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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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Grapefruit causes problems when taken with certain medications

Sometimes the juice ain’t worth the squeeze…especially when combining grapefruit with medicines.

While it can be part of a balanced and nutritious diet, grapefruit can have serious consequences when taken with certain medications. Currently, there are more than fifty prescription and over-the-counter drugs known to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that can have negative interactions with grapefruit.

As little as one cup of juice or two grapefruit wedges can alter the way your medicines work. When taken with medicine, grapefruit can delay, decrease, or enhance absorption of certain drugs; as a result, the patient does not receive the prescribed dosage of the medication. If the label on your medicine reads “DO NOT TAKE WITH GRAPEFRUIT” or has similar words, heed the warning. It can save you a bushel of problems.

How it does or doesn’t work

Depending on the active ingredient, grapefruit can reduce the effectiveness of a drug or worse, create potentially dangerous drug levels in the body. Grapefruit can interfere with transporters in the intestine that help absorb drugs. When this happens, less of the drug reaches the bloodstream and the patient receives no benefit. 

Grapefruit can also interfere with enzymes that break down drugs in your digestive system. This can result in the body absorbing too much of the drug, which can potentially cause serious problems. 

Help may be on the way

Scientists are currently working on breeding hybrid grapefruits that will be safe to mix with medications. In the near future you may be able to enjoy these tasty mounds without compromising your safety. But until the new fruit containers start to arrive, follow these tips:  

  • Ask your pharmacist or other health care professional if you can have fresh grapefruit or grapefruit juice while using your medication. If you can’t, you may want to ask if you can have other juices with the medicine.
  • Read the Medication Guide or patient information sheet that comes with your prescription medicine to see if it interacts with grapefruit juice. Some information may advise not to take the drug with grapefruit juice. If it’s OK to have grapefruit juice, there will be no mention of it in the guide or information sheet.
  • Read the Drug Facts label on your non-prescription medicine, which will let you know if you can have grapefruit or other fruit juices with it.
  • If you can’t have grapefruit juice with your medicine, check the label of bottles of fruit juice or drinks flavored with fruit juice to make sure they don’t contain grapefruit juice.
  • Seville oranges (often used to make orange marmalade) and tangelos (a cross between tangerines and grapefruit) affect the same enzyme as grapefruit juice, so avoid these fruits as well if your medicine interacts with grapefruit juice.