We live in fearful times: fear of global war or economic collapse; fear of big business and big government; fear of big pharmaceutical companies and the drugs they manufacture. A mini-revolution of sorts is taking place in which widespread fear has morphed into consumer action. Fearing the potential toxicity and side-effects of prescription drugs has prompted many consumers to flock to “natural” remedies and homeopathic cures. Right or wrong, there is a growing general distrust of traditional Western medicine and many people are looking for nontraditional pathways to health and wellness.

Herbal supplements are also big business and they can be an even bigger headache for plastic surgeons that have to deal with the potential dangers of herbal supplements in their practice. Plastic surgeons have to worry about the possible interactions between surgical anesthetics and herbal supplements. And because many patients equate “natural” and “herbal” with “safe”, they often do not alert their physicians to the fact that they are taking herbal supplements. Unfortunately, a surgeon who has not been told by a patient about herbal supplement use may find out only too late that the patient is at a higher risk for bleeding and other complications while undergoing a cosmetic procedure. Many cosmetic surgeons will instruct their patients to stop using herbal supplements at least two weeks prior to surgery to ensure a safe procedure.

Physicians also know the herbal supplement industry is vast and unregulated. Products marketed as safe often make claims that are not supported by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Many of these products can cause side effects and act very much like prescription drugs.

Valerian, with its sedative effect, in large doses has been known to cause the heart to race wildly. Garlic, considered a traditional remedy for viral infections, also has a blood-thinning effect which can cause bleeding during surgery.  Gingko biloba and Feverfew also can make bleeding worse once taken.

Even certain produce can pose risks. Celery is rich in magnesium but it also contains phthalides, chemicals which help remove stress hormones from the bloodstream and calm the nerves. Some people may become overly sensitive to light after consuming large amounts of celery.

Before choosing to undergo any type of plastic surgery, be sure to be open and honest with your surgeon about your herbal supplement use. He or she won’t judge you as living “on the fringe” but will need to know what you are taking to achieve the best, safest results for you. Call Dr. Kyle S. Choe, a board certified facial plastic surgeon at The Choe Center for Facial Plastic Surgery in Virginia Beach at 757.389.5850 to learn more about cosmetic surgery.