In some circles, people are fond of talking about herbs as a superior alternative to medication. They're less harmful than prescriptions, have fewer side-effects, you get the jist.
While that may be true in some cases, I am here to tell you that that doesn't mean that herbs will not mess. You. UP.
From what I have seen in other herb fans I know, there's a lot of, "It's just a cup of herbal tea, it can't do any harm!" or "It's just a couple of drops of tincture, it'll be fine." The puzzling thing is that this is often said in the same breath as, "Herbs are just as effective as prescription medication."
But which is it? Are they as effective as pharmaceuticals, or are they harmless? Being both at the same time isn't physically possible, people.
Usually I'm pretty good (read: fanatical) about researching drug and food interactions. Part of this is my fear of taking pretty much anything anymore, part of this is habit after having to choke down the handfuls of pills intracranial hypertension demanded of me.
Yesterday? I goofed. I goofed bad.
Not in an enormous way, either -- it was as simple as having a cup of tea with a bit of lemon balm with a late dinner, because it was tasty. Then I took a Zyrtec, because it's spring and that's what I do. Then, about an hour later, I drank a double-strength cup of chamomile tea to help settle my stomach. Like a lot of people, I usually think of tea as closer to "food" than "medicine," but there's a reason why websites highlight a drug's interactions with medicine and food.
The next evening, I was Robin Williams in Jumanji.
Not just a little bit, either. I had managed to sleep fifteen hours straight, through phone calls, knocks at the door, and (apparently) several attempts by my very concerned cats to bop me in the face and wake me up. It was not good.
That's four -- count 'em, four -- relaxants in the space of maybe two and a half hours. While not one of these alone is enough to make me tired (which is probably why I didn't think much about what I was doing) the combination of them knocked me completely out for more than half a day. (And my most-of-me still feels like Jell-O.) I'm fortunate in that I can set my schedule and can't drive anyway. If I'd had to leave my home for basically anything, I would've been completely boned.
So, yes. Chamomile and lemon balm are pretty gentle herbs (I think most people would consider them foods before they thought of them as drugs), and antihistamines aren't exactly what I would think of when I think of "serious drug interactions," but, when their powers combine, they are Captain Knock-You-Out.
Consider this my tiny PSA about researching all of your medication's interactions. It could save your life, or at least keep cats from trying to poke you in the eye for most of an afternoon.