Keep Your Heart Healthy !
It is proven that following a plant’s-diet in association with medicinal herbal extracts can lower the risk of heart diseases which is the main leading cause of death among adults today .
"For heart health protection, your diet needs to focus on the quality of plant foods, and it is possible to benefit by reducing your consumption of animal foods without completely eliminating them from your diet," according to Dr. Ambika Satija of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. .
The question is what happens when we add the medicinal herbs on our diet? Let’s try to discover the best herbs for cardiovascular support:
1. Hawthorn (Crataegus spp)
Many species of hawthorn, members of the Rose family (flower signature- 5 petals white to pink color) can be found in temperate climates all-round the globe. The leaves, berries, and flowers of this plant was traditionally used for hundreds of years to treat cardiovascular diseases and to lower cholesterol levels by increasing the excretion of bile. The last researches recommended hawthorn to prevent congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis, angina and hypercholesterolemia, for its cardiotonic and anti-hypertensive effects. Due to their rich antioxidant composition, hawthorn fruits possess stronger tonic effect on the heart than the leaves and flowers, being used as alternative herbal medication .
Here are the most important health benefits of hawthorn:
a) Lower blood pressure – Many studies revealed that hawthorn can reduce the blood pressure naturally .
b) Congestive heart failure - Hawthorn extract may be used as an oral treatment option for chronic heart failure or in addition to conventional treatments .
c) Angina and atherosclerosis- The organic combination of hawthorn, onion and garlic in different concentrations show anti-calcification effects and may dissolve hydroxyapatite crystals associated with arteriosclerosis .
d) Anticoagulant activity - Polyphenolic-polysaccharide compounds from flowers and fruits of hawthorn have anticoagulant activity which was already proved .
e) Antioxidant capacity- Because of his rich composition in bioflavonoids and procyanidins, hawthorn represents an important alternative source of natural antioxidants, a valuable ally for health .
f) Digestive Health- Hawthorn berries contain organic compounds that interact with gut flora or will stimulate bile and gastric secretions, improving the digestion of stagnant rich food. Hawthorn extract produces gastroprotective activity, anti-inflammatory effect and moderate antibacterial activity .
g) Lower cholesterol- Some studies using Chinese berry extract revealed that the high cholesterol levels is reduced, and the LDL cholesterol is notably decreased .
2. Garlic (Allium sativum)
This flavored and aromatic plant has been used for centuries like raw spices in all the kitchens all around the world and to keep the heart in a good health. Because of its composition rich in derivate of sulfur it has an antibacterial activity for the digestive tract, working in prevention of cancer. Numerous studies highlighted its various benefits: lowering the blood pressure and inflammation, keeping the cholesterol and triglyceride levels in normal range, helping to maintain arteries' flexibility and being a potential cancer fighter.
There is the most important health benefits of garlic:
a) Control the blood pressure – Garlic contain allicin in highest quantity and gamma-glutamyl cysteine a natural ACE inhibitor (angiotensin l-converting enzyme), playing an important role for people with mild and moderate high blood pressure .
b) Heart diseases – Garlic prevents a heart attack and reduces the stroke risk due its natural anti-inflammatory effect and blood thinner activity, properties that makes it extremely useful in case of acetylsalicylic acid intolerance . Garlic is recognized not only as a preventive agent, but also as an alternative treatment for hyperlipidemia, atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes and thrombosis .
c) Cancer prevention- Due to antibacterial (allicin), anti-mutagens (selenium, allyl sulfides) and antioxidant (flavonoids) properties, the risk of cancer is decreased up to 50%, especially the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, breast and prostate cancer. It can enhance genetic repair, slowing down the cell proliferation. A French study reveals that the breast cancer risk was shown to decrease as consumption of fiber, garlic and onions . Also the garlic supplementation with 500mg/day may reduce the risk of developing colon, liver and pancreatic cancer .
d) Antimicrobial and antifungal activity- It has been proved that garlic extract have antibacterial and antifungal topical properties similar to Lamisil cream (terbinafine 1%) due to its main active ingredient allicin .
e) Garlic extract reduces significantly the symptoms of cold and flu, boosting the immunity due to its antioxidant’s properties .
f) Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. People with such diseases who are consuming garlic extract have shown progression in restricting some synaptic degeneration due to neuro-inflammatory mechanism . Journal of Neurochemistry publish an interesting study about the neuroprotective and neuro rescue properties of aged garlic extract and its active compound S-allyl-L-cysteine (SAC) .
g) Hair loss – different treatments have been used to induce hair growth, but the topical gel combination of garlic and betamethasone (corticosteroid) seems to be the most effective local therapy for alopecia areata .
3. Olive leaves (Olea europaea)
This evergreen tree had its origin in the region corresponding to ancient Persia and Mesopotamia, has been considered in ancient times as a symbol of peace, purity and goodness. Olive leaves extracts showed relevant total polyphenols contents such us oleuropein, quercetin, rutin and kaempferol with a strong antioxidant and cytotoxic activity . Olive leaf extract increases the energy of the body, having important benefits for cardiovascular and immune system. Its antioxidant, antihypertensive, hypoglycemic, hypocholesterolemic, anti-inflammatory effects was demonstrated in up of 38 studies and articles .
Here are the most important health benefits of olive leaves:
a) Lower the blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol levels. Two comparative study using 500 mg olive leaves extract twice a day and 25 mg captopril (inhibitor of angiotensin-converting enzyme drug) for eight weeks revealed an excellent activity of olive leaves to lower the blood pressure by relaxing the arteries walls . The systolic readings decreased by 11, 5 mmHg for olive leaf group and 13, 7 mmHg for captopril group and the diastolic readings decreased by 4, 8 mmHg for olive leaf group and 6, 4 mmHg for captopril group . The scientists noticed, also an average of 7, 8% reduction in triglycerides levels and 2, 8% in total cholesterol among the olive extract group, which is a real support for cardiovascular function . The oleuropein present in olive leaf and the hydropxytyrosol find in olives improved and normalized the cardiovascular, metabolic and liver functions. It has also modulating effect on arterial resistance, the supplement of olive leaves support very well the cardiovascular function.
b) Diabetes support and weight gain prevention. Olive leaves extract controls the body glucose level, boosting the insulin sensitivity with 15-20 % comparing with metformin's sensitivity of 17%, thus showing a significant hypoglycemic effect. Works very well as preventive but also as therapeutic treatment for patients with diabetes. One study conducted in Australia shows that the polyphenols from olive leave reverses the chronic inflammation and oxidative stress that induces the cardiovascular, hepatic, and metabolic symptoms in these rats used to study the diet-induced obesity and diabetes .
c) Reduces cancer risk and improves brain function. It has been shown that there is a strong connection between free radicals and Alzheimer’s disease. Due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, oleuropein can induce a neuroprotective activity, helping to combat the free radicals. The antiproliferative activity of oleuropein is remarkable in urinary bladder carcinoma and breast adenocarcinoma .
d) Antimicrobial and antiviral activity. Oleuropein has been shown to have strong antimicrobial activity against both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. The antiviral activities is against herpes mononucleosis, hepatitis virus, rotavirus, bovine, rhinovirus, canine parvovirus, and feline leukemia virus .
4. Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
The anthocyanins found in hibiscus are responsible for anti-hypertensive effect with significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, hypocholesterolemic effect and antioxidant effect . Hawthorn and hibiscus are important tools in reducing life-threatening or debilitating cardiovascular diseases. Hibiscus and olive leaves extract are useful in the treatment of preclinical hypertension  because of their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and diuretic proprieties. Hibiscus reduces not only high blood pressure, high cholesterol, but aid also in relieving digestive and immunity problems with huge potential help in liver diseases and cancer. Hibiscus activates the metabolism helping in gradual weight loss and mental health.
There are the most important health benefits of hibiscus:
a) Hibiscus lowers blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure can drop by up to 10 points and diastolic by up to 5 points .
b) Antiseptic for respiratory tract, antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasitic activity, emollient and light laxative .
c) Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antipyretic, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective and immunomodulatory activities .
d) Several studies have showed that hibiscus extract has a lipid lowering activity, which could prevent diseases like hyperlipidemia and cardiovascular diseases (atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease) helping in metabolic syndrome and over weight control .
e) The protective effect of a polyphenolic hibiscus extract was studied in a type II diabetes, emphasizing anti-insulin resistance properties as it reduced hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia . The leaves extract of hibiscus reduces invasiveness of prostate cancer cells .
5. Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Appears in more than 12.500 articles, thus making it the most frequently mentioned medicinal herb in all science literature. It is used in traditional medicine, especially in Ayurvedic medicine to treat indigestions and depression, to fight and to reverse diseases. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, extracted from the powdered dry rhizome of turmeric (Curcuma longa-family Zingiberoside). It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, anti-ischemic, hepatoprotective, antidiabetic, anticancer and neuroprotective activities. More recently, many studies associated this spice with the treatments of irritable bowel syndrome and for its ability to modulate a numbers of molecular targets.
The most important health benefits of turmeric are:
a) Prevents blood clots and it has a cardioprotective effect against myocardial ischemia. Curcumin was found to protect the myocardium against ischemic injuries and its protective effect could be attributed to its antioxidant, antiplatelet and anticoagulant proprieties . Due its poor bioavailability, the cardioprotective activity was researched in combination of curcumin (50 mg/kg) with piperine (20 mg/kg), which exhibited profound cardio protection compared to curcumin (200 mg/kg) alone-treated group. Moreover, the study also reflected that piperine was able to synergize the effect of curcumin together being stronger to neutralize the free radical and prevents the myocardium from the free radical stress . The antioxidant property of piperine synergizes the cardio-protective effect of curcumin.
b) Fights inflammations due to its anti-inflammatory activity. In one of the last studies the supplementation with 500mg curcumin/day was found to be as effective as diclofenac 50mg/day in reducing swelling joints, stiffness, tenderness and pain after couple of weeks of treatments in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis . Curcumin treatment was found to be safe and did not relate with any adverse events .
c) Neuroprotective activity with reducing depression symptoms, impacting the neurotransmission function and cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease. Individuals who consumed curcumin have a significant reduction in mental fatigue and improved the calmness and contentedness level .
d) Anticancer activity. Highly studied with a promising future for its anticancer proprieties, curcumin able to prevent growing and kills the existing cancer cells. The best activity it’s on breast, stomach, bowel and skin cancer .
e) Positive effect in diabetic diseases.
The muscle of the heart contains the highest amount of Coenzyme Q10, which is a protective antioxidant that produces energy for the heart our cells. Coenzyme Q10 will be an important subject in the next articles, beside Omega 3&6 and other natural antioxidants.
All the information provided on this article is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. It’s important to remember that this content doesn’t provide dosage information, formal recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. This information should be used under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner. Ensure that you won’t be complicating any ongoing treatments.