The use of complimentary or alternative medicines such as those found in herbal or homeopathic preparations has increased from 20% or our patient population to more than 60% of our patients. The fascination of herbals, teas, and homeopathic products exists because people believe these medicines to be “natural” and therefore perceived to be “safe.” Only recently have these products been scrutinized carefully by the medical community to determine how safe they actually are. Safety issues are being addressed due to the fact that there are an increasing number of reports describing bleeding
complications due to herbal remedies. We now know the chemistry of most herbals so we can now identify the substances within each herbal preparation that are likely to cause bleeding problems. To date, the only documented sequelae of herbals that effects Plastic Surgery is the increased risk of peri-operative and post-operative bleeding which usually manifests as more swelling and bruising than one would normally see. In more severe cases, these homeopathic medications may even cause significant bleeding and hematomas.
A partial list of common herbal supplements that are known to cause bleeding problems is provided:
Oil of Wintergreen
Red Chili Pepper
Other dietary supplements known to effect healing or cause bleeding:
Chondroitin & Glucosamine
As a general rule of thumb, any herbal supplement which is known to cause or have any pharmaceutical activity should be discontinued 2 weeks prior to a general anesthetic or outpatient surgery under local or sedation. Since many herbal or homeopathic formulations contain numerous plant extracts, it is best to stop all homeopathic remedies including herbal teas a full 2 weeks before surgery. Patients may renew taking their supplements once uncomplicated healing has progressed for at least one week post-operatively. It is probably in the patient’s best interest to assume all homeopathic supplements have the potential to effect healing and should be discontinued 2 weeks prior to surgery.