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Drug Metabol Drug Interact. 2011;26(2):53-63. doi: 10.1515/DMDI.2011.011. Epub 2011 Jul 15.

Drug interactions in African herbal remedies.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa.


Herbal usage remains popular as an alternative or complementary form of treatment, especially in Africa. However, the misconception that herbal remedies are safe due to their "natural" origins jeopardizes human safety, as many different interactions can occur with concomitant use with other pharmaceuticals on top of potential inherent toxicity. Cytochrome P450 enzymes are highly polymorphic, and pose a problem for pharmaceutical drug tailoring to meet an individual's specific metabolic activity. The influence of herbal remedies further complicates this. The plants included in this review have been mainly researched for determining their effect on cytochrome P450 enzymes and P-glycoprotein drug transporters. Usage of herbal remedies, such as Hypoxis hemerocallidea, Sutherlandia frutescens and Harpagophytum procumbensis popular in Africa. The literature suggests that there is a potential for drug-herb interactions, which could occur through alterations in metabolism and transportation of drugs. Research has primarily been conducted in vitro, whereas in vivo data are lacking. Research concerning the effect of African herbals on drug metabolism should also be approached, as specific plants are especially popular in conjunction with certain treatments. Although these interactions can be beneficial, the harm they pose is just as great.

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