Herbs For The Heart
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The National Center for Health Statistics estimated that over 68 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from one or more forms of cardiovascular disease.  Being that this is the number one killer in the country today, various remedies and preventive measures to heart disease deserve urgent attention.
Some herbs are thought to be beneficial for fighting heart disease due to their naturally occurring alkaloids and terpenoids.  Further research must be done before this understanding can be considered conclusive; however, we have compiled a list of herbs and natural foods for which encouraging results have been found. Please note that this article, (as always on this site), is not medical advice nor a recommendation to self-medicate. Please consult your physician before using herbs, especially if you are already using medication or have a heart condition.
10 Herbs For The Heart
Many studies have already demonstrated how a clove of garlic a day can lower unwanted cholesterol while raising the good kind. Small clinical trials have found garlic to be capable of regulating blood pressure, improving circulation and inhibiting platelet aggregation that can result in strokes.  Another study concluded that garlic extract exhibited cardioprotective effects against cardiac and mitochondrial dysfunction. 
Cacao aids the heart through its natural source of theobromine, and epicatechin (a flavonol that boosts the healthy functioning of blood vessels).  In one randomized controlled trial in Switzerland, flavanol-rich chocolate was shown to benefit vascular and platelet function among patients with congestive heart failure on a long and short term basis by increasing nitric oxide bioavailability and decreasing oxidative stress. This effect was sustained through daily cacao consumption over a 4-week period. 
Evidence links hawthorn to the dilation of blood vessels, strengthening of the heart and the lowering of blood pressure, cholesterol and fatty deposits. This is due to its active phytochemicals including bioflavinoids which possess antioxidant properties that gobble up free radicals. Likewise, hawthorn has been found to help distribute and use vitamin C to fortify capillaries.  However, some studies have found that hawthorn has no significant effect on those suffering from heart failure. 
This herb is traditionally used to alleviate a racing heart resulting from nervous tension, but with long term usage, this herb has also been found to reduce blood clot formation, cholesterol, triglycerides and to strengthen the heart muscles.  Compounds like phenylpropanoids, flavonoids and phenolic acids, as well as volatile oils, sterols and tannins, have been identified in motherwort. Pharmacological studies also confirm its antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity as well as its sedative and hypotensive properties. 
Bilberry is commonly known to improve microcirculatory health, strengthen vascular walls and stimulate the formation of new capillaries.  Thus, a study in 2011 found that there are potential protective effects of bilberry extract against cardiotoxicity due to its antioxidant properties. 
While the roots of ginseng have been used to treat various other disorders, more and more studies are discovering this herb's clinical value in treating heart disease. Though more studies are needed to further investigate the complex mechanisms by which ginseng protects the heart, multiple trials have displayed promising results for ginseng's role in fighting coronary artery disease, cardiac hypertrophy, heart failure, cardiac energy metabolism, cardiac contractility, and arrhythmia. This medicinal properties are due to the herb's anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, antioxidative, antidiabetic and antihypertensive activities. 
Leaf extracts of ginkgo have been demonstrated in numerous studies to cause dilation and increase blood flow through arteries, capillaries and veins. Moreover, they also inhibit platelet aggregation, blood clotting and work using anti-oxidants to protect vascular walls from free-radicals. 
While herbs are definitely not meant to substitute a good diet, exercise and healthy lifestyle, they can, with proper usage and appropriate expert advice, boost the effects of these in protecting your heart.
Noted for its ability to prevent heart attacks, cayenne is a potent herb packed with over 26 healthy nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, selenium, zinc and dietary fiber. Research shows that this herb contains powerful compounds that play a vital role in optimizing heart health. It is thought to work by removing plaque from arteries, providing nourishment to the heart, improving circulation, emulsifying triglycerides, removing harmful toxins from the bloodstream, re-building blood cells and lowering cholesterol levels.  One study found that not only does cayenne prevent blood clots, but this herb can work as a pain reducer. 
Butcher's broom is a wonderful lesser-known herb that is thought to help reduce one's risk for cardiovascular diseases. Its main components, which include sterols and fatty acids are considered to be beneficial for improving blood vessel health as well as reducing one's susceptibility to atherosclerosis.
Keep in mind that unlike many herbs that are considered to be good for the heart, butcher's broom is only advised to people diagnosed with low blood pressure or hypotension. It helps to increase diastolic blood pressure, therefore, people with hypertension should avoid it. 
The regular consumption of grapes is thought to be beneficial for the heart. Research shows that grapes are good sources of flavonoids that help fight high blood pressure and reduce risk for cardiovascular disease and heart muscle damage.
In a study conducted at the University of Michigan Health System, it was found that grapes contain high levels of antioxidants that improve the diastolic pressure of the heart, and reduce the occurrence of fibrosis, heart muscle enlargement and hypertensive heart failure. 
Herbs For Heart - References:
 Active phytochemicals from Chinese herbs as therapeutic agents for the heart. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22632138
 Cardiovascular effects of flavanol-rich chocolate in patients with heart failure. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22173910
 Leonurus cardiaca L. (Motherwort): A Review of its Phytochemistry and Pharmacology. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23042598
 Protective effect of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) against doxorubicin-induced oxidative cardiotoxicity in rats. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21455099
 Roles and mechanisms of ginseng in protecting heart. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22772919
Article researched and created by Cathy Ongking and Elfe Cabanas, © herbs-info.com 2013
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