As I've mentioned, I have a blood clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden, which gives me sticky blood and requires me to inject an anticoagulant (heparin) daily while I'm bedridden to prevent me getting a DVT.
I only recently discovered that I have this condition (see previous post for more details) and as a result I'm not necessarily as fully clued up on it as I might need to be, although I'm trying to educate myself as much as possible.
There's not a lot of information out there about it, and nothing I had read warned me about things you should or shouldn't do while on anticoagulants.
Before my surgery, I had planned to take arnica. This is a natural herbal rememdy that is believed to prevent bruising. I took it before I went into labour and found that I didn't get much bruising while giving birth, so I wanted to take it before this surgery to minimise the bruising to my feet.
Now, its a homeopathic medicine, and I know that homeopathy is controversial, with many people claiming it has no effect at all. But I still thought I'd take it just in case.
I bought mine from Boots, with a bit of help from an assistant, although she didn't seem to know much about it and mostly just showed me where it was on the shelf.
I started taking it a few days before surgery. Then, the night before I went into hospital, I was Googling various things to do with bunion surgery, and taking arnica, and I spotted something that looked interesting. Something about arnica being a natural anticoagulant.
My first thought was "ooh, is it possible to medicate this naturally?"
So I Googled a bit more.
And this was the page of results that I got.
I'm sorry the picture isn't great quality, but if you click on the link above you'll get the same list of results on your own screen. And then, like for me, some words and phrases might jump out.
Phrases like "if you take anticoagulant medicine, use homeopathic arnica with caution".
And "If arnica were taken internally, in addition to serious side effects, it would possibly interact with the anticoagulant".
Woah! Hold up a moment there!
Am I reading this right? I wondered. Are these links saying it's not a good idea to take arnica if you're going to be taking an anticoagulant?
So I Googled some more.
This time, the words arnica and heparin. And got this list of results.
Which yielded some more serious phrases.
Like "It is NOT SAFE to take Arnica if you are on Heparin".
And "arnica may potentiate the effects of anticoagulant drugs such as heparin".
Ooo-kay. So. I've been taking this stuff, and there is nothing and I mean NOTHING on the bottle of arnica tablets to say it might interact with anything. There are literally no contraindications on this at all.
And yet it's a common thing for people to take for bruising. They sell it in every Boots store in the UK. It is not an obscure herbal remedy I'd tracked down in Guatamala and had shipped to me by camel and yak.
I'm pretty shocked. And I plan to write to Boots about it, because this is potentially serious.
I appreciate that not everything you read on the internet is accurate, but there are enough chatroom warnings about taking arnica with an anticoagulant like coumadin or heparin to persuade me that this is true.
This link has some useful info on arnica's side effects and interactions with other drugs, including with anticoagulants.
Quite frankly this is frightening.
It is common for people to take arnica for bruising if they are having surgery.
The very first result from a Google search of arnica and surgery says "It is an excellent idea to use Arnica both before and after surgery".
Now, because I'm a fair kind of person, I had a click on the link in case they then qualified that by saying it's not always safe, etc.
But it goes on to say "Homeopathic remedies are prepared to an extremely dilute potency and there is no risk of an interaction with anaesthesia or other medications".
NO RISK OF AN INTERACTION.
This is very scary. Doing the wrong search of the wrong keywords will give you false information.
So I'm telling you now, people, DO NOT TAKE ARNICA WITH ANTICOAGULANTS.
And just so I don't look like I'm down on the herbals, I read through the leaflet that came with my heparin.
It has a section called 'Taking other medicines' which mentions ibuprofen (which I've been prescribed along with the heparin), aspirin, clopidogrel, streptokinase, activated protein C, dextrans and vitamin K antagonists such as warfarin, but there is no mention of arnica.
Now, it may be that the risk is small, but I always prefer to make an INFORMED CHOICE on things that involve my body and my health, and the lack of available information is depriving me of that opportunity.
All I can do is use what sources I have at my disposal, namely the internet, and from what I've seen in my searches, it isn't safe to take them both.
Obviously, you will want to do your own research, and if you read this in advance of seeing your consultant, you can ask them yourself about this.
But in the meantime, I hope I've shed some light on this, and prevented other people from potentially putting themselves at risk, like I did, because there were no warnings on items being sold as medicine.
*This is the first of (so far) two posts on medicines/remedies that potentially interact with anticoagulants yet which have little or no warning on their packaging. Next post: Pregnacare