Cytochrome P450 enzyme mediated herbal drug interactions (Part 1)

Sompon Wanwimolruk, Virapong Prachayasittikul
EXCLI Journal 2014, 13: 347-91
It is well recognized that herbal supplements or herbal medicines are now commonly used. As many patients taking prescription medications are concomitantly using herbal supplements, there is considerable risk for adverse herbal drug interactions. Such interactions can enhance the risk for an individual patient, especially with regard to drugs with a narrow therapeutic index such as warfarin, cyclosporine A and digoxin. Herbal drug interactions can alter pharmacokinetic or/and pharmacodynamic properties of administered drugs. The most common pharmacokinetic interactions usually involve either the inhibition or induction of the metabolism of drugs catalyzed by the important enzymes, cytochrome P450 (CYP). The aim of the present article is to provide an updated review of clinically relevant metabolic CYP-mediated drug interactions between selected herbal supplements and prescription drugs. The commonly used herbal supplements selected include Echinacea, Ginkgo biloba, garlic, St. John's wort, goldenseal, and milk thistle. To date, several significant herbal drug interactions have their origins in the alteration of CYP enzyme activity by various phytochemicals. Numerous herbal drug interactions have been reported. Although the significance of many interactions is uncertain but several interactions, especially those with St. John's wort, may have critical clinical consequences. St. John's wort is a source of hyperforin, an active ingredient that has a strong affinity for the pregnane xenobiotic receptor (PXR). As a PXR ligand, hyperforin promotes expression of CYP3A4 enzymes in the small intestine and liver. This in turn causes induction of CYP3A4 and can reduce the oral bioavailability of many drugs making them less effective. The available evidence indicates that, at commonly recommended doses, other selected herbs including Echinacea, Ginkgo biloba, garlic, goldenseal and milk thistle do not act as potent or moderate inhibitors or inducers of CYP enzymes. A good knowledge of the mechanisms of herbal drug interactions is necessary for assessing and minimizing clinical risks. These processes help prediction of interactions between herbal supplements and prescription drugs. Healthcare professionals should remain vigilant for potential interactions between herbal supplements/medicines and prescription drugs, especially for drugs with a narrow therapeutic index are used.


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