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Recommended Doses of Herbal Supplement Do Not Interfere With Drug Absorption

Recent findings that the widely-used herbal supplement Saint Johns wort could dramatically affect the absorption and metabolism of many prescription and non-prescription drugs raised concerns that other popular herbal supplements might cause similar changes, thus significantly altering drugs therapeutic or toxic effects.

What, for example, about ginseng and ginkgo biloba, two of the most widely used herbal supplements in this and other countries, Speaking at Experimental Biology 2007, University of Kansas Medical Center scientist Dr. Gregory Reed reports a study that found daily use of ginseng or ginkgo biloba supplements at the recommended doses, or the combination of both supplements, are unlikely to alter the pharmacokinetics - by which drugs are absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and eliminated by the body - of the majority of prescription or over-the counter drugs. Dr. Reeds presentation was part of the scientific program of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

The research team, led by Dr. Reed and the late Dr. Aryeh Hurwitz, recruited 72 healthy non-smoking adults (31 men and 41 women, ages 20 to 59) who were not taking any prescription drugs or dietary supplements.

The participants were given a cocktail of five drugs, each drug in the cocktail chosen because it provides a measure of the activity of a key drug metabolism pathway. Taken together, the five drugs in the cocktail provide measurements of the pathways that determine the pharmacokinetics of over 90 percent of prescription drugs.

The scientists then measured the presence of these drugs or their metabolites in each subjects blood and urine in order to establish a baseline for how each individual absorbed and metabolized the different prescription drugs in the absence of herbal supplements.

The 72 individuals next were randomly assigned to one of four groups. For four weeks, the first group received
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