Supplements and Surgery

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably familiar with some types of supplements (unless you stumbled on this site on your way to

And if you’ve developed a supplement regimen with your physician, you’re probably on the right track.

But what happens when you need surgery? Doctors often ask about prescriptions medications you are taking, but don’t always ask about the herbal supplements you may be taking.  Here are some (not an exhaustive list, by any means) that you should tell your surgeon about and discontinue at least 2 weeks prior to surgery:

  • Echinacea–can have drug interactions, could interfere with wound healing
  • Ephedra–causes hypertension, palpitations, tachycardia
  • Fish Oil–can cause bleeding problems
  • Garlic–can thin the blood, can cause hypotension
  • Gingko–thins the blood
  • Ginseng–can thin the blood, cause hypoglycemia, can have drug interactions
  • Goldenseal–can have drug interactions
  • Kava–can make waking up from anesthesia difficult, can have drug interactions
  • Licorice–can have drug interactions
  • St. John’s Wort–can make waking up from anesthesia difficult, can cause photosensitivity
  • Valerian root–can make waking up from anesthesia difficult, can have drug interactions

Each of these has been shown to help certain issues. St. John’s Wort is used for depression. Kava is used as a sleeping aid. Valerian root can help with anxiety and sleep issues.

But supplements, while often times healthy on their own, besides causing the issues listed above, can change the absorption and elimination of conventional drugs.

BUT there are supplements and vitamins that are actually ENCOURAGED prior to and following surgery:

  • CO Q-10–taken prior to surgery, CO Q-10 may improve outcomes and the likelihood of normal heart rhythm in recovery; taken post-op, CO Q-10 can strength the heart muscle and help with free radical damage
  • Vitamin A–required for cell growth, production of connective tissue and growth of new blood vessels
  • Vitamin C–aids the body in producing wound-healing collagen and elastin, boosts immune system
  • Vitamin E–helps to stop fatty acids from building up in the arteries (atherosclerosis), improvement in heart function following surgery, neutralizes free radicals
  • Zinc–helps wounds heal faster, helps in the production of collagen

So in the event that you have a scheduled surgery coming up, be sure to tell your surgeon about the prescription, over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements you are taking. It could make a significant difference in your surgery outcome and recovery. And ask about the vitamins and supplements you should be taking after your surgery. It may help you to heal even faster.  Good luck with your surgery and here’s to a speedy recovery!


One response to “Supplements and Surgery

  1. This is a really good post, Kim. I don’t think people really think about herbal/homeopathic remedies interfering with anything- doctors should really start routinely asking about these!

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