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Epilepsy Behav. 2001 Dec;2(6):524-532.

Herbal Medicines and Epilepsy: The Potential for Benefit and Adverse Effects.


The widespread availability and use of herbal medicines raise the potential for adverse effects in the epilepsy population. Herbal sedatives (kava, valerian, chamomile, passionflower) may potentiate the effects of antiepileptic medications, increasing their sedative and cognitive effects. Despite some antiseizure effects in animal models, they should not be used in place of standard seizure medications because efficacy has not been established. Anecdotal, uncontrolled observations suggest that herbal stimulants containing ephedrine (ephedra or ma huang) and caffeine (cocoa, coffee, tea, maté, guarana, cola or kola) can exacerbate seizures in people with epilepsy, especially when taken in combination. Ginkgo and ginseng may also exacerbate seizures although the evidence for this is similarly anecdotal and uncertain. St. John's wort has the potential to alter medication pharmacokinetics and the seizure threshold. The essential oils of many plants contain epileptogenic compounds. There is mixed evidence for evening primrose and borage lowering the seizure threshold. Education of both health care providers and patients is the best way to avoid unintentional and unnecessary adverse reactions to herbal medicines.


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