in Healing: Mind, Body and Prayer
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.
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.
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.
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
Larry Dossey, M.D.
All Day, 365 Days a Year
Five Steps to Prepare for Surgery
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