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Botanical Medicines to Avoid in Epilepsy

This past weekend I presented at the Toronto Epilepsy annual conference.  I was happy to be invited to speak on the topic of Integrative and Naturopathic Medicine in the Management of Seizures.

One of the things I was most interested to share with this audience was the fact that while nearly half of people with epilepsy use some form of complementary or alternative treatments, up to 75% of those people don’t discuss the use with their medical doctor or neurologist.

This situation has to change.  Natural treatments may be effective, but they are not always safe.  Especially for people who take medications, like anticonvulsants, that may be altered by the use of natural products.

Botanical Medicines and Anti-Convulsants

There are three primary ways that botanical (plant based) medicines can negatively impact a seizure disorder

  1. Decrease the seizure threshold – making a person more likely to experience a seizure
  2. Has pro-convulsant effects – this plant has been found to cause convulsions or seizures
  3. Interfere with the absorption or metabolism of anticonvulsants – changing the way the drugs act in the body and potentially decreasing their effectiveness

Not all botanical medicines have these effects.  Most botanical medicines can be used safely in people with seizures.  It is important to know which ones can, and can not be used. And this is the role of the Naturopathic Doctor in integrative care.  We are experts in safe prescribing of botanical medicines and can see if your medication will interact with a herbal medicine in a negative way.

Botanical Medicines to Avoid

This list is a general list of botanicals that have been found to have potential negative effects on epilepsy.  This list is not exhaustive, new research is being done all the time.  You should not take any of these plant medicines without a consultation with your Naturopathic Doctor.  And be sure to discuss the use with your medical doctor and neurologist.

Botanical Medicines that May Decrease the Seizure Threshold

  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis)
    Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis)

    Borage (Borago officinalis)

  • Damiana (Turnera diffusa)
  • Evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis)
  • Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
  • Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis)
  • Green tea (Camellia sinensis)
  • Guarana (Paullinia cupana)
  • Wormwood (Artemesia absinthium)
  • Yohimbe (Pausinystalia yohimbe)

Botanical Medicines that Have Pro-Convulsant Effects

  • St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
    St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

    Bearberry (Arctostaphylus uva ursi)

  • Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)
  • Coffee (Coffea spp.)
  • Ephedra/ Ma Huang (Ephedra sinica)
  • Ergot (Claviceps spp.)
  • Eucalyptus (Myrtacea spp.)
  • Juniper (Juniperus communis)
  • Kava (Piper methysticum)
  • Monkshood (Aconite napellus)
  • Oleander (Nerium oleander)
  • Pennyroyal (Mentha pelugium)
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
  • Thuja (Thuja occidentalis)
  • Yohimbe (Pausinystalia yohimbe)

Botanical Medicines that Interfere with Anti-Convulsants

  • Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)
    Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)

    Garlic (Allium sativum)

  • Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)
  • Pycnogenol (Pinus pinaster)
  • Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
  • American hellebore (Veratrum viride)
  • Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
  • Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)

Botanical medicines can be safely used by people with epilepsy.  Be informed, be safe and consult your Naturopathic Doctor for optimal results!


The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.


Lisa Watson

Dr. Lisa Watson is a Naturopathic Doctor practicing in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She is a passionate writer and speaker and encourages her patients and readers to embrace their full, amazing, health potential. You can follow Dr. Watson on twitter at @drlisawatson or contact her at

One thought to “Botanical Medicines to Avoid in Epilepsy”

  1. Great information to empower folks. Careful with the Green Tea if you are experiencing poor seizure control. Who would have guessed!

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