Herbal Supplements -the impact on anesthesia

Author - Dr. Prabaharan Balaji | Specialist Anesthesiologist - PRIME Hospital

It is important to note that herbal supplements can have adverse effects on anesthesia or surgery, so it is crucial to inform your healthcare professional if you’re taking them.

Many people believe that if something is natural, it is safe. However, this is not necessarily true. While herbal and dietary supplements offer noticeable health benefits when used correctly, taking them right up until the day of your surgery or diagnostic procedure may impact the success of your anesthetic and procedure. This is because herbal products may interact with drugs and cause surgical complications such as heart or bleeding problems, prolonged anesthesia effects, or increased blood pressure. Therefore, it is essential to be cautious and consult with your doctor before taking any herbal or dietary supplement, especially if you have an upcoming surgical procedure.

 Before you have surgery, you will meet with your physician anesthesiologist. This medical doctor specializes in anesthesia, pain, and critical care medicine and collaborates with your other physicians to develop and administer your anesthesia care plan. During your pre-surgery/pre-anesthesia check (PAC) visit, your physician anesthesiologist will answer your questions about the surgery and anesthesia and ask detailed questions about your health and medications. Include all your prescriptions, herbs, dietary supplements, and vitamins. People do not think of this — in fact, studies show half of people who use herbal supplements do not tell their doctors before surgery. Bringing your medication and supplement bottles to your appointment is a promising idea. This will help your physician anesthesiologist know what and how many medications you are taking. Sometimes, your physician anesthesiologist may recommend you stop taking supplements at least two weeks before your procedure.

Stop taking the herbal supplements at least 1-2 weeks prior to the scheduled procedure/anesthesia/surgery to prevent side effectssays  Dr. Prabaharan Balaji | Specialist Anesthesiologist - PRIME Hospital


Potential risks of common herbs and supplements:


Used to boost the immune system, this herb can harm the liver.

Ephedra (Ma-Huang)

An appetite suppressor, it can interact with some blood pressure medication to cause dangerous increases in blood pressure or heart rate.


Some people take it to lower their cholesterol and blood pressure, but it can increase bleeding.


Used to improve memory, it can increase the risk of bleeding.


To improve concentration, ginseng can increase your heart rate and the risk of bleeding.


Used to ease anxiety, Kava can increase the effect of anesthesia

St. John’s Wort

It is used to ease anxiety and help with sleep problems, but it may prolong the effects of anesthesia.


A sleep aid can prolong the effects of some types of anesthesia.

Vitamin  E

Some people take it to slow aging, but it can increase bleeding and cause blood pressure problems.


Before Having an Anesthetic/surgery:

 To prevent side effects, 

  • Stop taking the herbal product at least 1-2 weeks before the scheduled procedure/surgery. 
  • Inform your surgeon and anesthesia professional that you are taking an herbal product. 
  • When asked about your medication history, disclose ALL over-the-counter drugs, herbal products, dietary supplements, minerals, and teas you are taking. 
  • If you are unsure of the herbal product's contents, bring it and its container for your preoperative anesthesia interview. 
  • Make sure your spouse, a friend, and a family member know you take an herbal product. In an emergency, they must share this information with their healthcare providers. 
  • Realize that herbal products need to be treated as medicine. Even if the product is natural, it still may be harmful. 
  • The possibilities for interactions are endless, and the risks increase with the number of products you take.

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