Herbal remedies, over-the-counter medicine and supplements

Over-the-counter medicine, herbal remedies and vitamin & mineral supplements are widely available and commonly used. It is important you check with your doctor or cardiologist before taking any over-the-counter medicine, herbal medicines and supplements. Remedies such as St John’s Wort can interact with some medicines prescribed for heart conditions and alter their effectiveness.

Herbal remedies

The safety of many herbal remedies is unknown, many people consider herbal remedies to be safe because they are ‘natural’. Not all herbal remedies (unlike prescribed medication) have been thoroughly tested which means that they are unlicensed, and ingredients can vary depending on the manufacturer.

The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) advises not to buy herbal medicine abroad or by mail order due to unknown quality and safety, and only buy herbal medication which states clearly what it contains.

St John’s Wort

St John’s Wort is a plant. It is often used as a ‘herbal remedy’ or ‘complementary therapy’ to treat certain conditions including some forms of depression and pain. Although it is widely available, there is limited clinical evidence for its use for people with medical conditions and taking other medications. It is important to seek guidance from your cardiologist or doctor before taking St John’s Wort.

St John’s Wort interacts with many types of medication for different conditions. For people with cardiomyopathy, it may cause interactions with the following types of medication:

  • anticoagulants, used to thin the blood and reduce the risk of blood clots;
  • beta blockers, used to treat some of the symptoms of cardiomyopathy and heart failure by reducing the rate and force of the heart’s contraction.
  • calcium channel blockers are used to treat some of the symptoms of cardiomyopathy and heart failure by reducing the force of the heart’s contraction.
  • If you are considering taking St John’s Wort it is important to talk to your doctor or a pharmacist about any possible interactions with your current medications.

Vitamin & mineral supplements

For most people, vitamin & mineral supplements are not necessary unless they have been prescribed by a health professional. Many different types can be bought in shops and on the internet, some of which make claims about improving general health. However, many of the claims made about the benefits of supplements are not backed up by evidence.

It is also worth remembering that tablet forms of vitamins and minerals are in a concentrated form, which in some instances can potentially cause unwanted adverse effects. A healthy balanced diet will provide most people with the nutrients needed, information about a healthy diet can be found here.

People diagnosed with cardiomyopathy who are prescribed medications, are advised to ask their community pharmacist for advice before buying over-the-counter medicine and supplements and are advised to avoid complimentary medicines, especially herbal remedies, without checking first with their cardiologist, cardiac nurse, GP or community pharmacist.