Cardiovascular diseases are one of the major causes of disability and death in the United States.  Strengthening your cardiovascular system through diet, exercise, supplements and medicinal plants are good ways to improve your health and increase your longevity.  Since ancient times, medicinal plants have been a part of human civilization for their culinary and medicinal properties.  There is a long list of medicinal plants being used for cardiovascular health.  Some of the current cardiovascular drugs use medicinal plants. These include digoxin (Digitalis purpurea), reserpine (Rauwolfia serpentina) and aspirin (Willow salix).  There are many other medicinal plants used to improve cardiovascular health including Hawthorn, Garlic, Coleus, Ginseng, Alfalfa, Motherwort and Butcher’s Broom.

Hawthorn or Crataegus has been used to treat heart disease for centuries.  By the early 1800s, American doctors were using it to treat circulatory disorders.  It is considered by many herbalists to be the superior cardiac tonic.  Traditionally, the berries were used to treat heart problems ranging from irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, chest pain, and hardening of the arteries. Hawthorn is used to help protect against heart disease and help control high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  Both animal and human studies suggest Hawthorn increases coronary artery blood flow, improve circulation and lowers blood pressure.  It is believed to help regulate and balance the whole cardiovascular system.

Garlic or Allium sativum, is another common medicinal plant that has been used since ancient times to treat many conditions.  It is used as an antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-parasite. Garlic works as an anticoagulant to inhibit blood clotting and to lower blood pressure.   It is believed that garlic may also facilitate less cholesterol being released into the blood.  Multiple studies in humans have reported reductions in total blood cholesterol and “bad” or LDL cholesterol with garlic supplementation.

Coleus or Coleus forskohlii.  Coleus has been traditionally used to help treat high blood pressure and improve contraction of the heart muscle.  Other uses of this medicinal plant include aiding in weight loss, correcting digestion and improving the immune system.

Asian ginseng or Panax ginseng appears to have antioxidant proprieties.  Antioxidants help rid the body of free radicals or substances that cause damage to DNA and may contribute to heart disease. Some studies suggest Asian ginseng may improve the symptoms of heart disease in humans. It also may decrease the “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and raise “good” HDL cholesterol.   Its effect on blood pressure is more complicated. Some studies have found that Asian ginseng can lower blood pressure, while others found it can cause a rise in blood pressure.

Other medicinal plants to consider are Alfalfa or Medicago sativa, which have shown to reduce blood levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.  Motherwort or Leonurus cardiaca and Butcher’s Broom or Ruscus aculeatus, assist with circulation disorders of the heart.

Even though medicinal plants have been used for centuries to treat cardiovascular conditions, it is always advisable before taking any medicinal plants to always check with your health care provider.