Herbal Medications and Patients with Heart Disease: What to Discuss

FEBRUARY 28, 2017

Herbal medications remain popular among patients with heart disease for their potential cardiovascular benefits, so pharmacists must be prepared to discuss these medications with this patient group, according to a review paper published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Researchers in this review paper looked at 42 herbal medications that have a possible indication for treating 1 or more cardiovascular condition, including hypertension, heart failure, coronary artery disease, dyslipidemia, thromboembolic disorders or peripheral artery disease. They then selected 10 of the most commonly used in cardiovascular medicine to discuss possible indications, biological and clinical data, and safety concerns.

The researchers concluded that because of the popularity of these medications and the potential for drug interactions or other safety concerns, clinicians should start a conversation around herbal medication use to effectively counsel their patients. Many patients don't volunteer information on their herbal medication use to their doctor because they do not perceive them as drugs. However, herbal medication use has been associated with poor adherence to conventional medications, which is a serious concern.

"Communicating with the patient is a crucial component of the process," Graziano Onder, MD, PhD, senior author of the review paper and an assistant professor in the department of geriatrics, neurosciences and orthopedics of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome said in a press release about the study. "The pros and cons of specifics herbal medications should be explained and their risk-benefit profile properly discussed."

Researchers said physician education is an important consideration as well, since the study of alternative medicine is not part of medical school curriculums in the United States. Obtaining the necessary knowledge to provide better care for patients around the use of herbal medications is solely up to the physician.


  1. Liperoti R Vetrano DL, Bernabei R, et al. Herbal Medications in Cardiovascular Medicine. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2017; doi: