By: Kaie Skinner
During the month of February the American Heart Association reminds us to think about our heart when making diet, exercise and lifestyle choices. Even though Heart Health Month is quickly coming to an end, it doesn’t mean that we should forget about our hearts! The heart is the hardest working muscle in our body, even when we are asleep. Throughout the month we have talked about essential fatty acids, coenzyme q10 and relieving stress with magnesium – all factors that contribute to a healthy heart. Two other natural products that have been shown to support heart health are the herbs hawthorn and garlic.
The medicinal herb hawthorn is a member of the rose family. Hawthorn is a deciduous tree that grows to a height of twenty-five feet. According to Phyllis A. Balch, CNC in the Prescription for Herbal Healing, studies have shown that substances found in hawthorn increase the pumping force of the heart muscle. Hawthorne has also been shown to dilate blood vessels allowing more oxygen-rich blood to the heart which helps to reduce the risk of chest pressure and tightness. According to Dr. Jack Ritchason, a Naturopathic Doctor and author of The Little Herb Encyclopedia, hawthorn is primarily used as a cardio tonic and has been shown to promote healthy cholesterol levels. Hawthorne can be found in capsule form, as a liquid tincture or made into a tea.
Garlic is a pantry staple in most homes. This bad-breath promoting herb, prominent in Italian cooking, is good for more than just flavor. According to Balch, garlic has been shown to support healthy blood pressure levels through an active component that, like hawthorn, dilates blood vessels. Garlic may also reduce the risk of blood clots that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. According to Dr. Ritchason, garlic may help reduce bad cholesterol levels and increase beneficial cholesterol levels. Like many other herbs, garlic does more than just support a healthy heart. Garlic has also been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. The heart healthy benefits of garlic can be obtained by eating fresh garlic or by taking “odorless” garlic capsules.