Sunday, May 28, 2006

Adverse Herbal Reactions

Adverse Herbal Reactions

This is a post inspired by the story of my father. My father has undergone a major heart surgery lately, on 21st of May actually so I have decided to include this section in order to warn others of unsavoury mix between herbs with herbs, and herbs with conventional drugs. However, this list is by no mean exhaustive and is sourced elsewhere. I will quote from which website each warning originated.


Echinacea
This herb often is used for preventing or treating viral, bacterial or fungal infections. Because some people can be allergic to Echinacea, those with allergies or asthma should be cautious of using this supplement at any time. This also is true for people with pre-existing liver conditions. Echinacea may diminish the effectiveness of immunosuppressant drugs so people who are having any kind of organ transplant should avoid taking Echinacea for several weeks before surgery.

Ephedra
This herb promotes weight loss and increases energy. Ephedra is known to increase blood pressure in some people. A rise in blood pressure during surgery could lead to danger, at worst a heart attack or stroke. Ephedrine can persist for an entire day in your blood stream, so don't take this herb for a few days prior to surgery.

Garlic
Garlic inhibits your platelet's ability to aggregate, or clot. This means it can become harder to stop any bleeding. It's a good idea not to take any kind of garlic herbal preparation for at least a week before surgery.

Ginkgo
This herb is taken for a number of conditions, including improving mental alertness, reducing dizziness caused by altitude sickness or vertigo and erectile dysfunction. Ginkgo also inhibits the platelet-activating factor, part of the normal blood-clotting process. This effect can make it harder for your body to heal after surgery. Stop taking ginkgo at least 36 hours before surgery.

Ginseng
Ginseng is thought to protect the body against stress. Unfortunately, it also may lower the glucose (sugar) in your blood. This could be a serious problem for a person with diabetes and could even cause a dangerous blood sugar drop in people without diabetes. It's a good idea to stop taking ginseng a week before surgery.

Kava
Kava commonly is used to treat anxiety. Kava may act as a sedative and might interfere with traditional sedatives given during surgery or shortly after surgery. Kava could interfere with the anaesthetic medication that you receive during surgery. Try to discontinue kava at least 24 hours before your surgery.

St. John's Wort
This herb is widely used to treat mild to moderate depression. St. John's Wort also can increase the metabolism of medications. This may interfere with drugs used in organ transplants or anyone who may need to take an anticoagulation medicine after surgery to stop bleeding. It is a good idea to discontinue St. John's Wort at least five days prior to surgery.

Valerian
This herb is used to calm anxiety and promote sleep. Because valerian may have some addictive qualities, it is a good idea to taper use for several weeks before surgery.

***All of the above are taken from Adventist HealthCare Website***


Generally, before one goes for any surgery, you should ask your physician whether any of the herbal supplements (or supplements) that you are taking will not interfere with your surgical procedure. This is very important as to not cause any complications such as excessive bleeding during the surgery. As highlighted above, certain herbs can thin blood so much, that they will inhibit blood clotting and thus uncontrolled blood flow.

Sometimes the physician will highlight this to you however, if he/she doesn’t, you should fore-warned his/her that you are taking such and such supplements or so.

The post surgery period is just as important. Any herbal supplements must be referred to your physician as to not cause any undesirable reactions with the drugs he/she prescribed to you, or to be in the safe side, do not take any herbal supplements at all, unless you are being treated by an herbalist.

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