Herbal Arthritis Remedies Can Be Risky

Published Online: Friday, July 1, 2005

Arthritis sufferers are more likely than other patients to use herbal remedies, and this increases the chances of serious interactions with prescribed medications. A British study showed that Echinacea, gingko biloba, devil's claw, ginger, and garlic are the most dangerous. Echinacea poses a risk of liver damage when used with the more potent antiarthritis medications known as "disease modifying antirheumatic drugs."The other herbal remedies could aggravate stomach bleeding risks when taken along with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, or with steroids.

The study showed that, of 238 rheumatology patients questioned, 105 (44%) had used herbal or OTC remedies in the previous 6 months, and 26 (11%) were taking remedies that put them at risk for serious interactions with conventional drugs. Their responses showed that almost all of them were unaware of the risk, although 10 of them had sought advice from a health professional before starting the use of herbal remedies.

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