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Advice on herbs and surgery

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and…surgery?

Q: Is it true that all herbal supplementation should be stopped before surgery?

Dr: Wright: Since he is an herbalist, I will defer to my colleague and regular Nutrition & Healing columnist Kerry Bone on this matter. Here is what Kerry has to say:

“There is no definitive proof of harm from taking herbs right up to the day of surgery. I think the “two-week warning” approach taken by many doctors may be excessive — and biased.

“Here’s why: The main concern expressed in the medical journals is that some herbs can increase the tendency to bleed. These fears have some rational basis when it comes to garlic and ginger, but the journal articles also mention herbs like feverfew, chamomile, and ginseng, which have NEVER been connected to adverse bleeding. But that doesn’t seem to matter to most mainstream doctors: There seems to be a willingness to believe even the flimsiest of arguments, as long as they’re attacking herbs.

“However, it is good to be cautious. That’s why I generally recommend that my patients stop taking herbs about one week before surgery.

“Again, garlic and ginger are the only exceptions. Garlic has been credibly linked to adverse bleeding events after surgery, and ginger in high doses could cause the same problem. So in these two instances, I do agree with the mainstream recommendation and always advise my patients to stop taking them two full weeks before surgery. (It’s also important to note that the above adverse events for garlic occurred after it had been eaten as a food, not as a dietary supplement. So it’s just as crucial to stop eating garlic and ginger before surgery as it is to stop taking supplements.)”

Make sure to talk to a doctor skilled in natural medicine to determine the best option for you.