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Homeopathic Remedies Can Increase Surgical Risks

Many of grandma’s homeopathic remedies were actually effective but what she and others like her didn’t realize is that herbal remedies can actually increase surgical risks.

My grandmother Helen didn’t believe in doctors or prescription medications.   Raised in the back woods of Swan Pond, WV she was taught to believe that everything you needed to keep your family healthy could be grown in your garden.   There was dandelion tea for detoxification, cayenne pepper for toothaches and thyme for a cough.

Many of grandma’s homeopathic remedies were actually effective but what she and others like her didn’t realize is that herbal remedies can actually increase surgical risks.

Certain herbs such as; Echinacea, feverfew, garlic, gingko biloba, ginseng, licorice and St. John’s Wort can interact with anesthesia used in surgery with grave affects.

Generally marketed as a natural supplement to stave off the flue, Echinacea usage can cause hepatotoxicity when interacting with anesthetics and certain hepatoxic drugs.

Feverfew is commonly used by herbalists to treat allergies, rheumatoid arthritis and migraines.   However, it is also known to increase the risk of surgical bleeding especially in people who also take anti-coagulants or other medicines that contribute towards anti-platelet activity.

Garlic is used by some to treat hypertension and hyper-lipidemia.   Unfortunately it ls also known to inhibit platelet aggregation, cause spontaneous epidural hematome and intra-operative blood loss.

Gingki biloba, a popular memory enhancing supplement, has been known to cause increased surgical bleeding including subdural hematoma and subarachmoid hemorrhage in surgical patients who are also taking an anti-coagulant or platelet aggregation inhibitor.

Gingseng is used to boost the immune system, control blood pressure and lower blood glucose levels.   In surgical applications it may increase anesthetic agent requirements and reduce the effectiveness of warfarin’s anti-clotting effect.

There is also a potential for hypoglycemia in patients taking insulin or oral diabetes agents as well as the development of hypertension.

Licorice is sued as a natural cough suppressant and expectorant as well as a healing agent for gastric ulcers.   When take in large amounts, licorice can cause hypertension, edema and hypokalemia.   Hypokalemia can lead to cardiac dysrhythmias if left unchecked.

St. John’s Wort is used by some to treat mild to moderate depression.   When interacting with surgical anesthetics it can cause increased heart rate or blood pressure.

Furthermore, the American Society of Anesthesiologists recommends that as a precautionary measure people discontinue their herbal medicines at least two to three weeks before undergoing surgery.

Given all the possible interactions both surgical and non, it is very important that your doctor knows about every herbal supplement that you are taking so he or she can anticipate any potential ill effects.

To research additional potential herbal-surgical-medicine interations on your own you can log onto the American Society of Anesthesiologists website or the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s website.

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