Cancer Surgery: Precautions for Use of Dietary/Herbal Supplements (The James)

Cancer Surgery: Precautions for Use of Dietary/Herbal Supplements


Tell your health care team if you use any herbs, supplements, vitamins, minerals or other remedies. Bring them in their original bottle or container with you to each doctor’s appointment.

 Many dietary/herbal supplements and other natural medicines or products can cause complications with surgery. It important to know that if a supplement or product is labeled as “natural,” it does not mean it is safe or does not have harmful side effects. Supplements or products may interact with your anesthesia or other medicines used during your surgery or cause bleeding, clotting or blood pressure problems.

Limited information is available about some dietary/herbal supplements and natural medicines or products. Many of these products have not been tested in clinical studies in humans and the effects they may cause are unknown.

For these reasons, we recommend that you do not take dietary/herbal supplements or other natural products for at least 2 weeks before your surgery. Foods with these substances are normally not harmful, if taken in limited amounts as part of your regular diet.

The following list includes supplements or products that can cause problems with your surgery. This is not a complete list. Dietary/herbal supplements may be known by other names. It is important to read package labels and ingredient lists carefully. Talk to your health care team about your use of dietary/herbal supplements and other natural medicines or products.

AloeEssiac (sheep sorrel)Mangosteen
Bishop's WeedFeverfewPomegranate
Black PepperFish Oil: more than 3 g/dayPseudoginseng (Panax)
Black teaGarlicQuercetin
Blue-green AlgaeGBC, BD, GHBRed Clover
Burodkc RootGingerReishi mushrooms
Cat's ClawGinkgoSchisandra
ColeusGlucosamineTahitian noni
DanshenGreen teaTree Turmeric
DHEAGuggulTurmeric (curcumin)
EchinaceaHigenamineWhite Pepper
EphedraHu zhangWolfberry (Goji Juice)

 It is important to talk openly with your doctor, pharmacist or nurse about all dietary/herbal supplements or natural medicines or products you use before your surgery. To keep you safe, it is important for your health care team to know how often you take supplements and how much you take. 

If you are unable to stop your use of supplements or products at least 2 weeks before your surgery, bring them with you in their original bottle or container to show to your doctor.


© February 21, 2019. The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

This handout is for informational purposes only. Talk with your doctor or health care team if you have any questions about your care.

For more health information, call the Patient and Family Resource Center at 614-366-0602 or visit