9 herbs for a healthy heart

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Heart Healthy Herbs(NaturalHealth365) Herbs have been used for centuries as a tonic and as a remedy for certain heart conditions. It is only in recent years that scientists have begun to acknowledge the power of herbs in reversing disease. Keep in mind, these herbs are to be used as a part of heart-healthy diet and lifestyle – not a replacement.

Is there a ‘magic pill’ for heart disease? Of course not – but let’s take a closer look at 9 of our favorite herbal remedies for heart health.

Hawthorn berry leaf and flowers can strengthen the heart and improve circulation. These berries are packed with heart-healthy compounds like, flavonoids, rutin, epicatechin, vitexin, catechin, proanthocyanidins, quercetin and hyperoside. These compounds help to dilate blood vessels, prevent the damage to blood vessels and improve blood flow. And, yes, they are even considered safe to use with conventional drugs.

Bilberry will strengthen blood vessels and capillaries throughout the body. In Europe, bilberry is used as a part of approved treatment to improve certain heart conditions. Studies indicate that bilberries are rich in anthocyanosides, plant pigments and vitamin C – all of which have excellent antioxidant properties.

In Europe, bilberries have been used to treat varicose veins and to improve blood circulation. A 2009 study on rat models showed that bilberry extracts caused a significant decrease in plaque formation and prevented progression of heart damage.

Butcher’s broom tones circulatory tissues throughout the body. It is widely used in the treatment of varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and other circulatory disorders. The major components of butcher’s broom are anthocyanins and ruscogenin – which exhibit significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that are crucial for heart health.

Ginkgo leaf improves oxygenation and strengthens the cardiovascular system. The active components of ginkgo leaves are the polphenol flavonoids, proanthocanidins and terpene trilactones. According to many studies, the leaves of ginkgo help in treating intermittent claudication, or poor circulation in the legs. A meta-analysis of eight randomized studies showed that people taking ginkgo showed improvement in their ability to walk farther as when compared to placebo. This study was published in the American Journal of Medicine (2000).

Gotu kola leaf improves blood circulation and acts as a heart tonic. Gotu kola has been a mainstay of both the Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) healing systems. Gotu kola is rich in antioxidants terpenoids, sesquiterpenes, quercetin, kaempferol and other flavones.

The terpenoids are the active constituents in gotu kola – which exert significant anti-inflammatory effects. A 2000 study clearly demonstrated that gotu kola leaves were able to improve the blood circulation in tiny capillaries and improved the conditions of vascular insufficiency in patients.

Motherwort leaf improves cardiac function and circulation. Motherwort has been used since ancient times to alleviate anxiety and improve heart health. Motherwort is rich in the phytonutrient alkaloid leonine – which offers significant benefits to the heart.

Leonine is a mild vasodilator, meaning it increases the size of the blood vessels which in turn improves the blood flow to heart and various organs of the body. It is also a diuretic that effectively decreases water retention in the body and naturally lowers high blood pressure.

Pleurisy root is a heart tonic, reduces spasms and congestion. The botanical name of the herb is “Asclepias tuberosa” – it is called “pleurisy root” because of its ability to effectively treat pleurisy. It relieves inflammation in the lining of the lungs and thorax, and to relieve bronchial and pulmonary trouble.

Pleurisy root is rich in cardenolides, the flavonoids rutin and quercetin, kaempferol and lupeol. These compounds have antispasmodic, diuretic and vasodilation effects throughout the body.

Prickly ash bark improves blood flow. It is used as a traditional medicine by the Native Americans to treat intestinal cramps, nerve disorders and inflammatory conditions. The berries have also been used to treat circulatory problems and intermittent claudication.

Prickly ash bark was originally used as an effective remedy for toothaches.

Shepherd’s purse leaf supports healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Shepherd’s purse leaves provide vitamins C, A, and K; minerals iron, calcium, sulfur, potassium, and sodium; the flavonoid rutin; and the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

Turmeric and ginger root supports a healthy cholesterol level. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) plant, and ginger (Zingiber officinale) root are botanically related to each other. They are used, as spices, in cooking and are also used as a natural remedy to treat inflammation plus several other disorders.

A 2000 study on mice showed that ginger root was effective in bringing down high cholesterol levels and exerting heart-protective effects. A recent 2013 study showed that turmeric root was able to improve age-associated artery stiffening decreased oxidative stress and collagen formation in mice. Researchers concluded that the active compound curcumin may act as a novel therapy in treating aging arteries in humans and provide heart-protective effects.

As always, we strongly recommend you consult a trusted, healthcare provider with experience in herbalism. Bottom line – you can prevent, even reverse heart disease with a comprehensive change in lifestyle and eating habits.

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References:
1. Bell DR, Gochenaur K. Direct vasoactive and vasoprotective properties of anthocyanin-rich extracts. J Appl Physiol. 2006 Apr;100(4):1164-70.
2. Murray A et.al; Atheroprotective effects of bilberry extracts in Apo E- deficient mice. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Dec 9;57(23):11106-11.
3. Vanscheidt W, et al. Efficacy and safety of a Butcher’s broom preparation (Ruscus aculeatus L. extract) compared to placebo in patients suffering from chronic venous insufficiency.Arzneimittelforschung 2002;52:243-50.
4. Pittler MH, Ernst E. Ginkgo biloba extract for the treatment of intermittent claudication: a meta-analysis of randomized trials. Am J Med. 2000;108(4):276-281.
5. Cesarone MR, et al. Effects of the total triterpenic fraction of Centella asiatica in venous hypertensive microangiopathy: a prospective, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. Angiology 2001;52(Suppl 2):S15-18.
6. “Motherwort: Healing the Anxious Heart and Mind” John, Red Rood Mountain School of Botanical Medicine, February 15, 2009. Retrieved on October 30, 2012 from: http://www.redrootmountain.com
7. Fuhrman B et.al; Ginger extract consumption reduces plasma cholesterol, inhibits LDL oxidation and attenuates development of atherosclerosis in atherosclerotic, apolipoprotein E-deficient mice. J Nutr.2000 May;130(5):1124-31.
8. Fleenor BS et.al; Curcumin ameliorates arterial dysfunction and oxidative stress with aging. Exp Gerontol. 2013 Feb;48(2):269-76.

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