Why should I tell my doctor about alternative medicines?

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
For good care you need to tell your doctor about all the alternative medicine practices you are doing. It is especially important that you let your doctor know which herbal remedies you are taking. Often times there may be interactions with regular medications. For example St. Johns Wort, which is often used for depression can interfere with birth control pills and with medications that prevent organ rejection in those who have had transplants.
In addition, supplements such as fish oil need to be stopped prior to surgery to prevent excessive bleeding. If you are considering other therapies, it is also important to have a discussion and include your doctor as a partner in your care.
 
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
It's vital that you tell your doctor about the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments you're using. We know from research that about three of four patients are using some form of alternative medicine right now, whether it's nightly prayer or gulping the herb yohimbe in hopes of better bedroom sessions. But how many patients tell us that they're using alternative medicines? Fewer than one in five. That rankles us, because...
  1. We're in the healing business and detest being kept in the dark in case you've found a great thing.
  2. We could send you home with a prescription that could send you to the morgue.
So tell your doctor! Sure, you may not feel that it's critical to call me on a Saturday and say, "Doc, I forgot to mention that I say five Hail Mary's every night" (though we'd actually appreciate knowing that for academic sake, since prayer is being clinically studied). We're chiefly concerned with anything you swallow, inject, absorb, or undergo that has a physical component to it, obviously.

But we understand your reluctance to tell us; most patients think we'll just scoff at an alternative treatment, even if we don't know a thing about it. Those patients are sometimes right, if they're seeing one of the more rigid doctors with a dusty diploma. Other physicians will react with great interest, they'd find.
YOU: The Smart Patient: An Insider's Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment

More About this Book

YOU: The Smart Patient: An Insider's Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment

Everyone needs to become a smart patient. In fact, in the worst cases, your life may even depend on it. Number one bestselling authors and doctors Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz have written this...

Continue Learning about Alternative Medicine

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.