Heart Health Supplements & Herbs
Our hearts do so much for us. The human heart is the first functional organ to develop, and it beats steadily for the rest of our lives. Indeed, we cannot live without a sound heart. A relatively simple organ, it works in tandem with the lungs receiving oxygen-poor blood from the venous system, sending it to the lungs to be re-oxygenated, then pumping oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. And it does that every second of every day for our entire lives—isn’t that phenomenal? And because every cell in our body is dependent upon oxygen for its survival, the importance of healthy heart function and circulation becomes especially poignant.
Herbs for Heart Health
Happily, nature has given us supplements for heart health and blood flow in the form of plants. And because different plants have an affinity for certain parts of the body, we can talk about herbs with an affinity for the heart in particular. In Ayurvedic medicine, Arjuna, named after the warrior of the Bhagavad Gita, is the foremost rejuvenative for the heart. It is said to impart both physical and emotional strength. Arjuna is also beneficial in helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels already in the normal range, and support healthy coagulation of the blood. Hawthorn berry is a popular herb in the West, known to promote circulation and support vata dosha, calming the heart and nervous system. Punarnava is from the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia and its name translates as “the one that renews.” Punarnava is known for balancing kapha conditions in the body and promoting balanced fluid levels, supporting the function of the heart, liver, and kidneys. Banyan’s Heart Formula combines these herbs and more in one convenient tablet.
How to Improve Heart Health
For a wonderful and comprehensive guide on an integrated approach to a healthy heart, you will want to read our Heart Health Guide. As noted in this guide, there are widely accepted preventative measures to heart health such as diet and exercise. These may be two of the most important. And then there are some more subtle approaches, perhaps unique to Ayurveda, or at least alternative-health practices. Fundamentally, Ayurveda views the human organism as a part of the whole and that the human being is part of nature and also composed of all of nature. Furthermore, Ayurveda accepts that the whole being is made up of the body, mind, and the spirit; and that there is no separation. So what befalls the spirit, also befalls the heart, both physically and emotionally.
Some subtle therapies recommended by Ayurveda include:
- Pranayama. Pranayama is breath work, or breathing exercises, used to increase circulation, calm the mind, and move energy through the body, including the heart.
- Yoga. While yoga has become a popular exercise in the West, it has been used for thousands of years as part of a spiritual practice in the East. Yoga literally means “union.” This can be viewed as the union of body and spirit, but also of body and breath. By uniting the body with the breath, you are stimulating your flow of prana, the vital life force brought in through your respiratory system. You are also guaranteeing the circulation of blood through all your body tissues.
- Meditation, Prayer, and Forgiveness. These can often be overlooked in our busy culture. But our emotional and spiritual health cannot be overstated in the care of our hearts.
- Stress Management. All of the above practices can be viewed as ways to help manage stress, as can time in nature and with loved ones. You may also consider ways in which you can minimize the stressors in your life. If this seems impossible, can you do it for your heart?