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Herbal Supplements Are Not Safe Before Cosmetic Surgery

April 14, 2021 - Rhys Branman, MD

Herbal Supplements Picture - Little Rock Cosmetic SurgeryMore and more people are using herbal supplements to enhance their health. In fact, a good 60 million Americans use supplemental herbs in one form or another. And most of these people are highly educated and know how to do their research. Sometimes, however, people do not consider herbs as having side effects; people seem to put them into a different category than drugs. Maybe it’s because herbal supplements are generally not prescribed by a doctor. One can research and go to the health food store, or now-a-days, the grocery store to buy herbs such as ginkgo for memory, or ginseng for energy. Seems harmless enough, right? But before a face lift or liposuction among most other surgery procedures, they are not safe at all.

What you may not know is that less than 10% of patients tell their doctors they are taking herbal supplements before surgery. Think this through folks, if the herb is strong enough to help you with memory or give you energy, isn’t it really a bit like a drug? Albeit herbal supplements may be generally healthier for you in some cases, and may not have obvious disagreeable side effects, but they are doing something. In the case of ginkgo, for example, did you know it increases bleeding (most commonly around the brain and spinal cord) and that ginkgo prolongs sedation? Or ginseng, for example. Ginseng also increases bleeding and it also lowers your blood sugar. Think about it, you are required not to eat for 12 hours before most surgeries so your blood sugar is already low. Lowering it more may complicate surgery. Also because glucose (sugar) is the main source of energy for the cells of the human body, low blood sugar can slow the healing process.

The July 2013 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery reported that there is a very high incidence of aesthetic surgery patients who take herbal supplements. This is most likely because the same desire to look their best motivates using herbs to feel their best. Many herbal supplements include claims related to prolonging life, memory, energy, and youth. The study found that over 53 kinds of supplements were being taken. On average any given patient was taking 2 -3 supplements. One subject of the study was taking 28 different supplements! Here is a list of some herbs with potentially serious complications with surgery:

Ephedra/Ma Huang – seizure, heart attack, stroke

St. John’s Wort – heart failure

Kava – coma

Valerian – heart failure, delirium

Gingko Biloba – bleeding in brain & spinal cord

Licorice root – heart attack

Patients must be sure to tell your surgeon not only about any drugs you are taking, but also any herbal or vitamin supplements you take. At Little Rock Cosmetic Surgery we will tell you to discontinue these supplements for a period of time before your surgery. We want you to be safe!

Dr. Branman

Call Melinda at the front desk to set up a consultation 501-227-0707 ­

Thanks to Ano Lobb for the image of herbal supplements.

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