by Jordan Douglas, HHC
Our heart is an incredibly powerful, life-sustaining organ. The heart pumps over 1 million gallons of blood per year and for most of us beats 60 to 100 times each minute. The effects of the heart are far-reaching, as we have over 40,000 miles of blood vessels. The heart also has receptors sites for numerous hormones and neuropeptides, intimately linking our cardiovascular and nervous systems. The heart and circulatory system play a role in every physiologic function of the human body. All of this is happening in each of our bodies at this exact moment, without any conscious effort, action or thought on our part. How amazing is that!
It is easy to take our hearts for granted. We go about our lives as it sustains our every move, unconsciously depending on it to keep us well. For many, the heart goes unacknowledged until we run into a problem. Typically this after something has been off for quite some time, when the body speaks loudly enough to communicate something is wrong. Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States. Cardiovascular complications can be very serious and life-threatening, and are also largely preventable. Diet, movement and lifestyle all play a critical role in keeping our hearts healthy and strong. They are also the first line of defense for reversing any pathology that has arisen. Herbal medicine can complement these approaches to nourish, protect and strengthen the heart. Here are six of my favorite herbs for supporting a healthy heart:
- Garlic (Allium sativum): A culinary staple, garlic is also a great heart herb. It can help to support healthy blood pressure as well as lipid and cholesterol levels. Garlic is available as a supplement in capsule and tincture forms. You can also incorporate medicinal amounts of garlic through food, such as garlic powder, garlic-infused olive oil or fresh cloves.
- Cayenne (Capsicum annum): Another familiar herb from the kitchen, cayenne is a major stimulant for the circulatory system. It can increase circulation and strengthen the heartbeat. Large doses of cayenne can be irritating to the stomach, so start with small amounts or take with food.
- Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.): Hawthorn has a very long and safe history of use and is specific to the cardiovascular system. It can help to support virtually all facets of normal cardiovascular function, from muscle tone and oxygenation, to circulation and rhythm. Look for hawthorn capsules and tinctures that contain all plant parts — the leaf, flower and berry.
- Rose (Rosa spp.): Rose supports a healthy heart on both the physical and energetic levels. The fruit (rose hips) are antioxidant-rich, contain high amounts of vitamin C and help to strengthen the capillaries. The petals are quintessential energetic heart medicine — uplifting, soothing and connecting us to feelings of love. Both can be found as supplements, and rose petals can be found as rose water or rose essential oil.
- Reishi (Gandoerma lucidum): Reishi is the Queen Healer of the mushroom kingdom and has a particular affinity for the heart. On the physical level, reishi is a potent antioxidant that can help to normalize cardiac function and support healthy cholesterol levels. On an energetic level, reishi helps to open and expand the energy of the heart, encouraging us to operate from a place of love and compassion. Incorporate reishi powder into teas, tonics or smoothies, or try a capsule or tincture option.
**As with all herbs and supplements, be sure to consult your health care practitioner before use.