Can interactions between herbal products be a health concern?


Q: I have a question about herb-herb interactions. I have heard that many medicinal herbs can interact with drugs, but I am wondering about how herbs interact with each other.

I sometimes take multiple herbs at the same time, including turmeric and elderberry on a daily basis. My mom takes turmeric and elderberry along with garlic and ginkgo biloba. Is this OK? I know that some herbs and spices have synergistic properties if used together as well, such as turmeric and ginger for pain. I’ve searched high and low for studies on herb-herb interactions and can’t find a thing.

Your question is excellent, but answering it requires research that has not been done. Ever since scientists discovered that grapefruit and grapefruit juice could have a significant impact on the blood levels of certain drugs, they have studied interactions between herbs and drugs. They realized that some herbal supplements might have similar action as grapefruit (Drug Metabolism and Disposition, October 2020). Consequently, they predict that St. John’s wort, green tea extract, valerian root and horehound might interact with the same drugs that grapefruit affects.

However, we have not seen any studies on interactions between herbal products or dietary supplements themselves. Some of the products your mother is taking, especially turmeric, garlic and ginkgo, have anticoagulant activity. If she finds that she bruises easily, she might want to drop at least one of her supplements. Older people may be more sensitive to herb-drug and herb-herb interactions (Drugs & Aging, April 27, 2007).

Q: What is suggested for the inability to control (hold in) flatulence? It’s extremely embarrassing! The odor usually isn’t the issue, but the sound of it is!

Flatulence is a normal result of eating healthful foods. The average person passes gas between 14 and 22 times daily.

Resisting the release of flatus is at best a temporary solution. The gas that has built up eventually needs to escape.

Dietary changes can reduce the amount of intestinal gas that is produced. Keeping a detailed food diary may help you identify the foods that are causing you the most distress.

Q: Are megadoses of vitamin D helpful? Somewhere I saw a recommendation to take 30,000 IU of vitamin D3 for three days to ramp up your immune system to fight off colds.

The dose you mention is way too high! Studies have looked at the effects of doses of 2,000 IU daily, and results are mixed. An analysis of immune-boosting dietary supplements found that vitamin D was helpful against respiratory infections in some but not all studies (Nutrients, November 2022). One study conducted with elderly Londoners actually found that large doses of vitamin D resulted in an increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections (Thorax, October 2015).

Q: You have offered a recipe for pumpkin bran muffins that calls for bran cereal. What kind of bran cereal do you mean? Would plain wheat bran work? What about oat bran?

The cereal we have used in this recipe is All-Bran. Bran Buds might work equally well, but raisin bran would not. Nor would plain wheat bran, though one might experiment with it or with oat bran. All should provide the insoluble fiber needed to accomplish the goal, overcoming constipation.

Others can find this tasty recipe in our “eGuide to Controlling Constipation.” This online resource may be found under the Health eGuides tab at

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