Lexapro, or escitalopram, is a drug classified as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI. It is an antidepressant medication used to treat brain chemical imbalances that result in depression and anxiety. Herbs that are contraindicated for Lexapro and similar medications in this class generally work in the same manner as the drug. Discuss all options and herbal supplements with a health professional before attempting to self-medicate any condition.
St. John's Wort
St. John's wort, or Hypericum perforatum, is a weed that originated in Europe and is now grown abundantly across North America. It has traditionally been used for medicinal purposes in the treatment of inflammatory disease, back pain, edema and depression. Drugs.com reports that while St. John's wort is considered safe for most users, individuals taking prescription psychotropic drugs could develop a serious condition known as serotonin syndrome and similar problems in the central nervous system. Serotonin syndrome includes drastic behavioral changes, hot flashes, blood pressure fluctuations and rapid heart rate and could lead to coma.
5-HTP, or 5-hydroxytryptophan, is partially manufactured in the human body but also is gained from eating a diet that includes meat, poultry, dairy products, nuts, seeds, fish and soy products. As an herbal preparation that can be purchased in most grocery stores, the product is a natural substitute originating from the African Griffonia simplicifolia plant. This formula works by converting tryptophan to 5-HTP, which then increases serotonin levels in the brain. Based on its ability to increase serotonin levels, the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that 5-HTP would likely interact with SSRIs such as Lexapro.
Vitamin B-6, or pyridoxine, works by aiding in the metabolism of amino acids like tryptophan. Remember that tryptophan converts to 5-HTP in the brain and then serotonin. In the same manner, a complex B vitamin with extra B-6 or B-6 alone can interact with prescription SSRIs. According to the Integrative Medical Arts Group, people with a deficiency in B-6 or tryptophan may benefit from a supplement, even if they are taking a drug like Lexapro. Before attempting to correct for a deficiency, however, the doctor will usually request blood tests. This will help her decide on a dose that will not increase serotonin to a dangerous level or interrupt metabolism.
Yohimbe, or Pausinystalia yohimbe, is a tree native to West Africa. It works as an alkaloid alpha-2 adrenergic receptor that can stimulate the central nervous system. Yohimbe is traditionally used in the alternative treatment of erectile dysfunction, impotence, hypotension and to reverse a clonidine overdose. Salisbury University's "A Nurse's Guide to Herbal Remedies" states that possible interactions could occur between yohimbe and any mood-altering or antidepressant medications, such as Lexapro. This is due in part to its ability to release norepinephrine, a brain chemical and hormone, that can result in cancellation of other drugs and exacerbated psychiatric symptoms.