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See also anticonvulsant

Generic and Trade Names:

Butabarbital Buticaps, Butisol, Butalan
Methohexital SodiumBrevital Sodium
Pentobarbital Nembutal
PhenobarbitalSolfoton, Barbita
Secobarbital Seconal
Thiopental Pentothal
Thiamylal SodiumSurital


Barbiturates form a class of drugs which are used as sedative, hypnotic, and anticonvulsant agents. It is also used as a preanesthetic agent, for acute maniacal states, delirium tremens, and psychoneurotic disorders.

These drugs decrease motor activity, produce sedation, and decrease the sensory cortex. They act at the thalamus to inhibit impulse transmission to the cortex. The barbiturate drugs include mephobarbital, phenobarbital. They are used for the treatment of tonic-clonic ,cortical seizures, and other emergency convulsive states. Phenobarbital partly blocks nerve impulses at the nerve cell junctions.(Facts and Comparisons 1999)

Nutritional Considerations:

Dietary fats (cholesterol levels may increase). (Pronsky 1999)

Increased requirements for: Vitamin D,magnesium calcium and vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin K and folic acid.(Pronsky 1999) (Kishi 1997)

Biotin may be depleted. (Krause 1985)

Pyridoxine in large doses (80 - 400 mg) may reduce the drug's effects. (Pronsky 1999)

Limit caffeine , it can reduce barbiturate sedative effects. (Pronsky 1999)(Brinker 1998)

Avoid alcohol. (Facts and Comparisons 1999)

Herbal Considerations:

Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) root may increase the effects of barbiturates, and should not be used together. (Brinker 1998)

Avoid cola (Cola nitida, Cola acuminata seed), Mate (Ilex paraguayensis), tea (Camellia sinensis), and Guarana (Paullinia cupana), they can decrease the sedative effect of Pentobarbital. (Brinker 1998)

The German Commission E notes the possibility for kava kava and barbiturates to have a potentiated effect on the CNS. (Blumenthal 1998)

The German Commission E also notes that Indian snakeroot interacts with barbiturates.

California poppy enhances the hypnotic effect of pentobarbital. (Brinker 1998)

Eucalyptus can increase the rate of metabolism and clearance of pentobarbital. (Brinker 1998)

The sedative oil in lemon balm increases the hypnotic effect of barbiturates. (Brinker 1998)

Siberian ginseng increases the effect of hexobarbital.

Newall and Brinker list the following herbs with sedative action, they may have additive effects with barbiturates:

Calendulla flowers        
Chamomile (German)        
Jamaica Dogwood
Kava root
Sassafras bark
Siberian ginseng root        
Shepherd's Purse        
St. John's Wort        
Wild Carrot        
Wild Lettuce         
Yerba mansa root

The German Commission E has noted that the elimination of hypnotics is accelerated if taken with sarsaparilla.

The German Commission E notes the following approved herbs have a sedative action:

Henbane leaf
Kava kava
Lavender flower
Lemon balm
Valerian root


Bezchlidnyk, K.Z. : Should psychiatric patients drink coffee? Cn. Med. Ass. J. 1981, Feb 15, 124:4.

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Brinker, F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Eclectic Medical Publications, 1998.

Facts and Comparisons, Clinisphere 2.0, Wolters Kluwer Company, 1999.

Griffith, H. W. 1983. Complete Guide to Prescription and Non-Prescription. Fisher Publishing, Inc., Tucson.

Krause KH, Bonjour JP, Berlit P, et al. Biotin Status of Epilepticus. Ann NY Academy Sci 1985, 447:297-313.

Kishi T, Fujita N, Eguchi T, et al. Mechanism for Reduction of Serum Folate by Antiepileptic Drugs During Prolonged Therapy. J Neurol Sci 1997, 145(1):109-12.
Melville, K.I. et al: Toxic and depressant effects of alcohol given orally in combination with glutethimide or secobarbital. Toxicol. App. Pharmacol. 1966, 9: 363-375.

Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996

Osol, Arthur. 1980. Remington's Pharmaceutical Sciences. Mack Publishing Company, Pennsylvania.

Pronsky, Zaneta. Food Medication Interactions. 11th edition. 1999.