An Australian anaesthetist this week advised people to stop taking herbal medicines about two weeks before surgery because of potential complications including increased bleeding and poor wound healing, reports the newspaper the West Australian.
Dr Penny Hodges of Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital said surveys in Australia and overseas revealed that up to a quarter of pre-surgical patients were using one or more herbal medicines.
She said the increased use of herbs was a potential problem for doctors because of the danger of adverse reactions with conventional drugs and anaesthetic agents.
Dangers included unexpected cardiovascular instability. Dr Hodges said case reports suggested unexpected bleeding was associated with garlic and gingko biloba usage and herbs with a sedative action such as kava and valerian may cause prolonged anaesthesia.
"If someone's taking echinacea on a long-term basis, there is a potential for increased wound infection and poor wound healing," she said.
Dr Hodges presented her findings to the annual scientific meeting of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists in Brisbane.