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   Oct 25

Zobo drink, hypertension medicines, a dangerous mix!

TAKING herbal remedies is tempting. Testimonials abound from people who have solved their medical problems with many medicinal herbs and home remedies.

Being natural products, individuals wrongly believe they are always safe, others fear that health care professionals may have negative attitudes towards their use and do not report using such remedies to avoid confrontations. In addition, health care professionals are often not likely to ask patients about their self medication.

Although local drinks, dietary and multi-vitamin supplements seem harmless, some can be potentially dangerous, especially to anyone taking medication for hypertension. One of such is the commonly consumed beverages containing Hibiscus sabdariffa extracts (HSEs) called zobo that people take to quench their thirst.

Others take it because the calyx of the plant is well known to help lower blood pressure.

More than 300 species of hibiscus can be found around the world and most of its varieties are used as ornamentals. However, there are two main types of Hibiscus sabdariffa cultivated for its jute like fibre and its edible calyces. The variant cultivated for its edible bright red calyces has many common names including roselle, red sorrel, jelly okra and many others. Its infusion made from its bright red calyces, which is commonly called zobo, is consumed both hot and cold. This tea is often sweetened with sugar.

Reported to be antiseptic, aphrodisiac, astringent, cholagogue, demulcent, digestive, diuretic, emollient, purgative, refrigerant, resolvent, sedative, stomachic and tonic, sorrel is a folk remedy for abscesses, bilious conditions, cancer, cough, debility, dyspepsia, dysuria, fever, hangover, heart ailments, hypertension, neurosis, scurvy and strangury.

Certainly, it is not unusual for patients who are on orthodox antihypertensive medications to take iced zobo drink without regard to the possibility of herb– drug interactions. But experts’ assessment of this common beverage indicated that it is best avoided by people taking conventional medications for hypertension because of the possibility of a herb-drug interaction. Regrettably, its synergist reaction caused a lowering of the blood pressure than initially planned, thus making this potentially dangerous.

When herbal therapies and drugs (prescription or non-prescription medications) are used together, they can interact in the body, causing changes in the way the herbs and/or the drugs work.

Such changes are called herb-drug interactions. They can be beneficial or harmful, depending on the type of interaction.

Nonetheless, the greatest danger from herb-drug interactions is faced by younger and older people and those with multiple health conditions.

Hypertension is one of the disease conditions where multiple-drug therapy is inevitable and this raises the possibility of drug interactions. In addition, foods, medicinal foods and herbs that are taken alongside with drugs could also alter the responses to the drug.

Researchers at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, looked at the herb-drug interaction between extracts of hibiscus sabdariffa and a class of antihypertensive medication (Hydrochlorothiazide, a commonly prescribed diuretic drug) in rats and rabbits under laboratory conditions. They found that taking this hypertension medicine with hibiscus tea caused a significant increase in the volume of urine excreted, among other things.

The researchers included Okechukwu O. Ndu; Chukwuemeka S. Nworu; Chinwendu O. Ehiemere; Nichola C. Ndukwe and Izuchukwu S. Ochiogu. The study was entitled, “Herb–Drug Interaction between the Extract of Hibiscus sabdariffa L. and Hydrochlorothiazide in Experimental Animals.”

The researchers, who suggested that intake of hibiscus tea was reasonably safe when taken alone, wrote in the 2011 edition of the Journal of Medicinal Food that “although there is evidence supporting possible antihypertensive activities of H. sabdariffa-containing beverages, patients should avoid concomitant usage of a H. Sabdariffa containing herbal beverage with HCT diuretics in the management of hypertension.”

In a literature review published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Mayo Clinic heart doctors warn of the potentially dangerous interactions that some herbal supplements can cause in heart patients who take blood thinners and drugs to treat high blood pressure, among other medications.

Arshad Jahangir, cardiologist and researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz, stated: “All these products do have a biologic effect; they are taken because of these effects. Natural does not always mean safe.”

The supplements can lessen the effects of a prescribed medication—say, a drug to control irregular heart beat (atria fibrillation), which can put the person at risk of a stroke. Alternatively, herbs might intensify the way a prescribed medication works. For example, the effect of hypertension medications might be enhanced to the point that dangerously low blood pressure results, increasing the risk of dizziness, fainting, falls, and in extreme cases, shock.

People on hypertension medicines that also take garlic to lower their cholesterol or treat cold or certain infections also need to be mindful of its use also increasing chances of bleeding when taken with blood-thinning drugs like mini doses of aspirin.

Ginger, purported to alleviate nausea and motion sickness, lower blood cholesterol, decrease platelet aggregation, and as a digestive aid and antioxidant, is taken by millions. Research shows that it can also interfere with blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding when taken with blood-thinners such as aspirin and warfarin. High dose has been associated with abnormal heart rhythm and blood pressure changes.

In addition, ginseng and green tea, according to research, can increase blood pressure, making it dangerous for those trying to keep their blood pressure under control with medications.

The interaction of other food items like grapefruit juice with medicines has also been suggested by experts, who advise that people also avoid taking drugs like statins, hypertension medicines, psychiatric drugs and Viagra with grapefruit juice.

Source: The Nigerian Tribune

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