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Herb–drug interactions: a mechanistic approach

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journal contribution
posted on 12.03.2020 by Ajay Kumar Sharma, Vijay Kumar Kapoor, Gurjot Kaur

In India, traditional herbal medicines have been an essential part of therapy for the last centuries. However, a large portion of the general populace is using these therapies in combination with allopathy lacking a proper understanding of possible interactions (synergistic or antagonistic) between the herbal product and the allopathic drug. This is based on the assumption that herbal drugs are relatively safe, i.e. without side effects. We have established a comprehensive understanding of the possible herb–drug interactions and identified interaction patterns between the most common herbs and drugs currently in use in the Indian market. For this purpose, we listed common interactors (herbs and allopathic drugs) using available scientific literature. Drugs were then categorized into therapeutic classes and aligned to produce a recognizable pattern present only if interactions were observed between a drug class and herb in the scientific literature. Interestingly, the top three categories (with highest interactors), antibiotics, oral hypoglycemics, and anticonvulsants, displayed synergistic interactions only. Another major interactor category was CYP450 enzymes, a natural component of our metabolism. Both activation and inhibition of CYP450 enzymes were observed. As many allopathic drugs are known CYP substrates, inhibitors or inducers, ingestion of an interacting herb could result in interaction with the co-administered drug. This information is largely unavailable for the Indian population and should be studied in greater detail to avoid such interactions. Although this information is not absolute, the systematic literature review proves the existence of herb–drug interactions in the literature and studies where no interaction was detected are equally important.

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