In the the July 11th issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers at the Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care of the University of Chicago reported on the effects of common herbal medicines on patients undergoing anesthesia. They found that echinacea
, ephedra, garlic
, ginkgo, ginseng
, kava, St. John's wort
, and valerian are commonly used herbal medications that may pose a concern during anesthesia and recovery. Direct effects include bleeding from garlic, ginkgo, and ginseng; cardiovascular
instability from ephedra; and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) from ginseng. Kava and valerian can prolong the sedative effects of anesthesia. In people who used St. John's wort prior to anesthesia, the length of effect of other adminstered drugs was shortened.
- The Journal of the American Medical Association 2001;286:208-216.
The researchers concluded that before anesthesia, physicians should obtain the patient's full history of herbal medication use. Patients should tell their physicians if they use herbal medications and should not be embarrassed to admit to their physicians that they use 'unconventional' medical therapies.
Some professional organizations such as the American Society of Anesthesiologists have suggested that patients stop taking herbal medications 2-3 weeks before surgery. Patients are advised to consult with their physician before discontinuing a supplement since symptoms of withdrawal can occur with some herbs.
Comments from our Veterinary Staff:
Owners of pets should also inform their veterinarians if their pet is taking any type of vitamin, herbal medicine, supplement, or nutraceutical. Depending upon your pet's health status and other medications which may be given, 'natural' does not necessarily mean 'safe.'