As February is often seen as the moth of Love it seems only fitting to talk about your Heart and how to keep it as healthy as possible. Of course, as with everything there is an emotional & physical aspect to heart health. Your Heart is part of your body’s circulatory system: arteries, veins, capillaries, heart. They together make up your circulatory system which is the main transport system in your body. Without a good transport system everything can get clogged, sluggish, polluted. To nourish your Heart & circulatory system is to nourish your whole body. So here you will find the herbs & foods for a healthy Heart.
Heart disease and strokes have become an epidemic. Not just in the UK but worldwide. While herbs alone cannot be used to treat something as serious as cardiovascular disease, as with most things health related, prevention is better than a cure.
About Your Heart
Your heart, a large hollow organ of muscle is not only at the centre of your circulatory system, and key to your body’s functions. It is also part of your endocrine system. It produces at least five hormones which in turn give commands to your brain, blood vessels, lymphatic system, kidneys, glans, liver, lungs, adrenals and other glands. Basically your whole body.
Your heart also generates the electromagnetic field of your body.
Your heart pumps blood around your body ensuring that your cells, organs etc get enough oxygen supply. Carries antibodies and white blood cells to protect you from infection. As well as carrying hormones, proteins, nutrients & removing toxins, waste products and anything else your body wants to transport.
So your heart is, in essence, the centre and ‘heart’ of all functions in your body.
What contributes to Heart Health
I have said it many times already, but what we put in our bodies really is the key and cornerstone to our health. How we feel day-to-day & long-term. The typical Western diet just doesn’t lend itself to health and well-being. We have far too much processed foods, animal fats, refined sugar and other toxic substances that go into our bodies.
Environmental and lifestyle factors also play there part. Managing stress, making sure to exercise, deep breathing, jobs that require a lot of sitting or standing without movement. All can have their positive or negative effect.
Simple steps that can help keep your heart healthy and strong include:
Cutting out or cutting down on meat, especially red meat – I have written a post on food as medicine and some of the foods to eat to keep you healthy Food is medicine too!
Cutting out alcohol, processed foods such as pre-packaged meals, biscuits, crisps, sugary cakes etc.
Making sure to move around rather than sitting or standing for too long.
Making sure to exercise, even if its just walking for 30 minutes a day.
Managing your stress and making sure to make time for yourself.
Meditating for 10-20 mins every day (or as often as you can).
Eating a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables and lots of the foods to follow.
Foods for a healthy Heart
I have mentioned what to avoid when it comes to food and nutrition. Here are the foods to eat plenty of as they contribute to healthy heart function and a healthy circulatory system…
Salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and trout are all full of omega-3, good fats that help your body fight inflammation.
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts such as almonds and walnuts are all full of healthy fats. Seeds such as flaxseed & chia contain omega-3‘s, fibre, protein and phytoestrogens.
Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries. Red berries are especially good for your heart health. They are full of healing antioxidants, as well as plytonutrients, and soluble fibre.
Red, yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes and red peppers. They are full of carotenoids, fibre and vitamins that are good for your heart.
Other vegetables that are good for heart health are leafy green and green vegetables. Kale, chard, spinach, bok choy, broccoli & asparagus. All are full of heart healthy nutrients including vitamins C & E, potassium, folate, calcium and fibre.
As well as berries there are other fruits that can help improve your heart health. These include oranges, cantaloupe, and papaya. Fruits that are high in beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, and fibre.
Beans and lentils. Garbanzo, pinto, kidney and black beans. They are full of B vitamins, minerals, and are high fibre too.
Oats are slow release energy. They are full of proteins, fibre and a host of vitamins including B1, Iron, Magnesium, Selenium. As well as complex carbohydrates.
Herbs for a healthy Heart
Herbs and plant remedies can help you with pre-existing conditions you may have. Or getting something new you have just started with under control. Combining both Herbs & Foods for a Healthy Heart is the best method of ‘attack’.
Hawthorne berries are full of antioxidant flavonoids that are good for your heart and circulatory system. In fact it has many benefits for your heart. It helps increase your circulation, strengthen your heart muscle and restore blood vessels. It also works to reduce cholesterol, reduce arterial stiffening and fatty deposits. All of which can lead to heart disease and heart attacks.
It will also help you with lowering blood pressure and strengthening your heart beat.
Hawthorne has a long long history as a medicinal plant and is now even used in some over the counter drugs. Both the flower and berries can be used as they have the same properties
As a herbal remedy it is a tonic that works over time, and is not an immediate treatment. You can take a tincture of Hawthorne, or in capsule form.
On top of Hawthorne’s physical benefits you can also take Hawthorne for your emotional body and strength. In certain conditions.
A irritable or nervous disposition. Lack of appetite or weak and slow digestion, anxiety, and a disconnection with the spirit. A heart ache that has caused you to close down your heart. Hawthorne can be taken to ease and recover from these symptoms.
Wild Rose (inc hips)
Wild rose and rose hips (the fruit of the wild rose) can both be used either separately or combined as a heart tonic. The wild rose plant is both emotional and physical support for your heart.
Wild or dog rose (as it is sometimes called) and specifically it’s hips are high in Vitamin C which is essential for heart health.
Using the flowers and hips together in a tincture form can also help you heal emotionally too. Wild rose can be used to treat apathy. If you have become disconnected, lost your passion, opinion, emotions. Apathy can be the result of feeling defeated, hopeless, and overwhelmed and it can often show up in connection with depression, anxiety or chronic fatigue.
If this is you wild rose works to bring back enthusiasm in a person. Encouraging you to embrace life and overcome indifference.
Often when we have serious health issues or life knock-backs it can become a ‘larger than life’ obstacle that stops us from being able to make positive changes or even block us from the ability to see how we can begin to make improvements. This kind of heart ache and emotional trauma is where wild rose can help you heal.
Turmeric is pretty much a wonder herb! I have previously written about is many benefits The Magic of Turmeric including its anti inflammatory properties.
In terms of heart health Turmeric works to normalise your cholesterol level and reduce the accumulation of cholesterol in your liver & intestines. Turning it into bile acids that are excreted by your body. It is also known to reduce smooth muscle damage in artery’s which is one of the first symptoms of atherosclerosis (or hardening of the arteries). Which can lead to artery disease.
Motherwort is one of my favourite wild herbs. Using the leaf of motherwort is a good heart strengthening tonic. You can just take 2 capsules a day.
Bilberry, among its many benefits is a circulation enhancing berry. It is another circulation enhancing herb that is, similar to hawthorne, also full of antioxidants and compounds that work to strengthen your capillaries & increase blood flow generally & throughout your body. Its compounds, specifically anthocyanosides, are able to strengthen your capillaries, maintain strength and flexibility of cell walls, and reduce oxidative damage to these tissues.
Bilberry has been shown to reduce deposits on blood vessel walls, increase circulation to not just your heart, but eyes, head, and limbs. And it is an anticoagulant. All of these benefits working to increase your heart health and overall health and wellbeing.
Bilberry usually comes in capsule form. General instructions would be for you to take 2-4 capsules daily. But check the package instructions. As this may vary.
Green tea is also a wonderful option to help reduce your cholesterol. It is full of polyphenol compounds and antioxidants that work to lower your cholesterol and thin your blood. You can drink green tea as part of your daily routine. Or take in capsule form.
Make sure to always follow the instructions if you are taking capsules in a concentrated form as too much can cause damage to your liver.
Arjuna is an Ayurvedic herb. It is a red tree bark and is used to treat a number of cardiovascular issues. Although its properties are by no means limited to the heart and circulation. You can use Arjuna to treat heart palpitations, an increased and irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure. As well as if you struggle with decreased blood flow to the heart and angina.
You can use Arjuna to strengthen your heart, slow and steady your heartbeat, lower your cholesterol and increase oxygen to the heart.
In Ayurveda Arjuna is made and administered as a tea. But can be easier taste-wise for you to take capsules.
Ginger is to herbal remedies what aspirin is to conventional medicine. Taking ginger regularly is good for your heart health, and does the job better than aspirin too. Without the stomach and intestinal irritation or the complications it can cause if you are an asthma sufferer.
Ginger inhibits clotting. Meaning it is useful to prevent both strokes and heart failure. It’s also another anti-inflammatory. You can take Ginger in many forms: hot ginger and lemon to drink, lightly cooked fresh ginger in your food. Or if you prefer a powdered form taken as capsules.
Garlic has a long list of medicinal properties. Among some of its most potent are its benefits for your heart. Garlic is known to lower bad cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol. This the blood, reduces clotting and lowers blood pressure too.
In addition to that it has been shown to prevent oxidation of fat and cholesterol in your body. If Garlic isn’t a taste you enjoy you can, again, take in capsule form. You will need to eat several cloves a day to get enough Garlic so capsules may also be easier for you. Take 2 up to 10 capsules a day.
As I said at the start of this post I do not recommend taking these foods or herbs to cure any serious heart condition. If you have a heart or circulatory problem already always consult your Doctor. Especially if you are alreay on other medication. These herbs alone cannot be used to treat something as serious as cardiovascular disease. As with most things health related, prevention is better than a cure. These herbs, along with a diet of whole fruits & vegetables, can work to help you reverse the first signs of heart health problems and prevent more serious damage.