Are You Compromising Your Vegetarianism or Veganism When You Take Your Medicines?

Most vegetarians and vegans are pretty strict when it comes to their foods and drinks, making sure that the foods that they eat are free from animal content. However, they may not be aware that the drugs they take may not be strictly vegetarian or vegan. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you should make sure that the medicines that you require meet your exacting standards.

According to a study published in the BMJ Postgraduate Medical Journal, featuring 500 people, 43.2 percent said they “would prefer not to take animal product-containing medication, even if no alternative were available.” Only 10 percent of people polled said that they would not mind taking medicines that contained any kind of animal product if an alternative was not available. The rest would prefer to take vegan or vegetarian alternatives.

Do you know if the drugs you take are vegan?

Most people simply pop their pills and liquids without giving a thought to their origins. Even if you are a vegetarian, you probably do not give much thought to your medicines. Vegans are even stricter since they even avoid dairy products. Among the commonest animal products used in various drugs are:

• Gelatin – this used in the exterior of capsules and is also used to make liquid medicines thicker.

• Carmine – this is a red color or pink that is used in many products. It usually comes from cochineal insects that are crushed for their color. It is also known as natural red 4 on the label.

• Heparin – this important blood thinner is got from the lungs of cows and the intestines of pings.

• Insulin – commonly used by diabetics, it may be got from the pancreas of hogs, though sometimes you do get synthetic insulin (and you can ask for the synthetic version).

• Glycerin – this is made from cow or pig fat but you can also get vegetarian alternatives from seaweed.

• Lanolin – found in many skin products, injectables and eye drops, this is got from the oil gland of sheep. You may be able to get lanolin derived from plant oils.

• Premarin – this is estrogen that is derived from horse urine and often advised by gynecologists. You can get synthetic versions of this product on prescription.

• Magnesium stearate – this is used as an anti-caking agent. Stearic acid is often got from cows, though it may be possible to source it from plant products like coconut oil, cocoa butter and others.

• Lactose – this is usually got from milk from mammals and it can be substituted with plant milk derivatives.

• Vaccines – almost all vaccines are derived from animal products.

Is there anything you can do about this?

You may be able to get alternatives for some of the medicines, but these will most likely be more expensive. Some of them may not be covered by insurance and you would have to check on that. The first thing to do is to check with your doctor who prescribes the drugs or injections and ask whether he can prescribe an alternative instead. If you already have a prescription and are not sure, you can ask your friendly pharmacist.

Sometimes you simply have no choice because all medicines are not created equal. The animal product may be safer or more effective. Your doctor may tell you about the possible efficacy of vegan products and whether or not he would advise them. As far as life threatening situations are concerned, you would probably prefer to be more safe than sorry. Vaccines are another story – you need vaccines to be protected against many illnesses and you cannot refuse to take them because you are vegetarian or vegan.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Liquid Medicines Over Tablets And Pills?

Every person needs to take medicine at some point in their life and the normal format usually comes in the form of a pill or a capsule. Patients who find it difficult to take medication, like very young patients or older patients are given liquid forms of the medication. Most people are aware of the liquid OTC analgesic formulations for babies and toddlers, as well as the liquid cold and flu remedies marketed for adults, but few realize that it is possible to obtain alternative formulations for many prescription drugs when the patient has trouble swallowing pills. As always, when taking any medications, whether they are sold by prescription or over the counter, care must be taken to make sure that there will not be any adverse side effects when two or more medications are taken concurrently. You always need to tell your physician and pharmacist about any medicines you are currently taking.

Normally, individuals who take their medications in the form of pills or capsules do not have any difficulties in swallowing the medicine. These may come in several different sizes that range from fairly small to others that are rather big. Sometimes patients have trouble swallowing because of a condition called dysphagia. This condition may develop when one is young and persist throughout life, or it may develop later in life, brought on by an illness or condition that impacts the ability to swallow. When this happens, the best thing to do is to consult with the physician or pharmacist to find out if the prescribed medication comes in a different form, such as a liquid, that would be easier to swallow. There is a lengthy formulation and development process that drugs in a liquid formulation must go through prior to being prescribed for utilization by patients. This is because it is essential that the drug is evenly dispersed throughout the formulation. Liquid formulas frequently state on the label that the bottle needs to be shaken up before ingesting the medicine in order to ensure that the medication is evenly distributed and has not settled at the bottom of the bottle.

It is necessary for the design of liquid formulations to be a bit different than that of tablets so that the patient receives the proper amount of medication without imbibing large quantities of liquids. In addition, it must include an additive that masks the taste of the drug, which is frequently quite bitter and foul tasting. Normally, the average dose is not more than 5 millilitres for children, but adults usually need to take the medicine in a higher dosage. Normally the medication comes as a syrup, mixture or solution and includes sweeteners and flavouring agents to disguise the drug’s taste. Frequently fluids with a thicker viscosity are utilized so that they are not as likely to be spilled or inhaled in error. Additionally, it might have other ingredients that help the drug to stay in the liquid, which will ensure that the drug is going to be effective.

A special measuring spoon comes with liquid medications to ensure that the proper dosage is administered every time. A recent study revealed that when the special measuring spoon was not utilized, the dosage size could vary greatly due to the fact that teaspoons are not made in standard sizes. If you learn that you cannot easily use the spoon that is provided to you, ask your pharmacist for a special medicine cup or an oral syringe so that you will be able to measure the proper dosage correctly.

There are a few basic steps to follow when taking liquid medicine:

1. Be sure that you are aware of the dose you will need to consume.

2. Measure the dosage into the spoon, cup or syringe with care

3. Once the dose has been administered, clean the dispenser thoroughly so that it will be ready when the time comes for the next dose to be administered.

4. Be sure to store the bottle properly; some drugs, like antibiotics, may need to be refrigerated.

A medicine dispenser can be greatly beneficial for any medication that needs to be taken long term. These pumps are designed to fit into the medicine bottle and dispense a specific amount with each pump. These devices will make it easier to provide a correct quantity of a liquid medication when it is administered, especially at night when the lighting may be poor and in situations where dexterity or vision problems are present. Any issues should be discussed with your pharmacist or doctor.

Proper storage of medication is essential and any instructions with regard to the dosage and timing of administration must be followed exactly. In addition, any old medication should be taken to a pharmacy for proper disposal.

Goldenseal – Drug Interactions, Side Effects and Precautions of Use-Herbal Medicines

Taxonomic Class


Common Trade Names

Alvita, Dandelion Goldenseal, Golden Seal Extract, Golden Seal Extract 4:1, Golden Seal Glycerin Extract, Golden Seal Power, Golden Seal Root, Nu Veg Golden Seal Herb, Nu Veg Golden Seal Root

Common Forms

Capsules, tablets: 250 mg, 350 mg, 400 mg, 404 mg, 470 mg, 500 mg, 535 mg, 540 mg

Also available as dried ground root powder, ethanol and water extracts, teas, and tinctures.


The rhizome (root stock) of Hydrastis canadensis is commonly used to manufacture the dosage forms. The main chemical components are the alkaloids hydrastine and berberine. Also present are hydrastinine, canadine, berberastine, candaline, canadaline, chlorogenic acid, carbohydrates, fatty acids, volatile oil, resin, and meconin.


Goldenseal is claimed to have antihemorrhagic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, laxative, and oxytocic properties. The pharmacologic properties are attributed to berberine and hydrastine, and scientific studies have usually focused on these alkaloids rather than on the herb itself.

An alkaloid component of goldenseal was reported to inhibit muscle contractions in rodent smooth muscle, whereas others have shown an oxytocic effect. Goldenseal extracts reduce hyperphagia and polydipsia associated with streptozocin-induced diabetes in mice.

Berberine was found to decrease the anticoagulant effect of heparin in laboratory tests of heparinated animal and human blood and to act as a cardiac stimulant (at lower doses), increase coronary perfusion, and inhibit cardiac activity (at higher doses) in animals. Antipyretic activity (greater than aspirin) and anthelmintic, antihistaminic, antimicrobial, anti muscarinic, antitumorigenic, and hypotensive effects have also been documented for berberine in animal and laboratory models.

Hydrastinine causes vasoconstriction and can produce significant changes in blood pressure.

Reported Uses

Claims for goldenseal include use for anorexia, cancer, conjunctivitis, dysmenorrhea, eczema, gastritis, GI disorders, mouth ulcers, otorrhea, peptic ulcer disease, postpartum hemorrhage, pruritus, tinnitus, and tuberculosis and as an anti-inflammatory, a diuretic, a laxative, and a wound antiseptic. There are few, if any, clinical trial data available to support these claims.

Goldenseal was found to be less effective than ergot alkaloids when used for postpartum hemorrhage in humans. Berberine has been shown to shorten the duration of acute Vibrio cholera diarrhea and diarrhea caused by some species of Giardia, Salmonella, and Shigella and some Enterobactereciae. Clinical studies in patients with hepatic cirrhosis have shown that berberine may correct some laboratory abnormalities and improve biliary secretion and function.


Dried rhizome: 0.5 to 1 g P.O. t.i.d.

Ethanol and water extract: 250 mg P.O. t.i.d.

Adverse Reactions

CNS: CNS depression, paralysis (with high doses), paresthesias, seizures.

CV: asystole, bradycardia, heart block.

EENT: mouth ulcers.

GI: abdominal cramps and pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting.

Respiratory: respiratory depression (with high doses).

Skin: contact dermatitis.


Anticoagulants: Beneficial effects of therapeutic anticoagulants may be offset. Avoid administration with goldenseal.

Antihypertensives: Goldenseal or its extracts may interfere with or increase hypotensive effects. Do not use together.

Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, digoxin: May increase or interfere with cardiac effects of these drugs. Do not use together.

CNS depressants (alcoho benzodiazepines): May increase sedative effects. Avoid administration with goldenseal.

Contraindications And Precautions

Goldenseal is contraindicated in patients with CV disease, particularly arrhythmias, heart failure, or hypertension, and in pregnant patients.

Special Considerations

Alert Death can result from the ingestion of large alkaloid doses. Symptoms of overdose include depression, exaggerated reflexes, GI upset, nervousness, and seizures that progress to respiratory paralysis and CV collapse.

Monitor for unusual symptoms.

Monitor for signs of vitamin B deficiency (angular stomatitis, cheilosis, glossitis, infertility, megaloblastic anemia, peripheral neuropathy, seborrheic dermatitis, and seizures).

Caution the patient to avoid hazardous activities until CNS effects of goldenseal are known.

Instruct the patient not to consume goldenseal because of its potential to cause toxicity.

Points of Interest

Chronic use of goldenseal has been reported to decrease the absorption of vitamin B and thereby promote its deficiency.

Tolerance to the herb’s pharmacologic effects is thought to develop after only a few weeks of chronic use.

Berberine is also a component of barberry (Berberis vulgaris).

Goldenseal extracts have been a component in sterile eyewashes for many years without supporting evidence for their inclusion. Also, the extracts or their components have been listed in the national pharmacopoeias of several countries.

Goldenseal has been inappropriately used to mask the appearance of illicit drugs on urine drug screens in humans and race horses. This information is false and originates from a fictional literary work that depicts the plant to be useful for hiding opioid ingestion.

Goldenseal has been used as a dye. The rhizome is bright yellow and popular for staining many fabrics and materials.

According to a survey inside a New York City emergency department, goldenseal tea is among the three most commonly cited herbal preparations consumed by patients .


The pharmacologic effects of goldenseal have not been adequately studied. Because the risk of toxicity appears excessive for this plant, even some advocacy texts do not support its use for any disorder. Goldenseal and its alkaloids possess some promising pharmacologic properties; additional comprehensive, controlled studies in animals are needed before progressing to human studies.