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Trying to Gain Weight
February 2001

Q. I'm a healthy 22 year old female. I am a little underweight and working on gaining weight. I had started taking an herbal supplement but stopped because I wasn't sure if it was safe. It contains saw palmetto, fennel, dong quai, damania, milk thistle, dandelion, watercress, black cohosh and wild yam. Is it safe to take a multi-herbal pill and will it interfere with birth control pills, as St. John's wort might?

A. The use of herbal supplements is a bit tricky, especially when you are taking prescription medication as well. Since the herbs are sold as food supplements, they do not need to meet the scrutiny of safety and effectiveness that is required of pharmaceutical products. In addition, since many herbal products are new to the U.S. market, our information on interaction with other drugs is still limited. Drugs interactions can be unpredictable when two substances compete for the same metabolic site, usually in the liver. This can result in either a stronger or weaker effect for the drug in question. An example would be the diminished effect of birth control pills in someone taking long-term daily antibiotics.

HELPFUL WEBSITES:

http://www.herbs.org/

http://www.fda.gov/search.html

http://www.ex.ac.uk/phytonet/welcome.html

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