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Ginseng a No-No for Patients on Coumadin


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Ginseng a No-No for Patients on Coumadin

Popular Herb Cuts Effect of Lifesaving Drug

By Daniel DeNoon

WebMD Medical News Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD

on Tuesday, July 06, 2004

July 6, 2004 - Don't take ginseng if you're using Coumadin.

The warning comes from a new study led by University of Chicago researcher Chun-Su Yuan, MD, PhD, and colleagues. Their findings appear in the July 6 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Coumadin -- its generic name is warfarin -- keeps the blood from clotting. It's often called a blood thinner, although it really doesn't make the blood thin. It helps keep blood clots from blocking blood vessels. It's a serious treatment for people at risk of life-threatening disease.

"With too small a dose, the risk of clots increases -- but too much can cause serious bleeding," Yuan warns in a news release. "So a substance, such as ginseng, that alters [Coumadin's] effects -- even slightly -- can have significant consequences."

Ginseng is a popular herbal remedy. It's a natural product. Many people mistakenly think natural products are always safe. In reality, these products often have powerful effects. Some of these effects can interfere with the effects of medicines a person is taking.

Yuan's team enrolled 20 healthy volunteers who agreed to take Coumadin and ginseng at the same time. Some of the volunteers got pills that looked like the ginseng pills but actually contained a placebo.

Coumadin worked normally in the people who got the placebo. But in those taking Coumadin and ginseng, the drug's blood-thinning effects were significantly reduced.

The bottom line: If you're on Coumadin or generic warfarin, don't take ginseng supplements or ginseng-containing herbal tea. If you think the ginseng is important for your health, discuss it with your doctor.

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