Effexor, the brand name of the drug venlafaxine, treats depression, anxiety and panic disorders. It's available as a prescription medication only, and classified as a selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, or SSNRI. These drugs work to restore the balance of chemicals in the brain that have caused depression. Due to its mode of action, some herbs and compounds should be avoided while using venlafaxine. These herbs can interact with the drug, modifying its effects, which can result in adverse reactions or failure of the drug completely.
Sour Date Nut
In 2004, a report released in the American Journal of Psychiatry indicated that a 40 year old woman collapsed one hour after taking a prescribed dose of venlafaxine alongside a dose of sour date nut (Ziziphus jujube), given to her by a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner. The woman experienced nausea, severe dizziness and profuse sweating. Her heart rate increased to 80 beats per minute and her blood pressure sky rocketed within a half hour. All of her vital signs returned to normal within eight hours. She ceased use of the sour date nut, but continued taking venlafaxine without any adverse side effects. After this incident, doctors caution against the use of sour date nut alongside venlafaxine.
St. John's Wort
The University of Michigan indicates that St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) should be avoided while taking venlafaxine, but mentions that there are no current reports of a negative interaction with this particular drug. The alternative medicine community typically prescribes St. John's Wort for treating depression. Though scientists hypothesize that St. John's Wort works like most antidepressant medications available, studies are still conflicting, and the latest findings from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine indicate that St. John's Wort is "not a benign treatment," due to the number of incidents in which it has interacted with other drugs in negative ways. As a result, doctors caution strongly against using St. John's Wort in conjunction with venlafaxine.
Griffonia (Griffonia simplicifolia) contains a substance known as 5-Hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP. Though researchers are still a little mystified as to many of the aspects of this compound, they do know that 5-HTP is a "serotonin precursor," necessary in our brain for the proper neurotransmissions to occur. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, 5-HTP can help with mood swings, anxiety and depression. They also caution that 5-HTP can interfere with many other types of antidepressants including SSRIs, and Tricyclics. As such, doctors warn against taking griffonia seeds while taking venlafaxine.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: 5-HTP
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Possible Interactions with: 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
- Journal of Clinical Psychiatry; "St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) in major depression"; Shelton R.C.; 2009
Chelsea Rose began writing professionally in 2009. She has written veterinarian articles for VetInfo.com and private clients. Currently a full-time student, she is finishing an associate degree in preparation to major in international studies and receive a minor in Mandarin Chinese through Portland State University.