Did you know that herbs can help to promote heart health?
Globally Cardiovascular disease takes more lives than TB, HIV and malaria combined. Every hour in SA, 5 people will have a heart attack; and 10 will have a stroke.
The risk factors for heart disease include:
- Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
- Overweight and obesity
- High cholesterol
- Tobacco use
- Physical inactivity
- Unhealthy diet
- Eating more than the daily recommended salt intake
7 Herbs that promote heart health
1. Hawthorn for Heart Health
For a long time, Hawthorn has been considered as a good choice to strengthen and protect the heart and cardiovascular system. Numerous laboratory tests and clinical trials have demonstrated that Hawthorn contains chemical compounds that increase blood flow to the heart muscle. The principal activity is attributed to the content of oligomeric procyanidins while additional effects are provided by various flavonoids such as vitexin, rutin, quercetin, and hyperoside.
Hawthorn acts on both the myocardial and peripherally to reduce vascular resistance. Therefore, it has successfully been used as a heart tonic to regulate circulation as well as early manifestations of circulatory insufficiency as it dilates the smooth muscles of the coronary vessels.
Dried leaves and blossom extract is widely used in Europe to treat early stages of congestive heart failure and to minor arrhythmias. Not only has it been reported that it improves the pumping capacity of the heart but it also reduces a patient’s’ susceptibility to cardiac angina.
As an antioxidant, it helps to prevent heart disease and can also be used to treat congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and hypertension. A British study used hawthorn successfully to lower blood pressure in a diabetic.
Hawthorn also contributes to the emotional healing of the heart. These berries are beneficial for people struggling with nervous heart conditions and irritability related to emotional heartache. They provide nutrition and support to your heart while opening it up to forgiveness.
It strengthens and tones the cardiac muscle and enhances contractions as well as protects the heart during exercise.
It is, however, not useful for acute attacks because its effects develop quite slowly following continued consumption. It’s safe for long-term uses and needs to be taken over several months to achieve results.
2. Garlic for Heart Health
It has been said that stone age workers and the Egyptians who built the pyramids ate garlic because it kept them fit and strong. Today there is extensive research confirming that garlic has healthful effects on the intestines, the blood, and the cardiovascular system.
Garlic lowers cholesterol and high blood pressure as well as improves blood flow by thickening blood.
Authorities agree that the best activity of garlic is its ability to produce Allicin which as a result produce antiplatelet, antibiotic and antihyperlipidemic properties.
Dutch investigations have confirmed that garlic is beneficial for the reduction of cholesterol, increased fibrinolytic activity, and inhibition of platelet aggregation. More than thirty-two human studies have shown the lipid-lowering (cholesterol reduction) effects of garlic. A study on patients with mild hypertension was given a daily dose of 600 mg garlic powder. As a result patients showed a 6% reduction of systolic blood pressure and a 9% reduction of diastolic pressure after only 12 weeks.
The daily dosage of garlic is debatable, the Dutch investigations suggested about four cloves, a much higher dose than the German Commission E. which recommends approximately one average size clove per day. There are many variables in the mode of preparation and resulting constituents that each one needs to be addressed individually.
3. Red Rice Yeast for Heart Health
Used for centuries in China, Red yeast is a rice fermentation product made of a mixture of several species of Monascus fungi.
Monacolin K is responsible for the therapeutic activity of red yeast due to its capabilities to lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Additionally, these compounds are responsible for blocking the formulation of cholesterol. This process stimulates hepatocytes to form a greater number of LDL receptors. In return it promotes an increased influx of LDL cholesterol from the plasma to serve the predecessor need in bile acid synthesis, therefore result in a decrease in plasma LDL cholesterol levels.
Several clinical studies in China and the United States support the efficacy of red yeast rice as a cholesterol-lowering agent.
4. Ginkgo Biloba for Heart Health
A concentrated Ginkgo biloba leaf extract is highly popular in Europe as a treatment for peripheral vascular disease, particularly cerebral circulatory disturbances and other peripheral arterial circulatory disorders.
The Ginkgo Biloba Extract (GBE) therapeutic effects are attributed to a mixture of the constituents present rather than a single chemical entity. The rutin type flavonoids reduce capillary fragility and increase the threshold of blood loss from capillary vessels which prevents ultrastructural brain damage. They also tend to inhibit the lipid (fat) peroxidation of cell membranes and function as free-radical scavengers. This prevents oxidative modification of cells and prevents lesions in DNA which could lead to cell death or malignant transformation of cells.
Platelet-Activating Factor (PAF) produced by a variety of tissues, is involved in hypotension, platelet aggregation and inflammatory processes are seen in asthma, ulcerative colitis, and allergies. Studies have shown that the actions of PAF are blocked by ginkgolides. Ginkgolides increase blood fluidity thereby improving circulation. Bilobalide works with ginkgolides to improve the tolerance of brain tissue and increase cerebral circulation.
As a tea form it doesn’t provide a sufficient quantity of the active principles, therefore the extract works better.
5. Motherwort for Heart Health
Motherwort is a cardiovascular health tonic. This herb is a nervine which helps calm and tone the nervous system and is extremely beneficial to the circulatory system. It can, therefore, be used for nervous debility triggered by irritation and unrest as well as for cardiac disorders with a nervous origin such as palpitations, stress, and anxiety.
Motherwort contains leonurine which is a vasodilator. Treat palpitations, mild heart irregularity, hypertension and strengthen the heart with this tonic herb.
An alcohol-based tincture is more potent than a tea. Take twice a day.
6. Turmeric for Heart Health
Curcumin the active constituent in turmeric helps to rejuvenate the heart tissue, promote heart circulation and reduce blood clots as well as have antioxidant properties which protect the heart from oxidation.
One of the main benefits of curcumin is that it improves the functioning of the endothelium which is the lining of the blood vessels. Endothelial dysfunction is when the endothelium is unable to regulate blood pressure, blood clotting and various other factors, this is a major contributor to heart disease.
A compelling study showed that a daily dose of curcumin can improve the functional state of blood vessels within two months.
7. Hibiscus for Heart Health
A great deal of clinical research has shown that hibiscus has positive effects on the heart.
Hibiscus contains anti-inflammatory properties and therefore helps to lower blood pressure in pre-hypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults.
Due to its impressive antioxidant properties, hibiscus helps to lower the levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol. It thereby helps to protect the blood vessels from damage and against heart disease.
Hibiscus contains hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic properties, this can be beneficial for people suffering from blood sugar disorders like diabetes.
Consume Hibiscus daily for several weeks for drastic improvements. It makes a delicious tea.
Additional holistic approaches to Heart Health:
Adjust your lifestyle.
Live a healthy lifestyle and use herbs as a complementary measure. You can’t expect herbs to keep you healthy if you live unhealthily.
Eat healthy and nutritious food
Manage your cholesterol by eating a healthy balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Be more active
Physical activities are great for the heart and take breaks from sitting the whole day.
Check your weight
Maintaining a healthy weight can consequently reduce the risk of heart disease and other health problems.
Manage your blood pressure
Be conscious of your blood pressure and take precautionary measures to keep it stable.
Take care of your mind
Stress and depression play a major role in your heart health. Being social and having hobbies are great ways to manage stress and provide mental clarity. (learn more about stress management here)
Take heart health seriously!
Remember everyone is unique and herbs will work differently in all of us. Meaning, what works for one, might not work for another. Therefore it’s important to play around with different herbs to see which work best for you.