Food supplements, herbal teas: plants not to be mixed

Food supplements, herbal teas: plants not to be mixed

In France, there are approximately 400 plants used for medicinal purposes, 200 of which have supervised therapeutic indications. They are found everywhere: in pharmacies, herbalists, organic stores or even on the Internet. On the web, it is better to turn to sites associated with known brands or points of sale. Perceived as more natural, they should be handled with caution. Note that only pharmacies deliver herbal products with drug status.

In herbal tea: up to 9 mixed plants

According to Caroline Gayet, dietician-nutritionist and phyto-aromatherapist, “in herbal tea, all the plants can be mixed and this, up to 9, provided that they do not have opposing active principles. For example, avoid combining a laxative plant such as marshmallow root and a plant against diarrhea such as salicaire”. This is why the specialist encourages a systematic personalization of the treatment.

Beware of drug interactions

Before associating different plants, it is recommended to seek advice from your doctor or pharmacist or naturopath trained in herbal medicine, especially if you are taking a treatment, because they can interact with the chemical molecules of drugs. This is the case, for example, of St. John’s wort, which interferes with all types of chemical drugs, in particular antidepressant treatments. This flower prevents a certain type of antidepressants from acting, in particular those called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs). These will not go well with griffonia, rhodiola and klamath either, to which the effects are added to medication, warns Caroline Gayet.

For the people diabetics under treatment, all plants with a hypoglycemic effect which are added to oral antidiabetics should be avoided. The specialist advises monitoring blood sugar levels with a possible intake of olive tree, gymnema, eleutherococcus, black mulberry, blueberry, avocado, periwinkle or agrimony.

In the sphere of pathologies of the heartcaution with coumarin plants, such as ginkgo, woodruff, garlic, sweet clover “which thin the blood and thus add to the anticoagulant effects of antiplatelet agents such as aspirin”. Hypertensives will have to abstain from liquorice, even without ongoing treatment. In case of heart disease and pregnancy, laxative and purgative plants are also to be avoided.

On the liver side, plants with choleretic activity such as boldo, artichoke, dandelion, rosemary, linden sapwood, fumitory are not recommended in case of cholelithiasis. The harpagophytum in case of peptic ulcer. Tonic plants such as guarana, eleutherococcus, ginseng act on the kidneys.

Female hormones and plants

Female hormones, estrogen and progesterone also raise the same issue. On the estrogen side, there are plants that can help such as sage, mugwort or yarrow, or plants that will themselves provide molecules resembling estrogens, phyto-oestrogens: kudzu, hops, clover, soya, alfalfa… chaste tree, lady’s mantle, verbena officinalis or lemon balm mimic the action of progesterone. Note that plants with estrogen-like action should be avoided in case of cancer hormone-dependent: officinal and clary sage, red clover, soy, flax, alfalfa. In case of hormone replacement therapy, it is better to avoid both types of plants, estrogen and progesterone like.

Namely: Clay and mucilage plants such as psyllium, mallow, marshmallow reduce the activity of treatments if they are taken too close.

Choosing the right dietary supplements

Regarding herbal capsules and tablets that have the status of food supplements, the right reflex is to identify the following quality indicators:

  • The organic mention or the % of active ingredients of a plant,
  • The mention the reference “non-irradiated plants
  • The active ingredient content and dosage per capsule. “Count around one gram per day of plant in general”, advises Caroline Gayet.
  • The list of excipients

Another criterion that deserves attention: the type of capsule coating and the cost per day. “Some brands are very expensive in their prices without this being justified”, recalls the phytotherapist.


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