Drug Information

Intro from Oral

Acyclovir is an antiviral drug used to treat shingles, genital herpes, and chickenpox.

Intro from Topical

Acyclovir is an antiviral drug applied to the skin to treat the first outbreaks of genital herpes as well as herpes infections in people with poor immune systems. Topical application of acyclovir speeds up the healing process and the duration of pain.

Common brand names:

Zovirax

Summary of Interactions with Vitamins, Herbs, & Foods

Types of interactions: Beneficial Adverse Check

Replenish Depleted Nutrients

  • Vitamin B12

    Neomycin can decrease absorption or increase elimination of many nutrients, including calcium, carbohydrates, beta-carotene, fats, folic acid, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and vitamin K.1 , 2 Surgery preparation with oral neomycin is unlikely to lead to deficiencies. It makes sense for people taking neomycin for more than a few days to also take a multivitamin-mineral supplement.

  • Vitamin K

    Several cases of excessive bleeding have been reported in people who take antibiotics.3 , 4 , 5 , 6 This side effect may be the result of reduced vitamin K activity and/or reduced vitamin K production by bacteria in the colon. One study showed that people who had taken broad-spectrum antibiotics had lower liver concentrations of vitamin K2 (menaquinone), though vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) levels remained normal.7 Several antibiotics appear to exert a strong effect on vitamin K activity, while others may not have any effect. Therefore, one should refer to a specific antibiotic for information on whether it interacts with vitamin K. Doctors of natural medicine sometimes recommend vitamin K supplementation to people taking antibiotics. Additional research is needed to determine whether the amount of vitamin K1 found in some multivitamins is sufficient to prevent antibiotic-induced bleeding. Moreover, most multivitamins do not contain vitamin K.

Reduce Side Effects

  • Probiotics

    A common side effect of antibiotics is diarrhea, which may be caused by the elimination of beneficial bacteria normally found in the colon. Controlled studies have shown that taking probiotic microorganisms—such as Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, or Saccharomyces boulardii—helps prevent antibiotic-induced diarrhea.8

    The diarrhea experienced by some people who take antibiotics also might be due to an overgrowth of the bacterium Clostridium difficile, which causes a disease known as pseudomembranous colitis. Controlled studies have shown that supplementation with harmless yeast—such as Saccharomyces boulardii 9 or Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker’s or brewer’s yeast)10—helps prevent recurrence of this infection.

    Treatment with antibiotics also commonly leads to an overgrowth of yeast (Candida albicans) in the vagina (candida vaginitis) and the intestines (sometimes referred to as “dysbiosis”). Controlled studies have shown that Lactobacillus acidophilus might prevent candida vaginitis.11

Support Medicine

  • Probiotics
    In one study, taking 500 mg of Saccharomyces boulardii twice daily enhanced the effectiveness of the antibiotic vancomycin in preventing recurrent clostridium infection.12 Therefore, people taking antibiotics who later develop diarrhea might benefit from supplementing with saccharomyces organisms.
  • Citrus Root Bark

    The alkaloid citrusinine-1 from the root bark of citrus plants has been shown to enhance the antiviral activity of acyclovir.13 Further research is needed to determine whether taking citrus root bark would increase the effectiveness of acyclovir in humans.

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Cloves

    Animal studies have shown that other herbs, including Geum japonicum, Rhus javanica, Syzygium aromaticum, and Terminalia chebula enhance the antiviral activity of acyclovir.14 Controlled human studies are needed to determine whether taking these herbs would increase the effectiveness of acyclovir in humans.

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Flavonoids

    The flavonoids quercetin, quercitrin, and apigenin enhanced the antiviral activity of acyclovir in test tube studies.15 Controlled research is needed to determine whether taking quercetin or other flavonoid supplements would increase the effectiveness of acyclovir in humans.

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Geum japonicum

    Animal studies have shown that other herbs, including Geum japonicum, Rhus javanica, Syzygium aromaticum, and Terminalia chebula enhance the antiviral activity of acyclovir.16 Controlled human studies are needed to determine whether taking these herbs would increase the effectiveness of acyclovir in humans.

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Rhus javanica

    Animal studies have shown that other herbs, including Geum japonicum, Rhus javanica, Syzygium aromaticum, and Terminalia chebula enhance the antiviral activity of acyclovir.17 Controlled human studies are needed to determine whether taking these herbs would increase the effectiveness of acyclovir in humans.

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Terminalia chebula

    Animal studies have shown that other herbs, including Geum japonicum, Rhus javanica, Syzygium aromaticum, and Terminalia chebula enhance the antiviral activity of acyclovir.18 Controlled human studies are needed to determine whether taking these herbs would increase the effectiveness of acyclovir in humans.

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Tripterygium wilfordii

    Test tube studies show that triptofordin C-2 increases the antiviral activity of acyclovir against the herpes virus.19 Controlled human research is needed to determine whether taking tripterygium would increase the effectiveness of acyclovir in humans.

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.

Reduces Effectiveness

  • Khat

    Khat (Catha edulis) is an herb found in East Africa and Yemen that has recently been imported into the United States. Studies have shown that chewing khat significantly reduces the absorption of ampicillin,20 which might reduce the effectiveness of the antibiotic. Therefore, people taking ampicillin should avoid herbal products that contain khat.

Potential Negative Interaction

  • none

Explanation Required 

  • none

The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

References

1. Roe DA. Drug-Induced Nutritional Deficiencies, 2d ed. Westport, CT: Avi Publishing, 1985, 157-8 [review].

2. Holt GA. Food & Drug Interactions. Chicago: Precept Press,1998, 183.

3. Suzuki K, Fukushima T, Meguro K, et al. Intracranial hemorrhage in an infant owing to vitamin K deficiency despite prophylaxis. Childs Nerv Syst 1999;15:292-4.

4. Huilgol VR, Markus SL, Vakil NB. Antibiotic-induced iatrogenic hemobilia. Am J Gastroenterol 1997;92:706-7.

5. Bandrowsky T, Vorono AA, Borris TJ, Marcantoni HW. Amoxicllin-related postextraction bleeding in an anticoagulated patient with tranexamic acid rinses. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod 1996;82:610-2.

6. Kaiser CW, McAuliffe JD, Barth RJ, Lynch JA. Hypoprothrombinemia and hemorrhage in a surgical patient treated with cefotetan. Arch Surg 1991;126:524-5.

7. Conly J, Stein K. Reduction of vitamin K2 concentration in human liver associated with the use of broad spectrum antimicrobials. Clin Invest Med 1994;17:531-9.

8. Elmer GW, Surawicz CM, McFarland LV. Biotherapeutic agents. A neglected modality for the treatment and prevention of selected intestinal and vaginal infections. JAMA 1996;275:870-6 [review].

9. Elmer GW, Surawicz CM, McFarland LV. Biotherapeutic agents. A neglected modality for the treatment and prevention of selected intestinal and vaginal infections. JAMA 1996;275:870-6 [review].

10. Schellenberg D, Bonington A, Champion CM, et al. Treatment of Clostridium difficile diarrhoea with brewer's yeast. Lancet 1994;343:171-2.

11. Elmer GW, Surawicz CM, McFarland LV. Biotherapeutic agents. A neglected modality for the treatment and prevention of selected intestinal and vaginal infections. JAMA 1996;275:870-6 [review].

12. Surawicz CM, Elmer GW, Speelman P, et al. Prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea by Saccharomyces boulardii: A prospective study. Gastroenterol 1989;96:981-8.

13. Yamamoto N, Furukawa H, Ito Y et al. Anti-herpesvirus activity of citrusinine-I, a new acridone alkaloid, and related compounds. Antiviral Res 1989;12:21-36.

14. Kurokawa M, Nagasaka K, Hirabayashi T et al. Efficacy of traditional herbal medicines in combination with acyclovir against herpes simplex virus type 1 infection in vitro and in vivo. Antiviral Res 1995;27:19-37.

15. Mucsi I, Gyulai Z, Beladi I. Combined effects of flavonoids and acyclovir against herpesviruses in cell cultures. Acta Microbiol Hung 1992;39:137-47.

16. Kurokawa M, Nagasaka K, Hirabayashi T et al. Efficacy of traditional herbal medicines in combination with acyclovir against herpes simplex virus type 1 infection in vitro and in vivo. Antiviral Res 1995;27:19-37.

17. Kurokawa M, Nagasaka K, Hirabayashi T et al. Efficacy of traditional herbal medicines in combination with acyclovir against herpes simplex virus type 1 infection in vitro and in vivo. Antiviral Res 1995;27:19-37.

18. Kurokawa M, Nagasaka K, Hirabayashi T et al. Efficacy of traditional herbal medicines in combination with acyclovir against herpes simplex virus type 1 infection in vitro and in vivo. Antiviral Res 1995;27:19-37.

19. Hayashi K, Hayashi T, Ujita K, Takaishi Y. Characterization of antiviral activity of a sesquiterpene, triptofordin C-2. J Antimicrob Chemother 1996;37:759-68.

20. Attel OA, Ali AA, Ali HM. Effect of khat chewing on the bioavailability of ampicillin and amoxicillin. J Antimicrob Chemother 1997;39:523-5.