' blood too thin. And thin blood can put patients at risk for excessive and uncontrollable bleeding and cerebral hemorrhaging.

The list of natural anti-coagulants the heart patients were taking includes gingko biloba, ginseng, garlic, vitamin E, fish oil, and coenzyme Q10. Most of the patients say their doctors were aware they were taking herbs or supplements. But the patients weren't concerned about interactions. Researchers, however, say they'll be conducting a larger study on this issue, and will look at the incidence of minor bleeding problems when patients combine conventional and alternative treatments. That's this week's Health Note. I'm Diane Toomey.


ROSS: And, you're listening to Living on Earth.



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