Avoid Mixing These Supplements With Your Prescription Medications

2018 Senior Discounts on Prescriptions
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You’ll typically find a wide variety of supplements at your local drugstore just feet from the prescription counter. There is, however, a significant difference between supplements and medications prescribed by a doctor. Both are intended for health purposes, but supplements do not go through the FDA approval process like your prescriptions do.

The ingredients and benefits of the products aren’t always guaranteed, but supplement use has been on the rise for the past decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that supplement use tends to increase with age, and is highest among women ages 60 and over.

Seniors should be aware of the risks associated with overusing or misusing supplements, including potentially fatal drug interactions. Below are some popular supplements, their uses, and their potential negative interactions.

Did You Know? All medications eventually expire. To learn more, read our guide to medication disposal.

St. John’s Wort

This supplement typically is used to treat depression, but it can also be used to treat somatic symptom disorders and symptoms associated with menopause.

Negative interactions for St. John’s Wort include alprazolam, antidepressants, barbiturates, bupropion, certain chemotherapy drugs, certain immunosuppressive drugs, certain statins, cytochrome substrates, dextromethorphan, digoxin, fexofenadine, ketamine, narcotics, omeprazole, phenytoin, photosensitizing drugs, protease inhibitors, triptans, voriconazole, and warfarin. Interactions can reduce the effectiveness of the prescription drugs and cause severe side effects.

Consult your doctor or specialist about your treatment options before trying St. John’s Wort, especially if you suffer from anxiety or depression.

Ginkgo Biloba

This supplement is sourced from one of the oldest living tree species and may come in the form of a tablet, capsule, concentrate, or beverage. Ginkgo biloba is not definitively proven to treat any health condition, but some people use it as a supplement to treat anxiety, allergies, dementia, eye conditions, peripheral artery disease, and tinnitus.

Negative interactions include alprazolam, anticoagulants, antiplatelet drugs and supplements, anticonvulsants, seizure threshold-lowering drugs and supplements, antidepressants, certain statins, diabetes drugs, and ibuprofen. Interactions can reduce the effectiveness of these prescription drugs and cause severe side effects.

If you are looking for an alternative to ginkgo biloba to boost your brain health, consider playing mentally stimulating games and puzzles.


Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant naturally produced by the body, and it can also be found in meat, fish, and nuts. It is sometimes taken as a supplement to help treat heart conditions, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

There is potential for CoQ10 to interact negatively with some anticoagulants, reducing their efficacy.

The best alternative to supplementing CoQ10 is to eat a heart-healthy diet that includes foods naturally rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.


This spice-rack staple is also commonly used to treat osteoarthritis, since it’s said to reduce swelling. Turmeric can be found in capsule form, as well as ground as a culinary addition to foods and beverages.

Negative interactions include blood thinners (warfarin, clopidogrel, and aspirin), diabetes drugs, and stomach-acid reducers such as omeprazole and famotidine. Interactions can reduce the effectiveness of these prescription drugs and cause severe side effects.

In place of turmeric supplements, you can use hot and cold compresses, Epsom salt baths, or topical ointments to help relieve inflammation.

Iron Supplements

Iron is a mineral found naturally in the body, as well as in foods such as fish, spinach, meat, and legumes. The supplement is commonly used by people suffering from anemia or low iron levels.

Negative interactions include certain antibiotics, bisphosphonates, chloramphenicol, dolutegravir, levodopa, levothyroxine, methyldopa, mycophenolate mofetil, and penicillamine. Interactions can reduce the drugs’ effectiveness and cause severe side effects.

You can boost iron levels without taking an iron supplement by limiting antacid usage — which can inhibit iron absorption — and adding iron-rich foods to your diet.

2018 Senior Discounts on Prescriptions


Probiotics are live bacteria or yeast strains that are believed to provide health benefits when consumed. In most cases, they are taken via capsules to support gut health.

There is potential for probiotics to interact negatively with some antibiotics and antifungals, reducing their efficacy.

You can boost your gut health without taking a probiotic supplement by including more fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, in your diet.

Vitamin C

Ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C, functions as an antioxidant and promotes the body’s healing process. Vitamin C is not produced by the human body, but most people get sufficient amounts by eating a healthy diet. Deficits in vitamin C may occur due to the effects of smoking, cancer, gastrointestinal conditions, or restrictive diets.

Negative interactions include medications containing aluminum, chemotherapy drugs, estrogen, protease inhibitors, statin, niacin, and warfarin. Interactions can reduce the drugs’ effectiveness and cause severe side effects.

You can increase your intake of vitamin C by eating citrus, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, and potatoes, which are natural sources of the antioxidant.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is a plant supplement that can be taken as a tablet, capsule, or liquid to treat liver and gallbladder issues.

Negative interactions include cytochrome substrates (including diazepam and warfarin), diabetes medications, raloxifene, simeprevir, and sirolimus. Interactions can reduce the drugs’ effectiveness and cause severe side effects.

It is possible to promote liver health without supplemental milk thistle by abstaining from alcohol and eating a plant-based diet.

Grapefruit Juice

Grapefruit juice is commonly consumed to help promote weight loss since it is thought to reduce appetite.

Consuming grapefruit or grapefruit juice can significantly impact the efficacy of other medications. Negative interactions include aliskiren, alprazolam, amiodarone, atorvastatin, budesonide, buspirone, carbamazepine, cilostazol, clarithromycin, cyclosporine, colchicine, dronedarone, erythromycin, felodipine, fentanyl, fexofenadine, flibanserin, indinavir, loratadine, losartan, lovastatin, nilotinib, naloxegol, nifedipine, palbociclib, pazopanib, pimozide, ranolazine, saquinavir, sildenafil, simvastatin, tadalafil, vardenafil, verapamil, and warfarin.

To help reduce your appetite without consuming grapefruit juice, start your meal with a glass of water and eat more high-fiber foods.

Talk With Your Health-Care Professional Before Using Supplements

Supplements may seem like a simple way to combat health issues, but you should consult your doctor before taking them regularly. If a negative interaction occurs, other medications could become less effective or cause serious side effects. Professionals will help you find the most appropriate treatment for your circumstances.

To learn more about the various ways to stay healthy, check out our helpful guides.