Dear Dr. Foster,
My best friend's mother has broken out in scabs all over her body. She's taking blood thinners because of heart disease. Could this be a possible medication reaction? Also, are there any herbs that interact with blood thinners?
You have good reason to be worried, considering the quite severe side effects of this particularly dangerous medication. In my opinion, warfarin is one of the worst drugs to hit the market. Doctors are very familiar with its long list of adverse reactions and interactions with other medications. However, the most troubling aspect about this medication is that it does not combine well with herbs or even simple foods, either. This medication doesn't seem to combine well with ANYTHING. There are a number of things that your friend's mother could have consumed that may have reacted with this medication and caused either a bleeding episode or a clotting episode.
Warfarin has what medical doctors call a "narrow therapeutic window." What this means in plain English is that if the dose is the slightest bit too high or the slightest bit too low, then the drug does not work. Only within a narrow dosage range does the medication work in the body. Because of this, doctors must monitor the blood levels of this medication on a regular basis to make sure that it is neither too high or too low. If the levels are too high, then the patient could have a serious bleeding episode that could lead to death. If the levels are too low, then the patient could have a clotting episode that leads to a stroke, heart attack, or the loss of fingers, toes or other extremities.
(Taken from the Physicians Desk Reference 2002.)
Warfarin is contraindicated during pregnancy:
The drug passes through the placenta between mother and fetus and can cause death to the fetus by hemorrhage. Furthermore, the drug has caused severe birth defects when used during pregnancy. These defects include brain malformations, mental retardation, blindness, and deformed eyes. Other rare abnormalities include spina bifida, cranial nerve palsy, hydrocephalus, cardiac defects, congenital heart disease, polydactyly [too many fingers or toes], deformities of toes, cleft palate, cleft lip, microcephaly and many birth defects.
interacts with MANY medications: (Get ready - this is long)
This wide range of medications include simple medications such as antibiotics, sedatives, antidepressants, cancer chemo drugs, drugs for high cholesterol, antifungal medications, medications for ulcers and hiatal hernia, heart medications, antihistamines, estrogen-containing oral contraceptives, thyroid medications. Many of these medications are commonly used. Alcohol, aminoglutethimide, amobarbital, atorvastatin, azathioprine, butabarbital, butalbital, carbamazepine, chloral hydrate, chlordiazepoxide, chlorthalidone, cholestyramine, clozapine, corticotropin, cortisone, cyclophosphamide, dicloxacillin, ethchlorvynol, glutethimide, griseofulvin, haloperidol, meprobamate, 6-mercaptopurine, methimazole, moricizine hydrochloride, nafcillin, paraldehyde, pentobarbital, phenobarbital, phenytoin, prednisone, primidone, propylthiouracil, raloxifene, ranitidine, rifampin, secobarbital, spironolactone, sucralfate, and trazodone.
(Physician's Desk Reference, 56th edition, p. 1245)
See additional references
interacts with many herbs:
including garlic, red clover, ginkgo biloba, ginger. Other herbs that warfarin could react with: alfalfa, agrimony, aloe gel, angelica (dong quai), aniseed, arnica, asa foetida, aspen, black cohosh, black haw, bladder wrack, bogbean, boldo, capsicum, cassia, celery, chamomile (German and Roman), clove, dandelion, fenugreek, feverfew, German sarsaparilla, ginseng (Panax), goldenseal, horse chestnut, horseradish, licorice, meadowsweet, mistletoe, nettle, onion, parsley, passion flower, pau d'arco, policosanol, poplar, prickly ash (Northern), quassia, red clover, senega, sweet clover, sweet woodruff, tamarind, tonka beans, wild carrot, wild lettuce, willow, wintergreen, and yarrow.
(Physician's Desk Reference, 56th edition, p. 1246)
See additional references
even interacts with many foods, beverages, and vitamins:
including high dose vitamin C, alcoholic beverages, bromelain, onion, garlic, ginger, inositol nicotinate (a B vitamin), vitamin K, and foods high in vitamin K. Pharmacists have reported bleeding episodes in patients that resulted from something as simple as eating too much broccoli soup.
(Physician's Desk Reference, 56th edition, p. 1246)
See additional references
blood thinners available also have severe side effects:
Other prescription blood thinning medications available include Heparin which have many side effects: 1 out of 4 people taking Heparin develop a low platelet count (thrombocytopenia) which causes bleeding: nosebleeds, etc. This is called "Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia."
aspirin can have severe side effects:
This includes the so-called "just a baby aspirin," enteric coated aspirin, special buffered aspirin and all other forms of aspirin. The chemical name for aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid, also abbreviated as ASA. It is completely synthetic, being produced in chemical laboratories. One aspirin permanently damages platelets (the component of the blood responsible for clotting). It takes three days for the body to make more platelets. For this reason, the effects of aspirin last for three days. If aspirin is not buffered, the most common side effect is stomach irritation and bleeding ulcers. Bleeding ulcers may result in substantial blood loss requiring blood transfusion. (I know because this happened to my grandmother. She was taking enteric-coated baby aspirin every day for "heart health" and she ended up with a bleeding ulcer. One day, she vomited up an enormous amount of blood and had to be rushed to the hospital for a blood transfusion - and she felt fine until the day it happened, when everything went haywire)
For those unfortunate individuals who take aspirin - buffered or otherwise - on a daily basis over the long term, permanent kidney damage 51, 55, 81, 82 is the frequent result (renal papillary necrosis 52, 53, 54, interstitial nephritis 80, analgesic nephropathy 79, protein in the urine and permanent kidney failure). It has also been named as a cause of hepatitis. 89 Thousands of years of Chinese medicine tell us that kidney malfunction is associated with hearing loss. Well, then, it should be no surprise when something that is known to cause kidney damage also causes hearing loss. Aspirin can interact with the common antibiotic Gentamicin to cause hearing loss 70. It is associated with sensorineural hearing as well as other types of hearing loss 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78.
In those who have allergic tendencies, aspirin can cause or worsen asthma attacks 69, cause severe urticaria (hives) 62, 64, 65, anaphylactic shock 61, 66, 67, 69, and angioedema (severe life-threatening allergic reaction) 64.
Even low doses can inhibit platelet function leading to an increase in bleeding time, and this can adversely affect patients with bleeding disorders. In others, it may lead to bleeding episodes such as nosebleeds, bleeding into the brain 40, 41, 42, 43, blood in the urine 47, 50, gastrointestinal bleeding 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, etc. If taken right before childbirth, severe hemorrhaging can result. Aspirin use has also been associated with retinal bleeding 85, 86, 87, and macular degeneration. 84. Its use is known to increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke/bleeding in the brain. 90, 91, 92
Most people are familiar with the fact that children with the flu should not take aspirin since it can cause the deadly Reye's Syndrome. It has also been reported to cause pancreatitis, hepatitis and other gastrointestinal diseases.
An overdose of aspirin first causes ringing in the ears, then electrolyte imbalances followed by hyperthermia (fever) and acid-base disturbances of the blood which can be life-threatening. How people consider aspirin a harmless drug is beyond me.
Aspirin interacts negatively with the following medications: ACE Inhibitors, Acetazolamide, Heparin, Warfarin, Anticonvulsants (antiseizure medication), Beta blockers, Diuretics, Methotrexate, Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID's), Oral Hypoglycemics (diabetes medication), and Uricosuric agents (medications that treat gout).
Above information on side effects of and drug interactions with aspirin taken directly from Physician's Desk Reference, 56th Edition, p. 1715-1717)
Additional References on aspirin
Because safer alternatives are available, the existence of serious and life-threatening side effects of blood thinning medications and the many interactions with other medications as well as with herbs, vitamins and foods is one of the reasons why I rarely ever agree with the use of prescription blood thinning medications.
Some of the MANY alternatives:
1. Garlic: (allium sativa) Garlic is one of the most researched herbs in America. it has been found repeatedly to have a natural blood thinning effect that is safe and well-tolerated. It is available dried, encapsulated, as an oil, and as a tincture. Its activities are more potent when the garlic is raw. Three cloves of raw garlic per day can have a substantial effect on the functioning of the blood, and will work just as well as conventional blood thinning medications without the side effects.
2. Aged Garlic extract: Kyolic has on file numerous research studies proving the effectiveness of aged garlic extract in lowering blood cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, triglyceride levels, naturally thinning the blood and increasing the functioning of the immune system.
3. Onion: (allium cepa) is closely related to garlic. It has similar effects on the blood as garlic but a bit milder. It is available fresh, powdered and in Cayenne tincture form.
4: Ginger: (zingiber officinale) Ginger has been shown in research studies to inhibit platelet aggregation, reducing abnormal clotting of the blood and even lower elevated cholesterol and triglycerides Ginger in liquid tincture form.
5. Cayenne: Cayenne is a time-honored tradition for healing the blood, blood vessels, circulation and heart. It can do more to repair the heart and circulation than any medication. This is because the body uses the phytonutrients in cayenne like it uses food. Only nutrients can repair living tissue since they are incorporated into living cells as food. Chemicals cannot be incorporated into living tissue, nor would we want them to be since they are toxic. Cayenne is a great food to incorporate into the daily food plan, since, next to rosehips, it is the highest food source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin used by the body to produce collagen. This collagen eventually becomes part of blood vessel walls. Without healthy collagen, blood vessels harden and become diseased. This is atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis. This frequently results from defective vitamin C - deficient colllagen being incorporated into the blood vessels. Chickens fed a diet too low in copper develop atherosclerosis because copper is also requred in order to produce collagen, and without it, the blood vessels weaken and become diseased. Isolated copper supplements should not be taken since it is easy to take too high of a dose and become toxic, but the Essential Nutrients Formula accomplishes the same effect safely and naturally.
Cayenne is available in a powder or in the convenient liquid tincture form. I prefer the liquid over the powder since the powder may accidentally be inhaled and produce uncomfortable coughing or nasal burning. I also prefer the liquid over the encapsulated powdered cayenne because it is more easily accepted into the stomach. When capsules of powdered cayenne break open in the stomach, there can be lots of uncomfortable heartburn since the cayenne was not first tasted in the mouth. When the cayenne goes in first through the mouth, it stimulates digestive enzymes and allows the stomach time to get prepared for the cayenne. When taking cayenne as a daily tonic herb, make sure you start with small amounts at first and only increase the amount as tolerated. Cayenne is not suggested for those who have problems with colitis or other types of chronic diarrhea since it stimluates bowel movements. This can be a blessing for those who are constipated.
6. The Germ Blaster Formula contains garlic, onion, ginger and cayenne and has been shown clinically to have natural blood-thinning effects. The garlic in this formula has been aged, and is therefore easier on the stomach than raw garlic. The effects of this product alone are usually enough to thin the blood substantially. In fact, it works so well, it should not be used in combination with blood thinning medications or else the effect will be too strong.
7. The Healthy Heart Formula: consists of herbs specifically for healing the heart and blood vessels. Red clover has a blood thinning effect that is safe and natural, and no bleeding episodes have been reported with this herb. This formula also combines the blood thinning effects of cayenne with hawthorne berry for maximum benefits to the heart. It is particularly suitable for those who have just had a heart attack (in place of synthetic blood thinning medication) or for those wishing to avoid heart attacks in the future.
8. Liver Regeneration Program followed by Healthy Cholesterol Formula: this is a particularly good formula for those who have high cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fat that in excess causes the blood to thicken and to have a tendency to clot too much. The cause of this high cholesterol lies in the poor functioning of the liver. (This sluggish liver function does NOT show up on liver function tests taken by medical doctors) If you have high cholesterol, this means that your liver is not able to process the fats and cholesterol that you are eating. This is usually a combination of eating too much cholesterol and having a sluggish liver that cannot process the overload. Doing the Liver Regeneration Program helps begin the process of clearing the excess cholesterol out of the liver and bloodstream so that the blood naturally thins out to a normal level. The Healthy Cholesterol Formula may be needed for a while afterwards to continue strengthening and cleansing the liver.
9. The essential oil of helichrysum, ginger, marjoram or ylang ylang: Use only one drop of this oil at a time rubbed onto the bottoms of the feet or directly over the heart area.
10. Natural enzyme therapy: Bromelain is the crude extract from pineapple that is a natural enzyme. In Germany, it is revered for its many healing effects including its antiedematous (reduces swelling), antiinflammatory, antithrombotic (stops abnormal blood clotting) and fibrinolytic activities (dissolves scar tissue and blood clots). High doses of enzymes are used in many natural healing protocols as a mainstay of alternative and complementary cancer therapies as well as for chronic pain. The Youthful Circulation Formula contains bromelain as well as papain and nattokinase. Nattokinase has been heavily researched as a supplement in Asia. They find there that it acts as a natural clot-buster. I find that the Youthful Circulation has probably the most powerful blood thinning effect.
11. Switch to a plant-based diet: For high cholesterol, medical doctors usually recommend what's called the Step One Diet. This is a diet that is a bit lower in cholesterol than the standard American diet. If this diet fails to lower cholesterol, then the next recommendation is the Step Two Diet. This still includes meat, but is a bit lower in cholesterol. If this fails, then the patient is put on cholesterol-lowering medications. I don't bother talking about the Step One and Step Two Diets because I have NEVER seen or heard of them actually working. The usual scenario is that the person is put on cholesterol-lowering medications. This pushes the cholesterol number down a bit lower in about 50% of cases.
However, cholesterol-lowering medications may not protect against heart attack or stroke. People continue to have heart attacks and strokes despite a normal cholesterol level. Yet, what we DO know is that heart attacks, strokes and high cholesterol are exceedingly rare among vegans - those who do not consume meat, fowl, fish, dairy products or eggs. Medical doctors do not suggest this diet since they are not taught to. Yet Dean Ornish's Program for reversing heart disease uses a diet very similar to this with outstanding results. His program results in lower blood pressure readings, lower cholesterol readings and reversal of coronary artery disease so that coronary bypass surgery is no longer needed.
12. Use a Green formula containing algae. A green formula contains greens such as spirulina, chlorella, alfalfa, wheat grass, barley grass, kamut, oat grass, Dunaliella, etc. There are many green formulas available in your local health food store. The formula I use is called Essential Nutrients. In addition to supplying vitamin C and bioflavonoids necessary for building healthy blood vessels, it also supplies many essential trace minerals such as copper and essential amino acids. Unhealthy blood vessel walls are prone to developing atherosclerosis with its devastating consequences including heart attack, stroke and blood clots.
13. Chinese medicine: many Chinese herbs help increase circulation and clean out fatty debris from the blood vessels. Check with your Chinese practitioner to see which of these herbs will work best for your particular body type and situation. If you choose Chinese herbs for thinning the blood, don't also take Western herbs to thin the blood.
14: Caution: do not discontinue any heart medications without the approval of your doctor. Many if not most heart medications must be tapered off gradually. If stopped suddenly, they may cause severe withdrawal symptoms. It is imperative that you work with your doctor when taking heart medications. I highly discourage the use of conventional blood-thinning medications, but if taking them, it is possible to get off of them. To do this requires a slow gradual addition of blood thinning remedies and a gradual tapering of the medication. Even something as simple as a dietary change can result in bleeding episodes in those who are taking these synthetic medications. This is not an easy process, and it requires the cooperation of a medical doctor who is open to it, therefore, it is highly recommended to never get on these synthetic blood-thinning medications to start with.
Only one remedy should be tried at a time. If the desired effect
is not achieved, then other remedies can be added until the desired
blood thinning effects are achieved. An exception is the Essential
Nutrients or Earth's Nutrition Formula which can be combined with any remedy. I do not recommend fish oil because it comes from fish livers. Researchers have repeatedly tested fish livers and found them to be toxic with mercury, arsenic and polychlorobiphenyls (PCB's). The FDA advises pregnant to avoid eating fish due to all of the contaminants, therefore why would fish oil be any different? Fish oil does not clean deposits from the walls of the arteries, it simply thins the blood, and some studies show that it thins the blood too much which can cause small strokes with microhemorrhages into the brain. We need to remember that the blood is thick because of accumulated fats, cholesterol and other toxins in the bloodstream. Herbal cleansing programs as well as dietary changes remove these deposits, but fish oil does not do this.
If at first you don't succeed with the abovementioned suggestions, then keep trying until you do. Don't give up if one remedy doesn't do the job - just keep adding on additional remedies. It also may take two to six months for the arteries to clear themselves out completely of the cholesterol deposits and the blood to thin, so this process requires a a bit of patience. However, the results are long-lasting and well worth it. These results cannot be achieved by those who are following conventional medical advice only. For those who adopt a primarily vegan diet, the results are usually apparent after one month and sometimes two months. Every once in a while I run into a strict vegetarian who has high cholesterol. This is quite rare. In these cases, the problem was due to liver toxicity. This is a problem that can be reversed with the Liver Regeneration Program.
Very sincerely yours
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