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Herbal Supplements

contributed by Emilly Mackler, Pharm.D.

Q: I have been taking herbal supplements for years and would like to continue my current regimen. I've heard that I can't continue them during cancer treatment. Is that true?

A: In many cases, it may be fine to continue the herbal supplements you are taking. However, some herbal supplements may interact with your cancer treatment -- particularly radiation therapy or chemotherapy -- by making the treatment either less effective or more toxic. We would like to review the supplements you take and help you determine which ones are safe to continue and if any should be held while you're receiving your treatment.

Q: Are there any herbal supplements that I should definitely avoid while receiving chemotherapy?

A: The herbal supplement St. John's wort interacts with the way many chemotherapy agents are eliminated through your body. In most cases, we do not recommend taking it while receiving chemotherapy.

Q: Who can I ask about herbal supplements and cancer treatment?

A: You should let your health-care provider know what supplements you are taking, so he or she can review them. In addition, you can schedule an appointment within our Symptom Management & Supportive Care Clinic to review your herbal and dietary supplements and how they may work with -- or against -- your cancer treatment.

Do you have a question for the pharmacist? Email us at

Learn more about supplements, nutrition and cancer

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Thrive Issue: 
Winter, 2011