The post-operative or post-op period immediately following a surgery can be just as critical to one's overall health as the surgical procedure itself. Of course, it can also be a worrisome and very painful or at least uncomfortable time for the surgical patient.
Swift and proper healing is essential to avoid secondary infections and reduce stress on the body as it continues to heal and restore itself to complete health. Certain herbal remedies and complementary medicine treatments can help reduce inflammation, the risk of infection, pain, discomfort, and the likelihood of needing further surgical interventions.
CAUTION: Any alternative medical therapies used to speed healing after a surgery should be cleared with your physician in order to ensure that there will be no harmful drug interactions or other complications with your existing post-operative treatments.
Natural Treatments: Traditional remedies for wound care, such as cayenne pepper, coconut oil, or honey may help close wounds faster and reduce the risk of scars (Vitamin E is also recommended for scar treatment). Anti-inflammatory herbs and home remedies can reduce swelling and pain. Vitamin C and other immune-boosting supplements can help the body prevent infection and repair itself faster.
Our readers offer information and opinions on Earth Clinic, not as a substitute for professional medical prevention, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your physician, pharmacist, or health care provider before taking any home remedies or supplements or following any treatment suggested by anyone on this site. Only your health care provider, personal physician, or pharmacist can provide you with advice on what is safe and effective for your unique needs or diagnose your particular medical history.
04/12/2013: Sandra from Medon, Tennessee: "I have been researching google and also been reading your website. I had a step son move into the house who unfortunately brought scabies. I am nervous because I had surgery 3 weeks ago that left me about a 5 inch incision on my neck and I've been soaking the last two days in the borax peroxide baths. Is the scabies or the boric acid borax bath a danger to my surgical incision??"
Gallstone Surgery - Pre And Post Operative
04/19/2013: Carole from Bury Village, West Sussex,, U.k.: "Hi, I have looked again through the EC website for any other ideas on how to deal with my large calcified gallstone..... I have tried most things. A consult with the gb surgeon today..... "nothing you can do.... I have never heard of a stone such as yours being passed/dissolved....you will get worse". Although the gb area has been calm for some time, the constant heartburn issues now mean that I am back to square one on a liquid diet. I have tried for one year and so feel that surgery has to be my best option. I am using the celery and lemon juice for the heartburn. And will continue with the Gold Coin Grass for the gallstone as well as dandelion root, Juvaflex, lemon, peppermint, beetroot, low-fat.
What would people recommend for a good protocol to prepare for surgery. I know I should not eat garlic or beetroot pre surgery (increased risk of bleeding). Anything else I should avoid?
I am thinking about collodial silver, vitamin C, arnica...
Any thoughts please.... which are always appreciated.
04/19/2013: Joy from Battleground, Wash replies: "Recommend you read coconut cures book on healing gallbladder. They talk about the Mayo Clinic and the University of Wisconsin Hospital having demonstated coconut oil treatment successfully for stones in gallbladder being dissolved."
04/20/2013: Louwrence from Rustenburg, North West, South Africa replies: "Hi Carole, Do not prepare yourself for an op because once you have the op a whole lot of more problems start, the best natural method that definitely works is the liver flush, I have done it numerous times. You are only going to make the dr richer & you are going to sit with the problems such as fat digestion & even a problem with drinking coffee. People who have had the op are now sorry that they had the op due to the problems they are experiencing but it is your body to do with as you please & live with the consequences of your decision."
01/20/2013: Anonymouscat from Pleasantville, Ca: "Before surgery and after surgery take Arnica Montana 30x take four little pellets under the tongue 4 x a day three days before surgery and then keep taking it after surgery! Arnica Montana is miraculous in healing. Before and after surgery drink pure organic Aloe vera juice, take bromelain and tumeric to reduce inflammation. Increase Vitamin A and Beta carotene. If it is scar tissue your dealing with start using warm castor oil packs on the area daily, and take enzymes to get rid of scar tissue build up. Facial surgeries take a long time to heal I think 1 year 6 month is is reasonable time frame for healing if not longer."
06/07/2012: Wanda from Windsor, Ontario: "Hi I am a 48 year old female with kidney disease and do dialysis 3 times a week.. Over the past year I have all my toes on my right foot removed and now I have what they call calcium deposits in the fat cells, on my left upper leg and heel, I also have a couple small ulcers on 3 of my left toes. I have had the big upper one debribed and cleaned... Is there anything I can use to make this heal faster.. It is about 4in. wide and about 8 in. long.. It is not very deep, but very painful. I have nurses coming in daily to clean and change the dressings... But I am not sure if they are doing enough.. They use saline to clean and put a inadine net over it, but that just dries it up where it becomes more painful and itchy. What do you recommend I can try naturally.
Thanks so much, Wanda
P.S. I am also diabetic... use oral medication, and diet."Replies
06/07/2012: Louwrence from Rustenburg, North West, South Africa replies: "Hi, I too am a type 1 diabetic & I healed sores on my lower leg with a 50/50 mixture of diatomaceous earth & betonite & made a paste of it & aplied it to the wounds covered with a wet cottonwool & bandage & it healed very well in relatively short time compared to other wounds I had which took months. I hope this helps. Change the dressing regularly. & wash the paste off with water."
06/07/2012: Gavin from Manganui, Northland, New Zealand replies: "Honey was always a good one for ulcers, Manuka with the fourteen factor mark. As for the kidney disease there's a diet in the database. For the calcium buildup AVC and Lemon juice over a few weeks should dissolve the dead calcium. Good luck."
06/09/2012: Robert Henry from Ten Mile, Tn Usa replies: "WANDA, my Integrative doctor uses a hydrogen peroxide IV to handle leg infections that won't heal.
He has saved numerous limbs with this method. Your problem will be finding a doctor who will do this procedure. More money in cutting off limbs.
This doctor is an MD Surgeon, but he got tired of cutting off folks limbs and got into integrative medicine in the early 90's. He still does surgery when necessary. He just cut out the growth on my left hand that I tried to heal with Iodine and wrote about on this site. ==RH=="
04/30/2012: Kay from Jacksonville, Fl/usa: "About 7 months ago, I had an upper eye lift done by an Opthamologist. This was done because of the upper lids drooping over my eye. At the time in the corner of both eyes(interior corner near nose) was always a little puffy. I asked the Doc would that be taken care of as well as the upper lift and he assured me it would. I took self photos the day before the surgery and kept a photographic log of my eyes. He did cut into the corners as the photos all showed.
Here I am seven months later, the the upper eyelids are great, but the corners of my eyes are puffier than they were before the surgery. When I went back for a check up two months ago, I pointed out this, which have since gotten larger. The doc told me it could take up to a year for this to go away and my next apt is in October. My question is has anyone else had this? Should I seek out a Plastic Surgeon who specializes in the eyes and get a second opinion? Should a wait out until October, assuming it doesn't get larger and cover up my eyesight? P. S. I have tried ice packs but nothing has happen."Replies
04/30/2012: Heather from Leicester replies: "Hi, Try arnica tablets, they are brilliant!"
04/08/2012: Jennifer from Sunrise, Fl, USA: "Hello friends at Earth Clinic, I just had an emergency appendectomy 2 days ago and I was wondering what are some good supplements/vitamins to take to help speed the healing process. Right now I am trying to take good amounts of Vitamin C and I am also using Vitamin E on the scars to speed the healing of the incisions. Any other recommendations? (Just to clarify, I have no dietary restrictions). Thanks for your help! "Replies
04/29/2012: Jennifer from Sunrise, Fl, Usa replies: "I'm finally recovered after my surgery! Here are my suggestions about post-operative healing based on research and my own personal experience. :) Thought I would share for other people who are healing from surgery.
Your body is a self-healing machine, it knows how to repair itself. With the proper nutrition, rest, exercise, and circulation, you can get yourself back on track faster.
- Physical exercise/rehabilitation: After your surgery, WALK, WALK, WALK (as long as your doctor says it's ok)! Bring a nurse or friend with you in case you need assistance. I know it's SO painful, but when you are bedridden, your digestive system basically slows down or stops. It won't start moving again until you start walking around. You need to get your circulation and your digestive system going again quickly. It will help decrease the inflammation, help get your blood flowing and also help prevent you from getting blood clots in your legs. Don't go back to your "normal" exercise routine until your doctor says it's ok.
Another serious problem from surgeries are adhesions (when your scar tissue adheres to an adjacent organ or tissue, causing pain or other complications, some of them quite serious). Because I had surgery to the intestines, I was afraid of adhesions causing bowel obstruction. While I don't know if this helped or not, I made sure to walk EVERYDAY as much as I felt comfortable doing, slowly increasing the amount every day, to make sure my bowels, circulation, and everything else kept moving.
If you are instructed to do any kind of physical therapy (PT) to get your range of motion back, DO IT! Otherwise, you could permanently lose range of motion in the affected area.
If you had abdominal/laparoscopic surgery like I did, you know that the gas that they put into your abdominal area from surgery can cause serious gas pains that radiate up to your shoulder (sometimes more painful than the surgery itself! ). Another reason that you need to WALK - walking helps the gas get out faster.
- Follow your doctor's instructions: A common sense warning, but most people don't follow it. Support your injured area when doing any kind of movements that cause strain. For abdominal surgery patients, laying down and sitting up can be very painful. Roll onto your side and prop yourself up with your arms to avoid strain on the abdominal muscles. Also, support your abdominal area with your hands or a pillow if you laugh, cough, or sneeze.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help! :Don't be shy to ask your nurse to help you get to the bathroom, to help you put your clothes on, or for any help you might need. You might feel uncomfortable having a stranger help you with things that seem very intimate, but believe me, they have seen much worse! Simple tasks like going to the bathroom or taking a shower are going to be very painful and difficult for a few days after your surgery. Your body will be in a very delicate state. Forcing yourself to do something you are not ready to do might tear and pull at your wounds, complicating your healing even more.
Also, if you have any questions about the post-healing process, don't be afraid to call your doctor or surgeon. Don't skip any post-op appointments. Some post-operative complications are quite serious, so if you develop a fever, unusual swelling, redness/rash, or have a lot of oozing from your incisions, call right away.
- Don't be a martyr: Take your prescribed pain medication. Your body actually heals SLOWER when you are in pain. If you use adequate pain control, you will heal faster. If the pain medication makes you nauseous, have your doctor prescribe anti-nausea medication or eat fresh or candied ginger or ginger ale. Also, take a stool softener (like Miralax) as a precaution, because opiate pain medications like morphine, hydrocodone and oxycodone are known to cause very severe constipation (this might be even further complicated if you are not walking around).
- Try to maintain a good attitude:I know that's harder than it sounds when you're in pain. But having friends and family there for support, or even joking around with the nurses makes you feel better. Look on the bright side, your surgery is over, it went well, and soon you'll be on the mend! A positive attitude helps you heal faster, too.
- Self-hypnosis and meditation for healing and pain relief:If you have an iPhone, download Andrew Johnson's "Healing" self-hypnosis app, which is a guided self-hypnosis that focuses on self-healing. Hypnosis and meditation are also good distractors from pain.
- Eat healthy: yeah, I know, that's kind of hard in a hospital with all the processed junk food. Have a friend or family member bring you something rich in fruits and vegetables like a leafy salad so you can get healthy doses of Vitamin A and C (both known to speed healing). When you are home, eat as many fruits and veggies as possible until you are fully healed. Your body will really need it more than ever. Avoid processed fats (yep, no junk food), which interfere with healthy cell construction.
- Get lots of rest: After surgery, you are going to feel a lot sleepier than normal. That's completely normal. Your body is trying to repair itself. For about a week or two after surgery I had to take a nap or two everyday - and some of my "naps" would be 4 hours long! Don't limit your sleep - your body will tell you how much it needs. Give yourself as much time off from work as possible to recover.
- Get some sun! : Sunlight accelerates wound healing quite dramatically, probably by producing vitamin D in the skin. Patients who are exposed to sunlight heal far faster than those who are not. Try to take some walks outdoors with a friend or nurse.
- Zinc: Best taken prior to surgery, zinc reduces wound healing time, rapidly reduces wound size, and bolsters immunity to help ward off infection. Topical zinc, such as calamine lotion, also inhibits bacteria growth on the surface of skin, helping to prevent infection (diaper rash creams? Yes, those are zinc creams. I also recommend Avene's Cicalfate cream, another good zinc-based cream that I apply everyday after strong chemical peels). As zinc deficiency is common in the United States, most doctors recommend 30 mg/day, taken orally for four to six weeks, to bring your levels up to par before surgery. If you undergo surgery in a zinc deficient state, your recovery time will be lengthened, so be sure to test and supplement your zinc levels, if necessary, well before any planned surgical procedures.
- Vitamin C: I noticed that after my surgery, I had a craving for citrus fruits. Well no wonder - another important component for full post-operative recovery is vitamin C. According to the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, levels of this vital compound actually drop in burn victims, post-op patients, and other victims of physical trauma. The minimum required intake of vitamin C to maintain healthy bodily function is about 300mg to 1g per day following surgery or other procedures.
Vitamin C is required to make collagen, the connective tissue in the skin that helps healing and prevents blistering. Vitamin C strengthens scar tissue and also helps reduce tissue death after burns. It also helps to strengthen the immune system and fight off infection.
But don't take processed, synthetic forms of the vitamin. Ascorbic acid is not the same thing as full-spectrum vitamin C. Get your vitamin C from nutritional supplements or superfoods made from plants. (I used Emergen-C packets, they contain both zinc and Vitamin C. You can also apply Vitamin C topically to help speed wound healing.
- Vitamin A/Beta Carotine - another important vitamin to speed wound healing. I drank carrot juice a lot after my surgery and ate lots of fresh, leafy greens.
- Aloe Vera Juice - My surgery was to remove my appendix, which is part of your intestines, and I had some post-surgery pain and inflammation to my intestines after the surgery. Since aloe vera is such a wonderful healer to the skin, I thought, why not also take it internally? You can buy aloe vera juice at most health food stores, but most of it tastes pretty nasty. I buy the sweetened Alo brand that has the chunks of aloe vera in it. You can also find sweetened aloe vera juice in Asian food stores. In my opinion, the sweetened kind is much more palatable. Within a day of drinking the aloe vera juice, my pain and inflammationin my intestines went away completely! You can also apply aloe externally to heal your wounds - aloe is an excellent wound healer.
- Coconut Oil/Juice - I take 1 tbsp of coconut oil internally and also apply it externally to my scars to prevent inflammation and speed healing. I also drink coconut water/juice to help me heal internally.
- Bromelain: An enzyme found in the stems of pineapples, bromelain is useful for reducing post-op swelling. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and boosts the immune system to reduce pain, bruising, tenderness, frostbite, and burns. It is a natural supplement that works the same way as Ibuprofen. The only difference: bromelain will not harm your liver.
If you decide to take anti-inflammatory supplements following surgery, however, remember that inflammation is not always a bad thing. In fact, inflammation is your body's way of bringing blood and nutrients to the area that needs healing. It is your body's adaptive response to trauma. Inflammation actually serves an important healing purpose, so don't go crazy trying to eliminate it with drugs or supplements unless there is a strong medical reason for doing so (check with your doctor to determine what's right for you). After my abdominal surgery, I looked like I was 2 months pregnant from all the abdominal swelling, but that went away in about a week or two. Walking helps getting the circulation going which helps the inflammation to go away faster.
- Chlorella: Japanese studies have found Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF) to be especially effective in speeding up cell growth, a major factor in the natural repair of wounds. Various other studies reveal CGF helps heal ulcers and promote bone and muscle growth. When taken internally, it also acts as an immune-booster. Topically, it functions as a protective cleansing compound for skin.
- Gotu kola: I used gotu kola after my surgery to help speed wound healing and improve my circulation and I feel like it helped a lot. This herb has been used for centuries in Asia as natural medicine. Gotu kola - also called marsh penny, Indian pennywort, and British pennywort - helps in the treatment of scars and wounds with infections that have not yet reached the bone. The herb can be used both internally and externally while components ofgotu kola have been shown to increase levels of antioxidants and help repair connective tissues.
- Silica helps heal skin, ligaments, tendons and other tissues.
- Colloidal silvercan be used topically to prevent infections.
- Acupuncture can help speed wound recovery. Needling the tissues near the wound can boost local circulation and help eliminate scar tissue.
- Vitamin E Oil: Always has been my go-to remedy for scar care. I use Jason's Vitamin E oil. Helps prevent infection and help speed healing of new wounds.
- Silicone: I've done some research on scar care and apparently topical silicone (silicone sheets or cream) helps flatten, lighten and heal scars. I use Scar Away and haven't seen results yet, but I will update if it is successful (for new scars, it supposedly takes 8-9 weeks. Old scars take about 3-6 months to improve).
- Massage: supposedly helps break down scar tissue with raised scars. I use the Scar Away system which combines silica with massage, will update on how it works."