Vitamins and Natural Healing Remedies

Reviewed by and Manna Ko, PhD

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For thousands of years, natural healing remedies were the only source of treatment for medical conditions. Even today, 25 percent of our pharmaceutical drugs are direct or indirect derivatives of plants (the core of natural healing). For example, aspirin was initially derived from willow bark.

Combining Ingredients

Vitamins are essential to bodily functions. Vitamin supplements work much like pharmaceutical drugs, using a variety of ingredients to enhance the healthy effects. Vitamin supplements combine ingredients such as rose hips, bioflavonoids, and inert substances (ex-cellulose, calcium phosphate stearic acid). Most natural healing remedies today are direct derivatives of plants, herbs, polyphenol (an antioxidant phytochemical), and other chemical agents.

Combining ingredients of any kind produces greater effects on the body, so getting your doctor's advice about vitamin supplements is just as important as getting advice about pharmaceutical drugs. For example, the American Heart Association (AHA) will not endorse the use of ingestible antioxidant vitamin supplements until further investigation. But the AHA does advocate proper diet to provide necessary vitamins, minerals, and fibers. You can also learn more about menopause-related vitamin and natural-healing supplements.

Combining vitamin supplements or natural healing remedies with anesthesia during surgery may cause complications. It is important to tell your doctor about the supplements and medications you plan to take before and after any medical procedure.

How Do Supplements Work?

Vitamins are carbon-containing molecules that create numerous chemical reactions within the body. Vitamins help build healthy cells. There are two types of vitamins: water soluble and fat soluble. Some vitamins can be found in food while certain vitamins are naturally produced within our bodies. For example, sun exposure biologically produces vitamin D in our bodies. Vitamins in the right quantity are essential to normal bodily functions. The wrong vitamins can produce a host of potential risks. Vitamins taken in the wrong quantity may be hazardous to your health as well. Supplements may also interact with other medications you are taking, or with anesthesia, or may interfere with natural chemical reactions that support the body.

Natural healing remedies are plants or herbs, or the derivative that contains the substance polyphenol. Every plant has its own genetic makeup, including numerous chemical compounds that create a unique blueprint. For example, echinosides are present in Echinacea. The echinoside compound is not present in other plants. Each herb creates different chemical reactions within the body. Natural healing remedies can be used to accelerate healthy chemical reactions in the body. People have witnessed the benefits of natural healing remedies for more than 60,000 years; however, natural healing remedies taken at the wrong time or in the wrong quantity can be harmful.

Recommended Daily Allowance

A healthy diet typically provides sufficient vitamin levels. However, some people have found that whole vitamin supplements support cellular development that is not being sustained through natural means. The recommended daily allowance varies among individuals, and many factors can change yours, such as genetic factors and medical conditions. Food preparation plays a role in the retention of vitamins as well. When certain foods are cooked, they may lose essential vitamin qualities. These variables should be taken into account when monitoring your daily vitamins, minerals, and other natural supplements.

Supplements and Surgery

The goal of supplements when having surgery is to better prepare for the procedure, accelerate healing, and help you achieve a better outcome. Nutritional reserves for surgery may include supplements in the form of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids.

For the most favorable healing conditions, cellular function and blood flow should operate at maximum capacity. Optimal cellular function and blood flow require proper diet and exercise. For example, the production of collagen is a cellular function that is essential to the healing process. Aging men and women experience a natural decrease in collagen production. After surgery, collagen helps build new tissue. The course of healing can be slowed by decreased collagen production. Supplements boost these processes. Supplements may also help you heal by acting as an antioxidant to neutralize free radical damage. Supplements can reduce the risk of swelling, scarring, infection, pain, inflammation, and prolonged recovery. Here is a partial list of supplements that may improve your overall surgical experience:

  • Arnica Montana: The root and flowers of Arnica Montana can reduce inflammation and swelling.
  • Bromelain: Bromelain comprises protein-digesting enzymes found in pineapple plants to reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain.
  • Vitamin C: Ascorbic acid, known as vitamin C, helps support the immune system, acting as an antioxidant to hasten recovery.
  • Vitamin A: Vitamin A contains fat soluble compounds that help fight infection and speed recovery after surgery (use according to your doctor's instructions).
  • Selenium: Selenium is a mineral which, in combination with other compounds, can be used to speed recovery.

Complications and Risks

Without the advice of a doctor, supplements may be taxing on the body. They may also increase the risk of medical conditions. Surgical complications can result from taking the wrong supplements. The most common of the infrequent complications is excessive bleeding, which can produce a blood clot or hematoma. Your doctor can intervene and treat complications; however, recovery will take longer.

Daily supplements used in conjunction with certain medications may present additional medical concerns. These risks may include excessive bleeding, rapid heart beat, and sedative effects. Other risks include the prolonged effect of other drugs or the interference of metabolic activities that occur in liver enzymes. Here is a partial list of supplements you may need to avoid during the weeks before and after surgery:

  • Bilberry
  • Cayenne
  • Echinacea
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Gingko Biloba
  • Ginseng
  • Kava Kava
  • St. John's Wort
  • Valerian Botanical
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

Tell Your Doctor What You're Taking

Knowing the right time to take supplements before and after a procedure is essential. You can help reduce your risk of complications by bringing a complete list of supplements you're taking to the initial physician consultation. There may be supplements that must be discontinued for a specified duration before surgery. There are others that can be used before and after a medical procedure to enhance recovery. Recommendations may vary among providers. It is best to see a doctor at least three weeks prior to the expected surgery date in order to evaluate your supplement list and provide enough time to comply with doctor recommendations.

About the Reviewers of This Article

Scott R. Miller, MD, FACS, is a member of the editorial advisory board for Consumer Guide to Plastic Surgery. A board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Miller practices in La Jolla, California. [More about Dr. Miller.]

Manna Ko, PhD, is a clinical nutritionist and herbologist, member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, and founder of the The Center for Healthy Living. Dr. Ko obtained her doctorate from American Institute of Holistic Theology and is a certified clinical nutritionist and certified clinical herbalist.