herbs for the heart

Herbs & Healthy Habits for the Heart

February 09, 2023

Keeping the heart healthy is directly related to how we nourish our bodies, manage stress, and the habits we keep throughout our lives. Although we are born with a certain genetic predisposition, our lifestyle choices greatly affect how our genes express themselves. Why is this important? When it comes to cardiovascular conditions, we can play an active role in prevention, and in some cases, the reversal of certain issues such as high blood pressure.

Ask yourself:

  • How are you managing your stress and emotions?
  • How was your nutrition growing up? How is it today?
  • How active are you as you get older?
  • What is the quality of your sleep?

Thankfully herbal medicine combined with lifestyle changes can be incredibly effective for cardiovascular health. Take a look at our favourite herbs and lifestyle tips to keep our hearts healthy:

Herbs

Hawthorn: Both the berries and flowers of this plant are widely used for cardiovascular health by western herbalists. This incredible herb increases coronary blood flow, helping with both vasodilation and enhancing the workload of the heart while reducing the demand on the heart muscle. Hawthorn has an energetic affinity to the heart, soothing restlessness, irritability, anxiety and nervousness that can accompany cardiac conditions.

 

Astragalus: Astragalus in TCM is viewed as a potent cardiovascular tonic, helping to reduce blood pressure and support general heart and circulatory health. It can be used post heart attack and for angina. As an adaptogen, Astragalus is also helpful for coping with stress.

 

Hibiscus: This herb is extremely helpful for lowering blood pressure, while also lowering blood lipids and glucose levels. The flavonoids that are responsible for the beautiful pink colour of this herb provide antioxidants which combat free-radical damage.

 

Motherwort: Motherwort reduces heart palpitations, irregular heartbeats, and blood pressure especially when associated with stress and anxiety. In some Chinese research it has been shown to reduce blood lipid levels. Culpepper once said: "There is no better herb to drive melancholy vapours from the heart, to strengthen it and make the mind cheerful"

 

Linden: Linden is a great herb to take preventatively if you are concerned about arteriosclerosis and high blood pressure. It has the ability to reduce high blood pressure associated with nervous tension and arteriosclerosis. It is best taken long term with other cardiovascular supportive herbs.

 

Lifestyle

Stress: Finding ways to manage stress is important for our cardiovascular health especially when it comes to reducing high blood pressure. Stress-reducing practices could look like; getting into nature regularly, exercising, having positive social interactions, expression through creative endeavours, laughing and crying, or being intimate with a loved one. Have a plan in mind to replenish your cup when you know that you will be engaged in stressful situations.

Increase fibre: Soluble fibre can decrease the amount of total and LDL cholesterol. Soluble fibre binds with cholesterol in the intestines and inhibits its reabsorption into the bloodstream. Soluble fibre is found in beans and legumes, psyllium, flaxseeds, chia, oats, and many more whole foods.

Reduce processed sugar: Processed sugar can damage the linings of small and big arteries in the body. The arteries respond by layering plaque in the blood vessels, which causes a lack of oxygen-rich blood flow throughout the body. Processed sugar also decreases the elasticity of blood vessels which increases the risk of high blood pressure and causes more damage to the blood vessels themselves.

Increase antioxidant and Omega 3 intake: Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and greatly support the cardiovascular system by reducing blood pressure, lowering triglyceride levels, and reducing risk of blood clots. Cold water fish like wild salmon and sardines and walnuts are rich sources of omega-3s. Antioxidants, like vitamins A, C, and E, as well as Zinc are also helpful to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.

Sleep: Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is an important factor in cardiovascular function and for optimal heart health. Primary sleep disorders, like shift work and sleep breathing abnormalities have been linked to increased hypertension, atherosclerosis, stroke, heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, and obesity. You can promote restorative sleep by reducing alcohol and caffeine during the day/night, and practice sleep hygiene methods in the evenings such as reducing blue light exposure by turning off electronic devices.

Oral health: Gum disease is associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease. Poor dental hygiene can cause bacterial infections in the bloodstream, which can then negatively affect the heart valves. Brush and floss regularly, get check-ups and dental cleanings, and reduce processed sugar intake.

If you would like some support with your cardiovascular health, come down to Apotheka and talk with one of our medical herbalists and holistic nutritionists to guide you with herbal, lifestyle, and nutritional support! Full consultations are also available.

 

Written by Leah Schmutter




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