Herbs have been used as medical treatments since the beginning of civilization and some derivatives (eg, aspirin, reserpine, and digitalis) have become mainstays of human pharmacotherapy. For cardiovascular diseases, herbal treatments have been used in patients with congestive heart failure, systolic hypertension, angina pectoris, atherosclerosis, cerebral insufficiency, venous insufficiency, and arrhythmia.
Since the beginning of human civilization, herbs have been an integral part of society, valued for both their culinary and medicinal properties. Herbal medicine has made many contributions to commercial drug preparations manufactured today including ephedrine from Ephedra sinica (ma-huang), digitoxin from Digitalis purpurea (foxglove), salicin (the source of aspirin) from Salix alba (willow bark), and reserpine from Rauwolfia serpentina (snakeroot), to name just a few. A naturally occurring β-adrenergic blocking agent with partial agonism has been identified in an herbal remedy.
1 The recent discovery of the antineoplastic drug paclitaxel from Taxus brevifolia (pacific yew tree) stresses the role of plants as a continuing resource for modern medicine.
However, with the development of patent medicines in the early part of the 20th century, herbal medicine has been losing ground to new synthetic medicines touted by scientists and physicians to be more effective and reliable. Nevertheless, about 3% of English-speaking adults in the United States still report having used herbal remedies in the preceding year.
2 This figure is probably much higher for non–English-speaking Americans. Despite this heavy use of herbal medicines in the United States, health practitioners often fail to ask about their use when taking clinical histories. It is imperative that physicians become more aware of the wide array of herbal medicines available, as well as learning more about their beneficial and adverse effects.
Part of the problem for both consumers and physicians has been the paucity of scientific data on herbal medicines used in the United States. As a result, those who wish to obtain factual information regarding the therapeutic use or potential harm of herbal remedies would have to obtain it from books and pamphlets, most of which base their information on traditional reputation rather than relying on existing scientific research. One may wonder why the herbal industry never chose to simply prove its products safe and effective. The answer is primarily economical. With the slim chance of patent protection for the many herbs that have been in use for centuries, pharmaceutical companies have not provided financial support for research on the merits of herbal medicine. At the same time, the National Institutes of Health have only been able to offer limited funding for this purpose.
This review examines herbal medicines that affect the cardiovascular system both in terms of efficacy and safety as gleaned from the scientific literature that is available. These herbs are categorized under the primary diseases they treat. However, most herbal medicines have multiple cardiovascular effects that frequently overlap. The purpose of this organization is to simplify, not to pigeonhole herbs under specific diseases. In general, the dilution of active components in herbal medicines results in fewer adverse and toxic effects in comparison with the concentration of active components in the allopathic medicines. However, these adverse effects and drug interactions should not be overlooked; cardiovascular disease is a serious health hazard and no herbal remedy regimen should be initiated without careful consideration of its potential impact.
A variety of modern medicines have been developed from herbs that are being used by native people . Herb serve as both preventive and therapeutic purposes of many diseases. Use of herbs for cardiovascular diseases such as congestive heart failure, systolic hypertension, angina pectoris, atherosclerosis, cerebral insufficiency, and arryhythmia is prevalent since ancient time . Herbs has been a continuing source for medicine e.g. antineoplastic drug paclitaxel derived from Taxus brevifolia, digitoxin from Digitalis purpurea, reserpine from Rauwolfia serpentina etc. These herbs are used for treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Use of herbal medicine though exist since past decade, this system of medicine has several lacunae. For example, herbal medicine lack scientific evidence or assessment. Many of the herbal medicines have toxic effects and major drug-drug interactions too. Therefore, in-depth research is needed to understand the pharmacological activity of the herbs. In this paper, cluster analysis of the potential herbs for heart with its ability to treat various heart related diseases was done to understand the possible combination of the herbs that may help in the development of more effective drug formulation that the existing one. As mentioned in the results section, almost every part of the herb has a medicinal property, although root and rhizome is most frequently used plant parts.
Herbs have more than one medicinal property i.e. it has the potential to prevent or cure more than one disease as demonstrated in our results. For example, only one herb Crocus sativus L. was found to have medicinal property with the potential to treat five heart disease type-hypertension, heart attack, reduction in blood fat, anti- oxidant, and cardiac tonic. Role of this herb against cardiovascular diseases is related to their antioxidant and anti-inflammation effects . Crocus sativus is found to have antihypertensive and normalizing effect on blood pressure . It is known to possess a potent inhibitory effect on heart rate and contractility of guinea pig heart via calcium channel-blocking effect]. Other studies also support cardiovascular effects of saffron and its components .
Three herbs-Citrus medica L., Crataegus monogyna, Elettaria cardamom possess medicinal property with the potential to treat four heart disease type. Citrus medica L. “Otroj” (Brain citron), is a member of Rutaceae family. Evidence supports its cardioprotective potential due to its potent antioxidant and free radical scavenging activity . Crataegus species is shown to represent a safe, effective, nontoxic agent in the treatment of cardiovascular disease and ischemic heart disease (IHD) . Its mechanism of action include direct scavenging of reactive oxygen species, enhanced superoxide dismutase, and catalase activities, antioxidant activity, down regulation of caspase 3 gene etc. . Crataegus monogyna are rich in polyphenols and both of its leaves and flowers or alternatively the fruit are used medicinally . It helps to regulate both high and low blood pressure, in addition to slowly breaking down cholesterol and fat deposits in the body . It increases conversion rates of LDL or “bad” cholesterol into HDL or “good” cholesterol in the liver and improves blood and oxygen supply to the heart muscle. In cases of congestive heart failure and circulatory disorders, Hawthorns is prominently being used in a holistic approach to heal the body itself . It plays a role in alleviating irritation and swelling of the blood vessels. Study has shown that small cardamom Elettaria cardamom effectively lowers blood pressure, increases fibrinolysis, and boosts antioxidant status in stage 1 hypertensive patients without affecting blood lipids or fibrinogen levels . A rat study has also demonstrated the ability of cardamom oil to restore lipid homeostasis in the presence of hypercholesterolemia. This study has shown reduction in atherogenicity index by dietary intervention with cardamom powder and cardamom oil hence, the cardioprotective potential of cardamom .
The bark of Terminalia arjuna has been demonstrated to show cardioprotective effects against doxorubicin induced cardiotoxicity by increased coronary artery flow and protection of myocardium against ischemic damage . Terminalia chebula pericap has also been reported to have cardioprotective activity .
The dendogram obtained for 128 medicinal plants by Jaccard Neighbour joining dendogram method depicts 128 different medicinal plants having property to cure some type of heart disease/ailment.
The medicinal plants in one group showed to have similar properties to cure same heart disease. The distance in dendogram depicts closeness of the properties curing the heart disease; less the distance between two medicinal plants or two groups, the more it is closer to cure particular heart disease. During drug development, a medicinal plant can be replaced by another plant of same group or by another plant of its neighbour group but from same pedigree (like garlic, turmeric and safflower) on the basis of their similar properties of curing that particular heart disease. Thus, in case of non-availability of the herbs or if it belongs to the category of rare, threatened, and endangered species, such method may add to new ways of drug development. During drug development, if any medicinal plant shows adverse effect, it can be replaced by a plant with similar medicinal potential, suitable for the same drug composition based on cluster analysis.
Generally, herbal medicines is considered harmless as it is derived from natural sources, however, adverse reaction of herbal medicines is also reported. For example, bleeding is the adverse effect of the herbal drug, Ginko biloba. Similarly, gastrointestinal disturbances, allergic reactions, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, dry mouth, photosensitivity are the adverse effect of the herbal drug St. John’s wort. Lack of information on the social and economic benefits on the industrial utilization of medicinal plants is the major drawback in development of the medicinal plant-based industries in developing countries .
Medicinal plants are the oldest known health-care products and its importance in the primary health care of individuals and communities in both developed as well as developing countries is increasing. However, further research is needed to find compounds of interest in these plants that can be used as safe and effective medicines to treat heart disease.
Top Herbs for Your Heart
A healthy diet is the first step toward a healthier heart. Eating lots of vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, healthy fats like olive oil, and lean protein like fish and chicken, can’t be beat for preventing heart attacks and strokes.
But how you prepare these foods also makes a big difference. A variety of herbs have been shown to give your heart an additional health boost. Here are a few good picks:
Cinnamon helps the heart in several ways. A 2013 review study of 10 previous studies found that a small daily dose of cinnamon decreased levels of total cholesterol, “bad” LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, a harmful type of blood fat. It also lowered blood sugar, protecting against diabetes, which increases the risk for heart attacks and strokes.
To use it: Sprinkle on oatmeal, add to smoothies, or mix into meatless or turkey chili.
One study found that cardamom, an intense spice often found in Indian dishes, may lower blood pressure. Research also shows it helps lower the risk of blood clots.
To use it: Find this herb ground or in pod form on the spice aisle. You can mix the ground seed into any Asian or Mexican dish. Or eat the whole pods as a snack. First toast them in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant, then toss them with heart-healthy olive oil.
If you’re committed to heart health, you can’t go wrong with garlic. In a 2016 article that reviewed 20 prior studies, garlic was shown to significantly lower blood pressure. And another review study involving 2300 people showed it lowered total and LDL cholesterol by as much as 10% in those who had high cholesterol levels to start with.
To use it: Add to soups, stews, and casseroles. Sauté in olive oil with vegetables like spinach or kale. You can also take a garlic supplement.
Eating this spicy root may reduce your risk for high blood pressure, research shows. People who ate more of it had the lowest risk. The study authors recommend 2-4 grams (or about ½ teaspoon to a teaspoon) a day to prevent this heart problem.
To use it: Chop it up and add raw to salads or toss into stir-fries and Asian dishes.
This substance is found in turmeric and gives the spice its rich, yellow color. It offers a bonanza of benefits for the heart, research shows: preventing dangerous blood clots, lowering cholesterol, and reducing inflammation that leads to heart attacks and strokes. It may also guard against heart failure, when the heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. And studies show that curcumin may be as effective as medication and exercise at improving the health of blood vessels.
To use it: Toss with roasted vegetables like cauliflower, onions, and carrots, or add to rice or soups. Some people take a turmeric supplement to get the benefit.
A compound that comes from several plants, berberine is used to make a supplement. Research shows it helps the heart in several ways, including lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and increasing HDL cholesterol. It also improves blood sugar.
To use it: Your best bet is a berberine supplement because the compound is hard to get from foods. Some people sprinkle the contents of a berberine capsule into a smoothie.
Unlike most prescription drugs, herbs and supplements are not controlled for quality and dosage may be different from batch to batch even when coming from the same manufacturer. Also, the risks and limitations are not described on the supplement’s labeling. Consider discussing these with your doctor.
In addition to using tasty herbs, try to prepare food in healthy ways. Instead of deep-frying chicken and fish, bake them in the oven, for instance. Use olive and canola oils for cooking. And give foods like tofu a try instead of eating meat every day. Together these measures will make eating heart-healthy a breeze!
Take a look at this collection The Lost Book Of Remedies, taken word for word out of a circa 1845 manual.
What is The Lost Book of Remedies? The Lost Book of Remedies PDF contains a series of medicinal and herbal recipes to make home made remedies from medicinal plants and herbs. Chromic diseases and maladies can be overcome by taking the remedies outlined in this book. The writer claims that his grandfather was taught herbalism and healing whilst in active service during world war two and that he has treated many soldiers with his home made cures.