They say that the way to a girl’s heart is through flowers… I think what they are really implying is that the way to keep our hearts happy is through herbs! Well, we also like chocolate, but that’s beside the point.
Keeping your heart healthy is important because, well, it is your HEART. You only get one of them, and as far as I know, once your ticker’s toast, you’re toast. So keeping a strong heart should be of utmost importance. As I mentioned in an earlier post, foods are an excellent way of maintaining heart health, but sometimes your heart just needs a little extra support. This is where the use of herbs can come in handy. Herbs have been used for hundreds of years to treat heart arrhythmia, angina (chest pain), heart failure, and many other heart ailments long before traditional medicines came about. Just because they aren’t as widely used today doesn’t mean that they can’t do your heart a world of good under the right usage and supervision. If you are experiencing symptoms of cardiovascular disease, talk to your doctor about adding herbs to your treatment. I’d even encourage seeing a naturopathic doctor or trained herbalist. Just remember to exercise extreme caution when mixing herbal remedies with traditional medications because even though most are safe to use in conjunction with each other, others can have adverse reactions or cause your other medication to become ineffective. It’s best to see both a western doctor and naturopath since your doctor may not know herbal remedies while the naturopath may not know your medications. Working with both doctors can allow you to safely add herbs into your treatment with minimal risks.
The best part about using herbs as medicine is that they are very mild while still maintaining effectiveness, and they allow you to use them with a lot less side effects than you may experience with normal medications. So, which herbs are best for supporting your heart? Well, let’s take a gander, shall we?
Hawthorn is the king of the herbs for heart health! Herbalist’s actually refer to it as food for the heart because it’s used to treat a variety of heart conditions due to its effectiveness at normalizing heart function and gently strengthening and toning the heart muscles. It has been shown to increase cardiac performance and make the heart more efficient.
Some conditions hawthorn is used for:
- Heart failure
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries due to plaque buildup)
- Cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) – If left untreated, this can lead to a heart attack. Hawthorn works to steady the heartbeat.
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Poor circulation – Hawthorn increases blood flow to the heart, which in turn prevents heart attacks caused from lack of blood flow.
The flowers of Hawthorn tend to have more active compounds than the berries, so it works best when used in combination.
It is actually one of the herbs that is able to be used safely with other heart medications and can actually increase the efficiency of certain medications allowing you to eventually lower those doses.
I mentioned garlic in my earlier post about heart healthy foods, but it’s so effective that it deserved a second mention. Cutting garlic and then allowing it to sit for 10-15 minutes releases allicin, the active compound that improves circulation and can help lower LDL cholesterol levels.
Hailed as the “mushroom of immortality,” this magnificent fungus is good for the treatment of atherosclerosis because it calms your nerves and improves blood flow to the heart. It’s for this reason that it can help with chest pain also.
This fungus has an enormous amount of heart loving compounds. One such compound, ganoderic acid, is particularly useful for lowering triglyceride levels, reducing excess cholesterol in the blood, and reducing the platelet stickiness that can increase blood pressure. It can even supposedly correct an irregular heartbeat. In a study done, 54 people with hypertension that took reishi extract 3 times a day for 4 weeks were able to significantly lower their blood pressure.
This herb increases cardiac output so it’s good for treatment of atherosclerosis and chest pains.
Garden Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
Angelica is touted for containing 14 different anti-arrhythmic compounds, and is said to be just as effective as some medications prescribed by doctors for treatment of an irregular heartbeat.
Dong Quai is a root used mainly in China to treat congestive heart failure since it does such an awesome job at toning the heart muscles.
If you have hypertension due to stress, this herb may help you reduce your anxiety. It has a relaxing effect on your muscles and nerves, slowing a rapid heartbeat and improving circulatory action. Due to these actions, it has been used many years to treat heart arrhythmia and heart palpitations.
You often see valerian as a main ingredient in teas mixed with other herbs that help you fall asleep easier. That’s because this herb helps your heart become more efficient with pumping blood, thus lowering your blood pressure.
Dandelion root is a bitter, which means that it increases flow of bile through the intestines and can increase appetite. This little guy also has diuretic properties which may help you lower your blood pressure. Yet another reason to add dandelion root coffee to your daily routine. 😉
Recent studies have shown that adding a little bit of cinnamon to your day might decrease your blood pressure over time while at the same time balancing blood sugar. Two for one! In a study on the herbs effectiveness, simply taking 2 grams of cinnamon per day for 3 months decreased the blood pressure of the participants.
This spice that you probably have up in your cupboard somewhere is an awesome blood flow booster that helps to improve circulation and detox the bloodstream. That’s probably why it is so hot, hot, hot!
Ginger improves blood circulation and relaxes the muscles surrounding blood vessels. Plus it’s an amazing anti-inflammatory, so what’s not to love?
Oil of lavender is a popular essential oil among people with high anxiety and stress levels. The reason? This wonderful aroma induces relaxation. Try diffusing it after a long, stressful day to give you that nice therapeutic touch.
Aside from being glorified for its use as a memory booster, this magical herb has other tricks up its sleeve as well. Since it dilates blood vessels, it boosts blood circulation to major organs, reducing your blood pressure and risk of a stroke. It is also used to treat arteriosclerosis (thickening and stiffening of blood vessels).
Here’s yet another reason to drink this glorious tea daily! Green tea helps improve the condition and performance of the cells lining the blood vessels and heart.
There are many ways to include herbs into your daily routine. One way is simply through steeping the herbs in hot water and drinking it as a tea. Other ways include taking it as a tincture (usually alcohol extraction of the herb), taking the herbs in dry capsule form, or simply adding them to your cooking!
The fact that you are even looking at this list indicates to me that you are at least slightly interested in taking a more natural approach to your healthcare and the overall care of your heart. If you are experiencing symptoms of chest pains, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, or heart failure, I recommend talking to your doctor about these herbs. Print off this list, bring it in, and like I mentioned before, work together with your regular doctor and a naturopath or trained herbalist to get the best care possible.
How do you take care of your heart?
Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. New York: Avery, 2010. Print.
“Health Effects of Hawthorn.” American Family Physician. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.<http://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/0215/p465.html>.
Ritchason, Jack. The Little Herb Encyclopedia. Pleasant Grove, UT: Woodland Health, 1995. Print.
Steel, Susannah. Home Herbal: Cook, Brew & Blend Your Own Herbs. New York: DK, 2011. Print.
“Studies Show Reishi Mushrooms Benefit People Stricken with a Variety of Ailments, from High Blood Pressure to AIDS.” NaturalNews. Web. 01 Feb. 2016. <http://www.naturalnews.com/>.
“The Heart Herbs: Hawthorn and Garlic.” Dr Christopher Hobbs. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. <http://www.christopherhobbs.com/>.
This website is intended only to educate people about the powerful use of herbs in everyday life along with the power of whole foods and the great ability of our bodies to MOVE and explore all things that excite us! It is not meant to cure, prevent, or diagnose any disease. Herbs can be powerful medicines if used correctly, so please use care and consult with your doctor before and during your experimentation, especially if you are taking medications as some herbs can have interactions with drugs.