As February comes to a close, it's a good time to remember our hearts. Not just the love we share for Valentine's day, but the health of our heart. Here are just a few herbs with medicinal benefit for the heat. Since each of these taste good, consider using them as food.
Garlic, the Stinking Rose
Garlic (Allium sativum) has been called the stinking rose. While it does has a distinct odor, it is not related to roses. A story of the name is that a French writer and physician interpreted the name from the Greek name for garlic, scorodon, but he translated as rose puante, from skaion rodon instead. Regardless of the name was derived, it has remained.
Garlic is associated with a decrease in cholesterol, with an increase in fibrinolytic activity, which helps to break down atherosclerotic plaques. It also has a modest effect at lowering blood pressure and even elevated blood sugar, making it useful for people with metabolic syndrome.
Perhaps garlic is best known for its use for infections as an antimicrobial agent, with actions against the growth of bacteria, and many parasites. Some consider garlic the best antiseptic for the intestines, and indicated for gastrointestinal infections.
Garlic is generally safe as food and can be consumed in unlimited amounts. It does increase bleeding, using large amounts while on anticoagulant medication is not advised.
Hawthorn, a personal favorite
The berries, flowers and leaves of the hawthorn tree (Crataegus monogyna) are antioxidant and have a protective effect on the heart tissues. Hawthorn has been used extensively in traditional medicine, and was used by early American doctors to treat cardiac weakness, irregular heartbeats, chest pain and murmurs. Based on this, hawthorn is an excellent supportive herbal remedy for conditions like mitral valve prolapse. Hawthorn has a mild blood pressure lowering action, and may interfere with pharmaceutical hypertension medications. It has been also studied for congestive heart failure.
Hawthorn berries are quite nutritious, and have been termed food for the heart. It is a member of the Rosaceae family of plants, whose member include heart healthy foods like cherries and raspberries, but also apples, pear, peaches, apricots and strawberries.
Rosemary, a flavorful herb
While roses have traditional been given for love, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) has been given for remembrance. Rosemary is in the mint family (Lamiaceae), which contains herbs rich in essential oils. When oils or extracts are added to shampoos and conditions, it can stimulate the scalp, possibly stimulating hair growth. In clinical studies people who smelled rosemary essential oil had increased alertness, lowered anxiety, and did better at math. This response is one of the reasons why rosemary is said to have an affinity the cerebral vessels. But it can be supportive for the whole cardiovascular system! It contains antioxidant compounds to benefit vessel walls, and flavonoids that decrease capillary fragility.
Hibiscus, a flavorful tea
Hibiscus flowers are well known for their color and beauty, but in the medicinal Hibiscus sabdariffa, it is the red calyxes (the tissues surrounding the developing fruit) that are used. The red color is caused by a polyphenolic compound called anthocyanin (also found in Hawthorn). People who drink Hibiscus tea have been shown to have reductions in many markers of cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome. Drinking Hibiscus has been shown to lower blood pressure, and may have less side effects than some hypertension medications. It is suggested to drink 2-3 cups a tea a day for supportive health benefits.
For an individualized treatment for supporting your heart, make an appointment with Dr. Sorensen.