Because I’m having surgery soon, I thought I’d write about herbal support for pre and post-surgery preparation and recovery.
Surgery is a significant medical intervention that often requires careful preparation and recovery. While conventional medical practices play a crucial role in ensuring a successful surgical outcome, there is a growing recognition of the potential benefits of herbal support in both pre and post-surgery phases.
Herbal remedies, derived from various plants, have been used for centuries in traditional medicine systems worldwide. In this post, I’m outlining some of the potential advantages of incorporating herbal support into pre and post-surgery care.
Caution: You should stop all herbs that have blood thinning capabilities before the surgery. There are various sources that average stopping days of three to seven days and some doctors require stopping all herbal support ten days before surgery (like mine!). Herbs to stop are Turmeric, Ginko Biloba, therapeutic levels of garlic, saw palmetto, feverfew, and ginseng. Also, stop all herbs that can cause interactions with anesthesia such as valerian, kava, and St. Johns Wort. Always talk to your doctor about the herbal support you are taking OR considering taking. And, if your doctor doesn’t understand herbs, I urge you to find one that does.
Pre-Surgery Herbal Support:
Many herbs possess natural anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation and swelling before surgery. Herbs like turmeric, ginger, and boswellia serrata have been studied for their potential to modulate inflammatory responses, potentially minimizing tissue damage associated with surgery (Kuptniratsaikul et al., 2014; Siddiqui et al., 2011). A reminder to stop turmeric several days before the surgery.)
Stress Reduction and Anxiety Management:
Surgery can be a source of stress and anxiety. Herbal remedies such as chamomile, passionflower, and valerian root have calming properties that may help manage pre-surgery jitters (Srivastava et al., 2010; Miroddi et al., 2013). (A reminder to stop valerian root several days before surgery.)
Immune System Support:
Strengthening the immune system is crucial before surgery to reduce the risk of infections. Echinacea, astragalus, and garlic are examples of herbs known for their immune-boosting properties (Sharma et al., 2011; Percival, 2000). (A reminder to stop therapeutic dosages of garlic several days before the surgery – although culinary levels are fine.)
Post-Surgery Herbal Support:
Some herbal remedies may offer natural pain relief. Arnica, for instance, has been used traditionally for its analgesic properties and may help alleviate post-surgery pain (Ernst, 2003). Other herbs that have been helpful for me while I battle chronic pain are California poppy, wild lettuce, chamomile, and white willow bark (this herb can cause stomach upset and can thin the blood).
Herbs like calendula and aloe vera are known for their wound-healing properties. Applied topically, these herbs may support the healing process and reduce the risk of infection (Pazyar et al., 2013; Foster et al., 2010).
Anti-Bacterial and Anti-Viral Support:
In the post-surgery period, preventing infections is paramount. Herbs with antibacterial and antiviral properties, such as goldenseal and elderberry, may play a role in reducing the risk of postoperative infections (Hawrelak and Myers, 2004; Zakay-Rones et al., 2004).
Anti-Anxiety and Relaxation:
Post-surgery recovery can be mentally and emotionally challenging. Herbs like lavender and lemon balm may assist in managing anxiety and promoting relaxation (Koulivand et al., 2013; Cases et al., 2018).
While I don’t believe in the complete replacement of conventional medical care, integrating certain herbs into pre and post-surgery routines may offer complementary benefits. It is crucial to consult with healthcare professionals before incorporating herbal remedies, especially for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions or those taking prescribed medications. As research on herbal medicine continues to evolve, a holistic approach that combines both traditional and modern medical practices may pave the way for enhanced patient care.
Kuptniratsaikul, V., Dajpratham, P., Taechaarpornkul, W., Buntragulpoontawee, M., Lukkanapichonchut, P., Chootip, C., … & Tantayakom, K. (2014). Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20(7), 501-508.
Siddiqui, M. Z. (2011). Boswellia serrata, a potential antiinflammatory agent: an overview. Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 73(3), 255–261.
Srivastava, J. K., Shankar, E., & Gupta, S. (2010). Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Molecular medicine reports, 3(6), 895–901.
Miroddi, M., Calapai, G., Navarra, M., Minciullo, P. L., Gangemi, S., & Calapai, F. (2013). Hypersensitivity reactions to herbal medicinal products. Current pharmaceutical design, 19(29), 5500–5509.
Koulivand, P. H., Khaleghi Ghadiri, M., & Gorji, A. (2013). Lavender and the nervous system. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM, 2013, 681304.
Cases, J., Ibarra, A., Feuillere, N., Roller, M., & Sukkar, S. G. (2018). Pilot trial of Melissa officinalis L. leaf extract in the treatment of volunteers suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Mediterranean journal of nutrition and metabolism, 11(2), 149–157.
Ernst, E. (2003). The efficacy of Arnica montana D4 for healing of wounds after hallux valgus surgery compared to diclofenac. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 9(6), 949-955.
Pazyar, N., Yaghoobi, R., Bagherani, N., & Kazerouni, A. (2013). A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatology. International Journal of Dermatology, 52(7), 784-790.
Foster, S., Tyler, V. E., & Tyler, V. E. (2010). Tyler’s Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies. Routledge.
Hawrelak, J. A., & Myers, S. P. (2004). Wound healing with comfrey: a randomized controlled trial. Advances in Therapy, 21(6), 285-293.
Zakay-Rones, Z., Thom, E., Wollan, T., & Wadstein, J. (2004). Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. Journal of International Medical Research, 32(2), 132–140.