Written by Myles Spar
Posted on: May 17, 2018
In an earlier post, I listed some of my favorite supplements for heart health. I’ve done quite a bit of research on other healing modalities, so I also wanted to highlight some non-traditional approaches to cardiovascular care. These systems of medicine have been around for thousands of years, and current research supports their efficacy. Here are some alternative ideas for heart health.
Guggul, an herb that features prominently in Ayurvedic medicine, has demonstrated potential for improving heart health. Research suggests a bioactive constituent of guggul called guggulsterone possesses lipid-lowering, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Another Ayurvedic herb called bitter melon could reduce cardiovascular risk factors, particularly for men with diabetes or prediabetes. Bitter melon may help regulate blood sugar, and animal studies indicate it can lower triglyceride levels as well.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
According to Chinese Medicine, the heart has special significance because it’s considered to be “the ruler” of all the organs in the body. When you’re healthy and everything in your body is balanced, your heart is a caring and good-natured leader. The heart is also especially important in TCM because it is thought to contain the Shen, which is loosely translated to mean soul or spirit but also includes thoughts and feelings (which is why it’s sometimes referred to as the heart-mind).
When it comes to preventing heart problems, acupuncture has been shown to be a safe and useful tool. A review paper published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology demonstrated it could be useful either alongside or instead of conventional treatment for prevention of heart disease. And a study conducted at the University of California-Irvine’s Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine found regular acupuncture treatments can lower hypertension by stimulating the release of an opioid found in the brainstem region that controls blood pressure. Other research suggests acupuncture may improve blood flow to the heart in patients with coronary heart disease. Although this therapy alone won’t be enough to treat cardiovascular problems, it could be an effective complement, especially since it won’t interact with any medications.
In cases where people have already been diagnosed with a cardiovascular condition, TCM offers gentle solutions. For example, tai chi may be an effective recovery technique for people who’ve experienced heart failure. In one study, 100 outpatients with systolic heart failure were divided into two groups. One completed a 12-week tai chi program while the other, a control group, spent an equivalent amount of time receiving education. By the end of the 12 weeks, those in the tai chi group had greater improvements in quality of life and mood.
As is the case with acupuncture, a main component of Traditional Chinese Medicine, homeopathy is often most effective as a complementary therapy used alongside other treatments. Consider a study comparing the effects of conventional medication versus homeopathy in people with essential hypertension. While drug treatment was way more effective than homeopathy for lowering blood pressure, both worked equally well to improve patients’ subjective complaints. These results suggest that even though you shouldn’t attempt to treat hypertension with homeopathy alone, it might be helpful when added to a standard treatment protocol—especially since drug interactions aren’t an issue.
Other research has examined the use of homeopathy for heart failure. In one study, patients with mild cardiac insufficiency were either given a homeopathic preparation called Cralonin or conventional medication (ACE inhibitors/diuretics). Evaluating treatment efficacy based on 15 variables, researchers found Cralonin was “non-inferior” to drug therapy (meaning it worked just as well) on all parameters except blood pressure reduction. Again, you probably wouldn’t want to treat heart failure with homeopathy alone, but science indicates its complementary potential.
Hopefully it goes without saying that you should check with your doctor before trying any new medicine or therapy, and I recommend working with experienced practitioners of these modalities to gain the best understanding of how they can help protect your heart. Or you can contact Tack180, where we can create a personalized care plan that combines knowledge of integrative medicine with the best of what modern science and technology has to offer. You can also read about diet and heart health here and here, and I offer some tips for heart attack and stroke prevention here.