It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to [email protected] and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.

Please note that the Ask Dr. Gourmet feature is restricted to questions regarding food and nutrition. Due to the many questions we receive, not all questions may be answered. For more specific questions about your individual health, please contact your doctor. About Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy



Ask Dr. Gourmet

What herbs can I take instead of Brilanta and aspirin?

I was just diagnosed with one 90% artery blockage and required a stent. I try to avoid medication, and hope to improve so I can get off Brilanta & 81mg Aspirin. I don't know who to seek professional help from. I am also concerned about stomach damage from the aspirin. I am nervously playing around with herbs in order to feel healthy again. Pharmacists don't have all of the interaction information. Any warranted suggestions which won't interfere with the medications are appreciated.

Dr. Gourmet Says...

tablets spilling out of a medication bottle

I believe that this is a case where many don't understand the power and importance of how well pharmaceuticals and medications can help them.

Dr. Gourmet has not ever advocated for people stopping their medications, and with a 90% blockage I would never lead one of my patients to believe that they would be able to avoid taking such medications. There is clear proof that in patients who have heart disease to the extent you do that the medications prevent heart attack.

That said, changing your diet and following a Mediterranean diet will also have a profound impact on how well the medications work. There is clear research to show taking medication for heart disease combined with diet is synergistic: by doing both, taking prescribed medication + following a Mediterranean-style diet, you will have even better results than doing either alone put together: that is, instead of 1 + 1 = 2, in this case 1 + 1 equals about 2.6. You can start to build your understanding of Mediterranean diet here.

The reason that your pharmacist does not have information about herbs and other supplements is because herbs and supplements are very poorly studied. Make no mistake, however: whether health care professionals might understand any drug-herb interaction or not, there has never been evidence that herbs are going to help treat atherosclerosis.

The herb and supplement industry is very poorly regulated, and in my opinion the companies that sell supplements and make claims about their ability to treat your atherosclerosis do not care about you and are deliberately lying to you for the sole purpose of making a profit, making you poorer, and possibly contributing to the worsening of your health.

Because they are only interested in making money and are not required by law to do so, they have no interest in putting their products through quality research protocols. Even when you purchase a supplement you have no guarantee that the product contains what the label says it does.

Here are a few examples:

CBS News: Herbal supplements filled with fake ingredients, investigators find
FTC (Federal Trade Commission Press Release): FTC, New York State Charge the Marketers of Prevagen With Making Deceptive Memory, Cognitive Improvement Claims
NPR: New York Attorney General Targets Mislabeled Herbal Supplements

There are literally thousands of these such reports showing how little this industry cares about your health.

As an aside, we often have supplement manufacturers that advertise on the website. I urge you to not look at or click through those ads. Our advertising is managed as an open auction, mostly by Google, and we are constantly working to block these supplement ads, but they just pop up with another junk product. Maybe they will read this and stop spamming our readers with their lies. In the mean time, we will keep working on blocking them.

The supplement industry, for the most part, is a scam, pure and simple, and you should not believe their manufacturers or purchase their products.

Yes, aspirin can cause stomach ulcers. Physicians know this and you should make certain that you speak with your doctor about any signs of increase in stomach pain, heartburn, or acid reflux. Please understand that the risk of stomach ulcer is far outweighed by the profound benefit that the aspirin can have in preventing heart attack. You should also be discussing taking a statin with your doctor. While I understand your not wanting to take medication, the benefit of medication on the degree of blockage you have had is profound.

Eat great food that happens to be great for you. Work with your doctor and follow their recommendations. Have him or her help you with a sensible and graded exercise program. Get great sleep and work to reduce your stress level. These are the proven treatments for heart disease, not herbs and supplements sold by quacks who do not have your best interests at heart.

To answer your question directly, there are no suggestions for you to use herbs or supplements. None.

Timothy S. Harlan MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet