More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Herbal supplements: How they can interfere with surgery
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Nov 22, 2007

Having surgery soon? Check this list to see if the herbal supplements you take could interfere with the success of your surgery.

You might not think to tell your doctor about the herbal supplements you're taking, such as the echinacea you take to fight off colds or the feverfew you use to prevent migraines. But think again. These and other herbal supplements can affect the success of a surgical procedure, just as over-the-counter and prescription medications can. Tell your doctor about any herbal supplements you're taking well before you have surgery. You may need to stop taking some herbal supplements up to three weeks before surgery to make sure they leave your system completely.

Here's a look at some common herbal supplements and how they can interfere with surgery. Keep in mind that other herbal supplements also may affect your surgery, so be sure to tell your doctor if you're taking any herbs that aren't on this list.

Herbal supplement|Possible complications
Aloe vera|May cause increased intestinal muscle movement to digest food (peristalsis), may decrease effectiveness of water pills (diuretics) given after surgery
Bromelain|May cause bleeding or interact with antibiotics such as amoxicillin or tetracyclines
Danshen|May cause bleeding
Dong quai|May cause bleeding
Echinacea|May interfere with immune functioning, may alter effectiveness of immunosuppressant drugs given after transplant surgery
Ephedra|May cause abnormal heartbeat, may cause extreme high blood pressure and coma if combined with certain antidepressants and anesthesia
Feverfew|May cause bleeding
Garlic|May cause bleeding, may interfere with normal blood clotting
Ginger|May cause bleeding
Ginkgo|May cause bleeding
Ginseng|May cause bleeding, may cause rapid heartbeat, may cause high blood pressure
Goldenseal|May cause or worsen swelling and high blood pressure
Kava|May enhance sedative effects of anesthesia
Licorice (not licorice candy)|May increase blood pressure
Omega-3 fatty acids|May cause bleeding if taken in doses greater than 3 grams a day
Senna|May cause electrolyte imbalance
St. John's Wort|May increase or decrease the effects of some drugs used during and after surgery
Valerian|May prolong the effects of anesthesia
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