Herbs for Your Heart

More and more scientific research supports the success of natural health care for heart problems, both as a preventive measure and as a treatment. First of all, examine your diet. The more organic, raw, and steamed vegetables you eat, the better. Cut down on breads, baked goods and anything which contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, fried foods and animal based products, such as meat and dairy. Use flax seed oil (3 Tbs/day) along with olive oil, garlic and lemon juice as a salad dressing.

Yoga and Tai Chi are exercises which stimulate circulation and increase "Chi" energy, but do not usually bring on angina pain (pain caused by exertion in patients with cardiovascular problems).

The Chinese say the heart is the "seat" of the soul. It's amazing to note that when people get a heart transplant, they often take on personality traits of the donor! Therefore, heart patients need to examine their life, to see if they are fulfilling their "soul's" purpose. Emotional healing is always a factor in all disease processes, but is particularly important in matters of the heart!

Herbal Remedies for the Heart

Herbal remedies have a long history of use for helping strengthen and heal the heart. Modern research is now confirming what herbalists have known for centuries: that specific herbs are beneficial for heart health. They include Garlic, Hawthorn Berries, Cayenne Pepper, Gingko Biloba, and Gugulipids.

Garlic (Allium sativum)

Garlic is the one herb almost everybody knows, at least for its use as a cooking condiment. Garlic has many medicinal uses. Several scientific studies have documented its use for reducing high cholesterol. (JAMA 94:632-635, 1993). Garlic also helps heart health by inhibiting platelet aggregation (sticking together of blood cells), and breaking down fibrin particles. The active ingredients are destroyed by cooking, so use garlic raw (2 cloves/day), or take a supplement (10 mg/day).

Hawthorn (Crataegus species)

This small tree is found throughout North America, Asia and Europe. Many scientific studies have proven how powerful hawthorn is as a heart helping herb. It improves blood flow to the heart by increasing the dilation of small arteries that carry blood to that area. It also helps the cell membranes to absorb calcium, which in turn helps to regulate the heartbeat. Hawthorn contains many active ingredients, including flavonoids, such as rutin, and OPC's (oligomeric proanthocyanidins) also found in grapeseed and pinebark.

Cayenne Pepper (Capsicum annuum)

Hot and spicy, cayenne pepper is used as a condiment in dishes from Mexico to India. This is one herb you can actually feel stimulate circulation! Packing a wound with cayenne pepper will burn only for an instant, but will quickly seal the wound and stop the bleeding.

Cayenne pepper has been used by herbalists as an addition to herbal formula's to help increase the absorption of the other herbs. It is useful for arteriosclerosis and heart disease.

Ginkgo (Ginkgo Biloba)

This ancient tree species has survived the test of time. Best known for its use in improving memory, Ginkgo's primary action is to improve circulation to very small blood vessels. It also is a strong antioxidant, which helps prevent free-radical damage to the heart and blood vessels.

Gugul (Commiphora mukul)

Gugul is actually a sap from a tree found in India. It is collected, dried and powdered and used as a medicine. The active ingredient in gugul, gugulipids, were proven in scientific studies to reduce high blood cholesterol, and atherosclerosis. The LDL, or "bad" cholesterol was decreased, and the HDL or "good" cholesterol was increased. (Indian Journal of Medical Research, 1988).

This plant medicine also effectively helps to reduce high blood pressure. Gugul is used extensively in Ayurvedic Medicine, the ancient healing art from India, and can be used along with other western herbal interventions.

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)

The fruit of this plant is brown and triangular, with a tuft of hair at the end. That's probably where it got its nickname of Lion's Ear. Motherwort is a relaxant herb which is particularly useful for arrhythmias or where stress, tension or anxiety are involved with irregular heartbeats.

Night Blooming Cactus (Selenicereus Grandiflorus)

The extracts made from this plant helps regulate the heartbeat and decrease the incidence and severity of angina pains.

About the Author:

Ellen Kamhi Ph.D. R.N. H.N.C. hosts "The Natural Nurse," a nationally syndicated radio program. She is author of  Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide to Arthritis, and The Natural Medicine Chest. Visit her on her website at www.naturalnurse.com.

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