Do Surgery and Herbs Mix?
By preparing for surgery with natural options, recovery can be quick and easy. Knowing that you have your natural arsenal ready can make even difficult surgeries much less of a strain on your body and your mind. I have patients asking me all the time if they should discontinue their herbal regimens prior to surgery and if so when. They want to know what the risks are of interaction and what about after surgery? I do think it is smart to be cautious, but the medical community has always tended to be overcautious and are actually preventing patients from getting the full benefits that herbal medicine can provide prior to and after surgery. So let’s set the record straight.
I recommend to my patients to stop their herbs about one week before surgery. I should say that there is absolutely no definitive proof of any harm from taking herbs right up to the day of surgery, but it really is dependent on the individual.
Garlic and Ginger are herbs that have developed a reputation for increasing the tendency to bleed, but often Feverfew and Chamomile are also named for the same reason. The levels of Feverfew given for its most common use, migraine, are too low to affect platelet activity. Chamomile is misunderstood because it contains phytochemicals known as coumarins which is thought to be related to antiplatelet activity because of the name. In fact there is no evidence that normal coumarins found in Chamomile and other common plants have any anticoagulant activity whatsoever.
Anesthesia is probably the most difficult aspect of any surgery. The effects can be debilitating and lasting, especially in longer surgical procedures. I recommend Milk Thistle in a concentrated form beginning 3 weeks prior to surgery and right up to the day before surgery (an exception to my earlier rule) and then begun again as soon as possible after surgery. Here is the rule of dose for this purpose: Surgery up to 2 hours in length: 3 tablets a day for up to 4 weeks after surgery; Surgery 2 to 4 hours in length: 4 tablets a day for up to 6 weeks after surgery; Surgery more than 4 hours in length: 4 tablets a day for up to three months post-surgery. Milk Thistle is wonderful at protecting the liver against toxins and will not interact with drugs nor with the metabolism of them through the liver.
The next important aspect is to support the healing process after surgery. Major surgery can suppress natural killer cell activity as well as stress the immune system. Echinacea Root is the primary focus for this purpose. It is the key to supporting proper functioning of the immune system and the activity of natural killer cells.
Equally important is the use of herbs for repairing circulatory vessels and connective tissue. Grape Seed extract is great for microcirculation and protecting collage and elastin. It can reduce edema and improve venous tonicity which may reduce the risk for post-operative deep vein thrombosis. Combining this with Ginkgo is an amazing formula for microcirculation.
Addressing the repair of connective tissue, Gotu Kola cannot be beat. It helps to correct and prevent the formation of hypertrophic scars and keloids and is amazing at improving healing rates. One study even showed an amazing improvement in leprosy patients.
By preparing for surgery with natural options, recovery can be quick and easy. Knowing that you have your natural arsenal ready can make even difficult surgeries much less of a strain on your body and your mind.