Heart Happy Herbs

It’s February.  Officially the month of all things LOVE.  So this week I’m sharing a quick look at a few herbs for a happy heart!

Herbs have been used for centuries as therapy for heart conditions.   The following are just a few that can help your heart to function more efficiently, reduce your cholesterol, and keep that blood flowing.  Important to note, these herbs can be used as part of a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle – not as a replacement.

GARLIC (Allium sativa) is a species in the onion genus with a long history of use as a food flavouring and traditional medicine.  It is a great herb that protects your body against a sluggish cardiovascular system.  It can lower bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increase the good cholesterol.  Garlic also lessens plaque formation in your arteries while protecting the aorta (the large vessel responsible for maintaining blood flow and pressure with every beat of your heart) against aging.  Just thrown that goodness on everything… trust me, a little bad breath is nothing for the benefits this herb brings.

HAWTHORN (Crataegus oxycantha) is used specifically with circulatory disorders.  In clinical studies, hawthorn has shown that its leaves, flowers and fruits contain substances that act as antioxidants and help with symptoms of atherosclerosis.  It also helps out the liver by promoting the breakdown of cholesterol into bile acids. When hawthorn is used for an extended period of time, it has been proven to help dilate blood vessels for better blood flow through the heart and body.  The easiest way to enjoy hawthorn is in a hot cup of tea but it is also great in jams, syrups, and tinctures.

BILBERRY (Vaccinum myrtillus) is a European class of blueberry that contains some of the most powerful antioxidants available.  These have a stimulant effect on the blood vessels, helping to strengthen capillaries and therefore are useful in the treatment of varicose veins or hemorrhoids.  (Caution is advised in those with diabetes because of potential hypoglycemic effects)

MOTHERWORT (Leonurus cardiaca) is a perennial plant in the mint family, which improves cardiac function and circulation.  It has been used since ancient time to ease anxiety and improve overall heart health.  Even its Latin name is attributed to the heart.  Motherwort is rich in leonine, a mild vasodilator.  This means it increases the size of the blood vessels, which in turn improves blood flow to the heart and body.  It is also a diuretic, reducing water retention in the body and naturally lowering high blood pressure.

Now, since we’re on the topic of the heart I can’t end this post without mentioning my absolute favourite heart-nourishing herb…

CHOCOLATE (COCOA, Theobroma cacao). I know most don’t consider chocolate to be an herb, but it’s important to remember that it comes from the cocoa bean and when left reasonably pure without sugar and artificial extracts, chocolate can be a great treat and good for you!  Dark chocolate is loaded with feel good chemicals  (such as: phenylethylamine, theobromine and serotonin) as well as antioxidants – all of which have a great impact on our heart and mood J

My favourite lately is a great blend of dark chocolate, orange and cranberry.   The possibilities here are endless so try mixing in some spices, or other dried fruits and herbs to see what you can come up with in time for Valentines Day!

References:

  1. Bell DR, Gochenaur K. Direct vasoactive and vasoprotective properties of anthocyanin-rich extracts. 2006
  2. Murray A et.al; Atheroprotective effects of bilberry extracts in Apo E- deficient mice. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2009
  3. Romm A. Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health.  2010
  4. “Motherwort: Healing the Anxious Heart and Mind” Red Rood Mountain School of Botanical Medicine, February 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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