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It is a common mantra within the medical establishment that the wide availability of dietary supplements will lead to numerous adverse events and will result in harmful interactions with pharmaceutical drugs. Since First Do No Harm is at the heart of every clinician’s oath, this concern should never be dismissed. Recent evidence published by the Mayo Clinic suggests, on the contrary that the potential for harmful interactions between dietary supplements and prescription medication is very low [Pub Med]. They report that even though consumption of dietary supplements with known adverse events (they list garlic, valerian, kava, ginkgo and St. John’s wort) or prescription drugs with the highest adverse events (antithrombotics, sedatives, antidepressants and anti-diabetic agents) are common- no patient within their survey was harmed by any of these interactions.

We want to stress that this data does not mean that adverse events and potential interactions don’t exist; but that they are much more rare and less severe than are generally portrayed in opinions and editorial comments within the medical literature and popular media. Of course, severe adverse events are now being tracked by both over the counter drug and dietary supplement manufacturers and this information will likely vindicate the overwhelming safety of dietary supplement use.

References and Additional Information:

  • Adverse interactions between herbal and dietary substances and prescription medications: a clinical survey. Altern Ther Health Med. 2007 Mar-Apr;13(2):30-5.
  • Dietary supplement adverse events: report of a one-year poison center surveillance project. J Med Toxicol. 2008 Jun;4(2):84-92.
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