One of the earliest lessons I learned when becoming a master herbalist is that herbs can affect more than one part of your body. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes it isn’t. For me and that lesson it wasn’t. The herb I took left me with severe stomach pain for about six hours. Here are some herbs that affect your heart…some good and some bad.
Aloe: There are a lot of people praising aloe juice. Their only complaint is that it causes cramping and bloating. What they don’t realize is that some aloe juice products still have cardiac glycosides in them. These glycosides can interact with heart medications or heart conditions, whether you know you have one or not. Check carefully before consuming this product. Also, do not juice your own aloe. You won’t like the end results.
Cayenne: This is a general stimulant. It may also help deal with hardening of the arteries and heart rhythm problems. In food amounts it may do several other things…usually things we want. It is used in some over-the-counter pain medications and could help improve digestion.
Ephedra: This herb is not readily available in the U.S. There’s a good reason for that. It can and has caused serious heart problems, including death. It is primarily used for weight loss because it boosts metabolism. At one point it was also used in an over-the-counter asthma spray. This is an herb to stay away from.
Garlic: These supplements are useful for folks with high blood pressure. Though studies have been mixed, there is a chance that it may help lower cholesterol. Both are beneficial to the heart. There are (naturally) side effects. It can act as a blood thinner so those taking prescription blood thinners may need to check with their doctor before using.
Green Tea: Those using green tea as a supplement often do so for its metabolism boost. This boost can make the heart beat faster and raise blood pressure. If these are already issues, you may need to speak to your doctor before using the supplement.
Hawthorn: This isn’t a typical herbal supplement found in the grocery store. It is readily available in many health food stores, and it is aimed at heart health. Research has shown that it may be helpful for some heart problems such as hardening of the arteries and mild heart failure. It is thought to interact with some heart medications. Studies on this herb are still ongoing.
Mistletoe: Like hawthorn, mistletoe is not a common item in the grocery store. It is available in some health food stores. The reason mistletoe is considered dangerous is because it can lower blood pressure. Besides lowering blood pressure it can cause some seriously painful stomach cramps. I don’t recommend its use even if you do find it, because how much it lowers blood pressure is different from person to person.
Herbs can be used for a number of things, but those using them have to be careful. Even something as common as garlic can cause problems. Before taking any supplement, check with your doctor and your pharmacist to make sure the supplement is right for you. Some of the herbs in this article could kill you if you don’t.