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Türk Kardiyol Dern Arş - Arch Turk Soc Cardiol 2012; 40:265-268   PMID: 22864325   doi: 10.5543/tkda.2012.84565

  Volume: 40  Issue: 3 April 2012   
TKD|Three case reports of the use of herbal combinations resulted in stent thrombosis: herbal combinations; friend or foe?

Three case reports of the use of herbal combinations resulted in stent thrombosis: herbal combinations; friend or foe?

Bitkisel karışım kullanan ve stent trombozu gelişen üç olgu: Bitkisel karışımlar dost mu, düşman mı?

Dr. Mehmet Akif Vatankulu, Dr. Abdurrahman Tasal, Dr. Ercan Erdoğan, Dr. Ömer Göktekin

Summary– Nowadays, herbal combinations are commonly used in Turkey and around the world. In particular, an herbal combination including Tribulus terrestris (TT), Avena sativa (AS), and Panax Ginseng (PG), which may be effective in treatment of atherosclerosis and thrombosis, is used by patients with coronary artery disease. In this paper, we will report three cases with coronary stents who were diagnosed with acute coronary syndrome while using this herbal combination of TT, AS and PG together with anti-aggregant medications. A 45-year-old man presented with chest pain and coronary angiography confirmed a total occluded stent in left anterior descending artery which was implanted a year ago. Balloon dialation was performed to dilate the stent, resulting in full opening of the vessel. The second case, a 53-year-old woman, was admitted to the hospital with chest pain. Coronary angiography confirmed a total occluded stent, which had been implanted three months ago. A balloon was performed to dilate the stent and it was fully opened. The third case, a 62-year-old man, presented with chest pain. Coronary angiography was performed and there was a 98% stenosis of the circumflex stent, which was implanted three months ago. A balloon was performed to dilate the stent and it was fully opened. It was learnt that all three patients had used the same herbal combination (TT, AS and PG) with dual anti-aggregant therapy for three months ago to presentation in the clinic. Patients were discharged with the suggestion not to use this herbal combination with dual anti-aggregant therapy. There were no problems during the four month follow-up period. Stent thrombosis may be caused by  interactions  between herbal combination (TT, AS and PG) and clopidogrel in these patients under dual antiaggregant therapy.

Key words: Acute coronary syndrome; atherosclerosis; plants; cardiovascular agents/pharmacology; drugs, Chinese herbal; panax; saponins; thrombosis.

Submitted on :: .02.20. 2012   Accepted for publication on: : 04. 27..2012

Address of correspondence: Dr. Mehmet Akif Vatankulu. Bezmialem Vakıf Üniversitesi Tıp Fakültesi, Kardiyoloji Anabilim Dalı, 34093 İstanbul.
Phone: +90 212 - 453 17 00   e-mail: vatankulu@hotmail.com


AS      Avena sativa
LDL    Low density  lipoprotein
PG       Panax ginseng
TT       Tribulus terrestris

Herbal mixtures have been used from  prehistoric ages  up to now for therapeutical purposes. İn various diseases. The successful outcomes obtained with herbal mixtures in many diseases also formed the basis of modern treatment modalities. Nowadays, herbal mixtures constitute basic components of many drugs.  Despite all of their beneficial effects, the impact of herbal mixtures not formulated under the light of scientific evidence,   on human health is not completely acknowledged. In recent years, treatment with  herbal medications has become extremely prevalent. Especially, herbal mixtures of Tribulus terrestris, Avena sativa and  Panax ginseng are used by coronary artery patients.

Herein, we have presented 3 cases with coronary stents who consulted to us with the diagnosis of acute coronary syndrome while they were using a herbal mixture of  TT,AS, and PG together with antiaggregant treatments, and we also provided information about the ingredients of these mixtures.


Case 1- A 45-year-old male patient who had undergone stent implantation for  a  proximal lesion in the left anterior descending artery one year ago,   consulted to the emergency service with complaint of chest pain.  Coronary angiography of  the patient diagnosed as acute coronary syndrome demonstrated completely occluded coronary artery. In the same session balloon dilation was performed, and complete patency was ensured (Figure 1). From patient’s history it was learnt that the he was receiving 2 daily doses of herbal TT, AS, and PG mixture in addition to his antiaggregant treatment (clopidogrel 75 mg, acetylsalycilic  acid 100 mg) for the last 3 months. Any coagulation disorder, and a comorbity  were not detected during his medical examinations, and the patient was discharged with recommendations against use of herbal mixtures.   Any medical problem was not detected during his follow-up visits performed at 4-month intervals.

Case 2- A 53-year-old woman presented to the emergency service with complaints of chest pain who  had undergone stent implantation in circumflex branch of the coronary artery. Elevations in cardiac enzymes were detected in the patient whose coronary angiography demonstrated development of in-stent thrombosis (Figure  2). From patient’s history it was learnt that she was regularly receiving herbal mixture of  TT, AS, and PG at 2 doses daily for the last 3 months in addition to  her routine antiaggregant treatment (clopidogrel 75 mg, and 100 mg acetylsalycilic acid). Any additional abnormality was not detected in the medical status of the patient who had had in-stent balloon angioplasty with resultant complete patency. Subsequently  the patient was discharged with recommendations against use of herbal mixtures. Any problem was not detected during further follow-up

Case 3- A 62-year-old male patient who had undergone stent implantation in circumflex artery three months ago, began to use a herbal mixture containing TT, AS, and PG  regularly, in addition to his routine antiaggregant therapy (clopidogrel 75 mg, acetylsalicylic acid 100 mg) A lesion causing a 98 % in-stent stenosis was  detected on coronary angiograms of  the patient who re-consulted again with complaints of chest pain. Balloon dilation achieved full patency. Additional medical problem was not detected during the follow-up period, and the patient was discharged with recommendations against use of herbal mixtures.


Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory process involving immune modulator components, immune cells, and blood lipids[1] Elevations in LDL-cholesterol are strong risk factors in the development of atherosclerosis. In atherosclerosis detection of higher blood levels of inflammatory biomarkers are expected.[2] On the other hand, endothelial dysfunction is the underlying factor in atherosclerosis. Dietary habits also play a very  important role in the development of atherosclerosis. In recent years, serious attempts have been made to change Western style dietary pattern[2] Even though desired levels of success have not been accomplished in changing dietary habits yet, herbal mixtures are more readily preferred, and accepted by people.  Among them,especially in Turkey, TT, AS, and PG mixtures are preferred, and used by the patients with coronary, and peripheral vascular diseases without any medical surveillance.

Other nomenculature  for  TT is Fructus tribuli which belongs to  Zygophyllaceae family. Especially in Turkey, and Far East it has been  used singly or in combination. [3] TT has many active ingredients (saponins). It has been used in skin, liver, and coronary artery diseases,  diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, nephrolithiasis, fungal infections, and sexual dysfunction. Some animal experiments in mice demonstrated its vasodilator effects via decreasing ACE activity in cardiovascular system, predominantly in kidneys with resultant regulatory effects on blood pressure [4,5] Besides, in rabbits, their beneficial effects on lipid profiles, and endothelial functions had been displayed.  3] In human beings, some case series indicated that it decreased the frequency of anginal episodes by inducing coronary vasodilation in angina pectoris..[6]

AS is a plant known as oat. In recent years beneficial effects of oat, oat fibers, and their beta glucan containing extracts on lipid profile of men have been demonstrated.[2]  Under laboratory conditions, as ingredients of oat plant, vitamin E, phenolic acid, flavonoids, and sterols had improved endothelial dysfunction thanks to their antioxidant, and antiinflammatory effects.[2] Besides,studies on mice using oat bran revealed a decrease in the levels of  some inflammatory markers, and an increase in endothelial nitric oxide (eNOS) activity with the blockage  of LDL receptors  on   atherosclerotic lesions. [2]

An important  ingredient   of the mixture PG is extracted from red coloured roots of a wild plant (Araliaceae spp.)  widely found in the Far East.[7] Similar to other products , PG  has many active ingredients, the important ones being ginsenoids. In animal experiments, favourable effects of this herb on the immune system, physical, and mental performances have been demonstrated. Investigations on human volunteers have also displayed its beneficial effects on diabetes, cancer, sexual functions, and immune system.[7] In experimental models, protective effects  against ischemic, and reperfusion damage have been indicated. Recent studies on mice have demonstrated antihypertrophic, and antiremodeling effects of ginseng on cardiomyocytes [8,9] However all these favourable results have not been substantiated by well-designed, randomized controlled trials. PG which exerts beneficial effects in experimental animal trials is not recommended for hypertensive patients because of its both hypertensive, and hypotensive effects.[10] In addition, some data suggest that it tends to decrease the effectiveness of warfarin [11]

Favourable effects of these mixtures on animals have not been demonstrated for human beings.

With increasing use of these mixtures, relevant organ toxicities thought to stem from them are more frequently reported 12]

Platelets play a critical role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, thrombosis, and acute coronary syndromes. Inhibition of platelets is quite  important in patients with coronary stents. Presently, aspirin, and clopidogrel are mostly used for inhibition of  platelets. In recent years with increasing number of  stent thrombosis, aspirin, and clopidogrel resistance have become a current issue. On the other hand, it has been reported that calcium channel blockers, proton pump inhibitors, and some drugs weaken  the effectiveness of clopidogrel leading to the development of thrombosis, and acute coronary syndromes.[13,14] These kinds of drug-drug interactions are important problems encountered in modern medicine.  Large scale investigations on this issue are still continuing.

Normally, incidence of stent thrombosis developed  in our three cases despite dual antiaggregant therapy ranges between 0.5-2 percent.[15] Any cardiac problem did not develop  during routine controls in our patients after coronary stenting. Successive occurrence of stent thrombosis in our three patients who routinely  used herbal mixtures together with their prescribed medical treatment  , weakens the probability of haphazardness of stent thrombosis  which is usually seen  with a relatively lower incidence.  Besides, objective ischemic tests performed during four months after the recommendations against the use of herbal mixtures could not detect an abnormality in their health state. In this case, though not substantiated by  laboratory evidence, interaction of herbal ingredients with antiaggregants is a strong probability. These  kinds of mixtures containing various extracts without fully known doses, and efficacies might interact with antiaggregants, and especially clopidogrel with a resultant  impact on platelet inhibition.

Stent thrombosis, and acute coronary syndrome developed while the patient is on dual antiaggregant therapy might emerge as a result of interactions between concomitantly used herbal mixtures of TT, AS, and PG, and clopidogrel. First of all experimental investigations, followed by randomized controlled clinical studies should be conducted in order to fully clarify this issue.

Conflict of interest: None declared

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15. Iakovou I, Schmidt T, Bonizzoni E, Ge L, Sangiorgi GM, Stankovic G, et al. Incidence, predictors, and outcome of thrombosis after successful implantation of drug-eluting stents. JAMA 2005;293:2126-30.

“Yrd. Doç Dr. Gürkan Kazancı, Kazancı Medikal Tercüme Bürosu tarafından İngilizceye çevrilmiştir” 

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