Heart Health with HerbsJan 29, 2021 07:35AM ● By Kathleen Gould and Madalyn Johnson
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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we all seem to be under an inordinate amount of stress—from worrying about getting infected, to anxiety about mounting bills, to concerns about home schooling … and the list goes on. Even if our blood pressure and cholesterol levels are within normal range, over time, chronic stress can wreak havoc on our heart health. It is more important than ever that we familiarize ourselves with the following herbs and foods that have been proven to prevent heart problems and incorporate them into our diets.
Garlic (a food that is cheap, easy to use, and readily available)
Christopher Hobbs, renowned botanist, herbalist and teacher, highly regards garlic as the world’s most respected medicinal plant and says not only does it have thousands of years of historical medicinal usage, but it has also been the subject of numerous research studies, including more than 250 on its cardiovascular effects. (And don’t forget its sidekick, onions, equally as medicinal.) These studies show:
· Garlic can reduce the tendency of the blood to form life-threatening clots (possibly leading to heart attack or stroke) by adding as little as two-thirds of a clove per day to meals. The ability of the blood to destroy clots that may be forming is increased by 50 to 80 percent when using even one clove a day. The best advice about taking garlic seems to be, Eat it raw, cook with it, take it as a supplement―but do use it every day.
· Garlic has only moderate blood pressure-lowering effects; it must be taken regularly for any significant benefits, but even the modest 7 to 10 percent that double-blind studies have shown can be helpful for those taking garlic for its other stronger effects.
For many herbalists, hawthorn is the very first plant we think of for heart health. It works in numerous ways, many of which we don’t fully understand. But what we do know, thanks to numerous recent studies, is that hawthorn shows the ability to lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) (bad cholesterol) and reduce blood pressure when used regularly for several months. Hawthorn is rich in citric acid and vitamin C, and improves the way our heart acts as a pump to push out the right amount of blood in the right rhythm for proper circulation. It is a true heart tonic, and the longer it is taken, the better the effects. Hawthorn’s many heart-health benefits can ease fatigue, certain pain that comes with heart weakness, and palpitations.
Hawthorn can be taken alone or combined with other heart-healthy herbs, like hibiscus. According to a 2008 American Heart Association report, drinking hibiscus tea cuts down the circulatory force in hypertensive adults. If you have Type 2 diabetes, hibiscus may help reduce cholesterol and triglycerides. It is delicious hot or cold, with a bit of honey due to its bitter taste.
Here is a recipe from LearningHerbs.com that we have amended a bit to our liking. So delicious, your heart will thank you. We’ve also included a pickled garlic recipe that has many uses.
Double H Heart Cordial
1 cup dried hawthorn berries, crushed but not powdered
1 apple or pear, chopped, seeds removed
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
3 cardamom pods, crushed
1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick, broken
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 Tbsp dried hibiscus flowers
¼ cup dried rosehips
⅓ cup unsweetened pomegranate or cranberry juice
½ cup honey
2 cups brandy or your favorite warming liquor
Place all herbs, spices and fruit in a quart jar. Add your preferred juice and honey, then fill the jar up with your warming liquor. Infuse this for at least 4 weeks, shaking and infusing your love daily. Strain. This can be mixed with sparkling water for an added “special event” vibe. Enjoy!
Fill any size glass jar with peeled garlic cloves and add 1 Tbsp fennel seeds. Fill the jar with a combination of ½ vinegar and ½ local honey (warm this combination for ease of blending). Make sure all the garlic is completely covered. Cover the jar securely with plastic wrap and lid, and let sit for 6 months. Do not shake. Watch to see if the jar builds up gas, and burp jar as needed (the fennel seed should help avoid this). When ready, use this in any recipe calling for garlic, in salads or rice, or eat it by itself. Your heart … and immune system will love you.
Note: Do not rush this “brewing” process. Six months is a long time to wait, but the wait will be worth it. We promise! If you try it earlier, it might not taste as good.
To a strong heart!
Kathleen Gould, registered herbalist, and Madalyn Johnson are proprietors of SW Herb Shop and Gathering Place. Gould has been an herbalist for 30-plus years and has extensive experience in herbal medicine. For more information, call 480-694-9931, or visit SWHerb.com or Store.SWHerb.com.