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Bipolar Disorder Health Center

Bipolar Disorder Medication, Herbs, and Supplements

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Which Herbs Are Unsafe When Taken With Bipolar Drugs?

The herb evening primrose oil may sometimes be unsafe when taken with some anticonvulsants. Lamictal, an anticonvulsant prescribed to treat bipolar disorder, is one. The herb ginkgo biloba -- taken by some to increase memory and attentiveness -- may reduce the effect of Depakote, another bipolar drug.

If you take the anticonvulsant Trileptal (a drug that is sometimes used experimentally in bipolar disorder, but not a proven "mood stabilizer") or the atypical antipsychotic Abilify for bipolar disorder, then avoid taking St. John's wort. St. John's wort is an herb sometimes taken to try to boost mood in cases of mild to moderate depression. There are reports that it may decrease the levels of Trileptal and Abilify in the blood. In addition, taking anticonvulsants with St. John's wort may also increase depression of the central nervous system.

St John's wort can also cause serotonin syndrome when it's taken with an SSRI antidepressant. Symptoms can include hallucinations, fluctuating blood pressure, nausea, and vomiting.

Patients who take anticonvulsants or anxiety medications such as Klonopin, Valium, Xanax, Ativan, or Buspar should avoid the following herbs:

  • Valerian
  • Kava
  • Gotu kola

All three are known to cause sedation or drowsiness. Taking kava -- which causes a relaxed state -- with some anxiety drugs may lead to a marked level of drowsiness.

Do All Herbs and Natural Dietary Supplements Interact With Drugs?

In one study, researchers found 32 drugs that may interact with herbs and natural dietary supplements. Of the drugs that most commonly interact with herbs, the study listed sedatives and antidepressants. These are drugs that people with bipolar disorder frequently take.

How Can I Know if an Herb or Supplement Will Interact With my Bipolar Medication?

Talk to your doctor about your bipolar medications and supplements. Make sure there's no dangerous interaction. It's often helpful to put all of your natural therapies -- herbs, vitamins, and other natural dietary supplements -- in a bag and take it with you to your doctor's visit. Your doctor can see the supplements and determine if they are safe or unsafe to take with your bipolar medication.

Your most important goal is to take your bipolar medications regularly. That way, you can keep your condition managed. Working closely with your doctor, you can find the most effective bipolar treatment that meets your specific needs. The right medication will allow you to live an active and meaningful life.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on September 07, 2014
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