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Partners in Healing: Mind, Body and Prayer
Help YourSelf

Both the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) and the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) have recently published studies that link herbal supplements as common as garlic, ginseng and echinacea, to potentially harmful side effects during surgery. Both organizations, in addition to a host of other medical professionals, urge patients, especially those scheduled for surgery, to keep their doctors informed of all supplements and medications they take on a regular basis -- everything from herbs to aspirin to vitamin C.

One-third of the American public have been identified as users of herbal products and supplements, with women accounting for most of the numbers. It is important to keep in mind that herbs are medications and have pharmacological side effects. They should be used with informed intelligence, avoided by pregnant or nursing women, and given with caution to children and the elderly, as with any other medication.

Both St. John's Wort, an anti-depressant, and kava-kava, a mild sedative, may prolong the effects of anesthesia. Echinacea is contraindicated for patients with autoimmune diseases (i.e., HIV or Lupus.) Ginger, ginkgo biloba, licorice, garlic and vitamin E can all prevent blood coagulation and clotting, and may increase blood loss during surgery. Surgeons and anesthesiologists recommend suspending use of supplements two to three weeks before surgery. This will give the body time to fully process the substances. If this is impossible for you, be sure to alert your doctor to what you are taking, and if possible, bring the bottle to your next check-up.

Because the FDA does not regulate herbal medications, commercial preparations may vary considerably. Some herbs may not contain any pharmacological ingredients, while others may be quite potent. The best plan of action is to remain in dialogue with your primary care physician. If for some reason, you feel unable to talk openly with your doctor, or sense that he or she does not share your philosophy for managing your health, then you may want to find a doctor who does. In the meantime, inform your anesthesiologist or nurse about your health practices well before your surgery.

Program Description
Larry Dossey, M.D.
All Day, 365 Days a Year
Five Steps to Prepare for Surgery

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Body & Soul is currently airing Monday-Friday at 7:00pm and 8:30pm on PBS YOU.

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