Heart problems such as atrial fibriliation, arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), high or low blood pressure, angina (heart pain) and tremors are mostly treated with pharmaceutical drugs known as Beta Blockers and Calcium Channel Blockers.
Beta Blockers act by blocking adrenaline receptors (norepinephrine and epinephrine) from attaching to the beta receptors located on the nerves. Their actions then primarily reduce blood pressure by dilating blood vessels. However, they can also act to constrict air passages by stimulating the muscles that surround the air passages to contract (this is considered an adverse side effect of the drug).
From a traditional medical perspective, there are quite a few really effective and safe herbs that can be of benefit to help strengthen and normalize the action of the heart. Four of these herbs are:
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) – Having been well researched, its main medicinal benefit is due to its bioflavanoid content which helps to relax and dilate the coronary arteries. These in turn increase the blood flow to the heart muscle and reduces the symptoms of angina, heart weakness and also palpitations. Being strongly antioxidant because of its bioflavonoid content, Hawthorn helps to prevent or at the very least, reduce the degeneration of the blood vessels. Being able to reduce blood pressure, Hawthorn is considered a very valuable remedy for heart conditions. Like many herbs, Hawthorn works in tune with the body’s own processes to effect a positive change. Along with Gingko, Hawthorn can also enhance memory by stimulating the circulation of blood within the brain. It is contraindicated where common cardiac preparations are being used except under strict practitioner supervision.
Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) – A popular Indian medicinal plant, Arjuna has been used as a cardiotonic agent throughout history. It is successfully used for strengthening the muscles of the heart and subsequently improving its pumping activity. Arjuna is inoptropic (meaning it changes the force of heart contractions), cardiac-protective, anti-inflammatory and a tonic. It is especially beneficial in chronic cardiovascular diseases, including stable and chronic angina, heart weakness, low blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and high cholesterol.
Lime Flowers (Tilia spp.) – Lime Flowers can be used over the long term to treat high systolic blood pressure due to the actions of its volatile oils containing (0.01%) farnesol, eugenol and geraniol. It also contains flavonoids, mucilage and saponins. Along with its beneficial cardiac effects, it is also an excellent remedy for stress and panic, and is used specifically to treat nervous palpitations. Lime Flowers can be safely used in children and the elderly. Lowering high blood pressure, particularly where there are emotional factors involved, is a favourable benefit of this incredibly useful and effective herbal treatment.
Motherwort (Leonorus cardiaca) – The latin name of this plant indicates its wide range of uses. It is a remedy for the heart and nerves and is often prescribed for palpitations. It strengthens the heart function, especially when it is weak. It is also a sedative and antispasmodic, although the herb actually helps to promote relaxation rather than drowsiness. As in all cases of using herbs for medicinal purposes, Motherwort should be used with caution and only under the strict supervision of a qualified naturopath.
These are just a few of the herbal remedies for heart conditions that are available. To find out the appropriate herbs for your condition, contact Trudy Kither, registered Naturopath for further information on the above article.
** It should be noted that in cardiac conditions with prescription and herbal medications, you should always seek the advice of your naturopath or medical practitioner to discuss your suitability for the available treatments. Never discontinue any medication without professional supervision.