15 Jan

OTC/Herbal Awareness

OTC/Herbal Awareness

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications and herbal supplements can be very beneficial in treating mild symptoms and nutritional deficiencies. However, they can also be harmful if used carelessly or without supervision. While prescription medications are highly regulated by the FDA, herbal supplements do not need to follow the same set of rules. This means their safety hasn’t been established and evaluated.



The convienence of stopping at your local pharmacy and picking up an OTC or herbal product has made some common health issues a little easier to handle on your own. For example, when you feel an oncoming headache, you may take Excedrin® or Tylenol®. When you start to feel  cold symptoms, you may grab a bag of cough drops or take some Nyquil®. While it may be easy and convenient to get your own medications without speaking with the pharmacist or your health care provider, MANY of these medications have negative side effects that may not be openly advertised and can be dangerous as a result.

Some examples of common OTC/herbal supplements are: 

Drug Name            

Drug Use   Potentially Dangerous Side Effects             
Tylenol Pain, fever              

Can lead to liver isues

Benadryl (Diphenhydramine)  Allergies, sleep Can lead to falls and injuries
Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) Congestion Raises blood pressure
Motrin (Ibuprofen) Pain, inflammation  Can lead to kidney or stomach injury
St. John's Wort Depression Many interactions with other medications
Glucosamine/Chondroitin Bone & joint health Can be allergic to it without knowing
Metamucil/Fiber Supplements  Digestive health Can mask a more serious digestive issue
Valerian Anxiety, Insomnia Many interactions and fall risks


Aside from the side effects, these medications can also pose a serious risk when taken in combination with your prescription medications or even in combination with one another!

When in doubt, you should ask your pharmacist or doctor about the risks and benefits of starting an OTC or herbal supplement.


For more information, visit: https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/UnderstandingOver-the-CounterMedicines/default.htm


By: Mitchell Kincaid and Anthony Walrath, PharmD Candidates