How Supplements Interact with Surgery

If you are having surgery, you should stop taking certain supplements up to a month in advance.

By | Hub Health |
There are certain supplements that need to be stopped well before you have surgery. Photo via Shutterstock.

There are certain supplements that need to be stopped well before you have surgery. Photo via Shutterstock.

Having a surgical procedure requires planning and preparation. But during the pre-op meeting with your doctor, you may forget to mention the medicinal herbals and supplements that you take as part of your regular health routine. This can be a problem because some supplements may increase certain risks following surgery. Below are several common supplements and potential risks to surgery:

Chondroitin is a supplement used for the more common form of arthritis (osteoarthritis). It is associated with a potential for increased bleeding after surgery. It is recommended to stop two to three weeks before surgery. This is usually sold with Glucosamine in over the counter products for joint pain and arthritis.

Glucosamine is another supplement used for arthritis. It has a potential effect of lowering the blood sugar level and should be discontinued two to three weeks before surgery. It is used with Chondroitin for pain relief and mobility in joint pain and stiffness. It is naturally present in fungi, animal bones, bone marrow, and shellfish.

Echinacea is a supplement used for infection, ulcers, arthritis, and prevention of bruising. This supplement can interfere with anesthetic medication and impair the immune system. It is recommended to discontinue this supplement two to three weeks before surgery.

Ginkgo biloba is a supplement used for the treatment of dementia, ringing of the ears, asthma, and vascular disease processes. It has the potential effects of increased drowsiness after surgery and increasing bleeding after surgery. It is advised to discontinue this supplement two to three days before surgery. It is also used as an additive in health products and drinks. It is a living fossil native to China similar to fossils dating almost 270 million years ago.

Ginseng is a medicinal herb that is reported as an antioxidant, provides energy, and lowers blood sugar. It has the potential effect of increased bleeding after surgery.  It is advised to stop this supplement at least a week before surgery. Also used as an additive in health drinks. Interestingly, ginseng is only found in the Northern Hemisphere.

Kava is a supplement that is used as a muscle relaxant and a treatment for decreasing anxiety. It is associated with increasing drowsiness and sedation after surgery and also used as a dietary supplement. The roots of the Kava crop are used to produce a solution with anesthetic and sedating properties. It should be stopped at least 2 weeks before surgery.

Garlic is an herbal that is used for various infections, high blood pressure, hyper- cholesterolemia, and cancer.  It is associated with increasing bleeding after surgery and should be stopped at least one week before surgery. Garlic has been used by humans for over 7000 years.

Ginger is a remedy used for sore throat, nausea and is an anti-inflammatory supplement. It is associated with increased bleeding and should be discontinued two to three weeks before surgery. Ginger was first cultivated in South Asia but has since spread to the Caribbean and East Africa.

Saw palmetto is a medicinal remedy used as a sedative, anti-inflammatory, and for treatment of prostate enlargement. It has an associated effect of increased bleeding after surgery and should be discontinued two to three weeks before surgery. The Mayans drank saw palmetto as a tonic.

St. John’s wort is used for depression, anxiety, pain, and insomnia. Notably, it is associated with drowsiness after surgery, heart problems, and increased swelling. It should be discontinued more than five days before surgery.

Vitamin E oil is used as a supplement to protect the heart and is an antioxidant. It has been associated with increased bleeding and delayed healing. It is also used to diminish the appearance of scars. Deficiency of vitamin E can result in various nerve symptoms. It is recommended to discontinue using this supplement two to three weeks before surgery.