February is ‘American Heart Health Month’ and natural medicine can be a very valuable tool to help treat cardiovascular disease. This could range from hypertension to hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) to irregular heartbeat and arrhythmias. Two remedies I often recommend to use for any heart health condition are CoQ10 and Hawthorn Fruit. Both of these are readily available, however I now typically prescribe patients a stronger, specialized extract of Hawthorn (see my post Hawthorn for your Heart). For treating hyperlipidemia, there are specific remedies as well (for more information on this, see another post Natural Recommendations instead of Statin Drugs)
Additionally, treating hypertension is best accomplished with a complete analysis of the specific imbalance involved in the individual, as we diagnose in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Two typical patterns that are seen can be treated with Chinese herbal remedies such as Evergreen Herbs Gentiana Complex or Gastrodia Complex (there are more patterns as well, as seen in more progressive, complicated cardiovascular disease).
The hypertension pattern of an individual who is impatient, easily upset or angered and may have throbbing headaches, possibly also has restlessness and/or is a workaholic, and possibly is even an alcoholic, results in a diagnosis requiring Gentiana Complex. (An example of this type of person can be those that get red in the face or ears when upset or angered.) The opposite hypertension pattern is a person who may be tired or fatigued easily, may have dizziness, dull headaches or blurry vision, or may have hot flashes and/or night sweats (even in males), may have a history of blood loss and/or poor dietary habits such as not consuming adequate protein. This pattern typically is an older individual who has had hypertension for years, with resulting congestive heart failure and/or renal (kidney) failure. In this case, the person has a deficiency or weakness which results in hypertension. The correct remedy for this pattern is Evergreen Herbs Gastrodia Complex.
Additionally, if a patient has coronary heart disease or even angina or has poor circulation, there is a remedy for that pattern as well. As with any chronic health condition, one needs to consult with a natural healthcare practitioner to obtain a specific diagnosis and corresponding treatment.
For more information on using Chinese Herbs, see
Why Chinese Herbs? And How Long Before I See Results?” by Evergreen Herbs.
Red Yeast Rice Extract is a supplement used in natural medicine to help reduce cholesterol levels. However, it is one of the few over-the-counter supplements that should be used under the direction of a natural medicine healthcare provider! It can affect the liver, so liver enzymes should be routinely monitored via blood chemistry panels. Additionally, it can have the serious side effects of myopathy and/or myalgia (muscle weakness and/or muscle pain) and peridontal disease. These side effects are the same as with statin drugs, but to a lesser extent (statin drugs originally came from research on Red Yeast Rice). To counteract the possible side effects of Red Yeast Rice Extract, one MUST take CoQ10 with it, as with statin drugs.
Therefore, in my office I only sell a product of Red Yeast Rice combined with CoQ10 (in one bottle). Additionally, I typically will try safer natural remedies first to lower cholesterol and resort to using Red Yeast Rice Extract only when other efforts have failed.
Reference for the skeptics:
Dr. Weil’s comments on Red Yeast Rice for Cholesterol Control
For more info on CoQ10, please also see my general CoQ10 post for the CoQ10 Monograph (research summary).
Hawthorn fruit (or Shan Zha, as it is known in Traditional Chinese Medicine) is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as an heart herb, and is especially used to treat high cholesterol (or hyperlipidemia). It is known to digest fats and this is also why it has been made into a candy called ‘Haw Flakes’ – typically eaten after a meal to aid digestion just like we in the west will eat a mint candy after a meal for digestion.
Hawthorn is now being used in Plant Stem Cell Extracts, or Gemmotherapy. It is called a ‘polycrest’ for the heart, or has the ability to treat any condition related to the heart and without side effects! It has a bipolar, or balancing action, and therefore, can treat both hypo- and hypertension. In the case of hypertension, it acts like a beta-blocker, or in the case of hypotension, it a cardiac tonic. In the case of a heart attack, or Myocardial Infarction (MI), this herb will strengthen and repair the heart muscle. It will help regulate the heart rate in the cases of both tachycardia (fast heart rate) and brachycardia (slow or irregular heart rate). On a related note, this herb is also a ‘polycrest’ for the arteries, treating Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), although another herbal medicinal may be best in certain patients since many Plant Stem Cell Extracts can treat CAD (reference soon). As one doctor quotes in his book on this natural medicine, this herb’s “action is superior to digitalis with a wider scope” and “this product is like gold to the heart”.1
However, as with any herbal medicinal, a professional diagnosis is needed to obtain the best results. Plant Stem Cell Extracts are very strong herbal medicinals and usage without supervision is highly NOT recommended. (For example, this herb could be too strong for an elderly patient with a weak constitution and the proper dosage along with monitoring is needed.)
1Greaves, Marcus, M.D., N.M.D., Gemmotherapy and Oligotherapy Regenerators of Dying Intoxcated Cells, p. 73.
CoQ10 (pronounced Coenzyme Q10), is an anti-oxidant, which can benefit many conditions1. It is known to strengthen the heart and can even lower mild hypertension. CoQ10 is absolutely necessary when one is on statin drugs (for high cholesterol or hyperlipidemia/dyslipidemia) or even when one is on the more natural form of Red Yeast Rice extract to counteract serious side effects (for more info see: add reference – blog).
The average person could use 100 mg/day whereas someone with hypertension or cardiovascular disease could be taking up to 400 mg/day (discuss with alternative healthcare provider).
Pathologies with anecdotal coenzyme Q10 therapeutic benefit2:
Mitochondrial neuromuscular diseases
Neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s disease, dementias,
Congestive heart failure-prevention/support therapy
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Chemotherapy amelioration, support for AZT/AIDS treatment
Vascular disease, diabetes mellitus
Sports medicine. Performance enhancement (not a pathology)
1) Summary of research on benefits of CoQ10: CoQ10 Monograph
2) Research article reference:
Cellular redox poise modulation; the role of coenzyme Q10, gene and metabolic regulation, Anthony W. Linnane and Hayden Eastwood, Mitochondrion 4 (2004) 779–789
Heavenly Herbs and Acupuncture handout:
My general protocol is:
1) Krill Oil: 2g/day or Fish Oil: 3g/day (less expensive than Krill Oil)
(Brands: Thorne for Krill Oil, Metagenics for Fish Oil)
2) Policosanol: 1/day
(Brand: Metagenics Cholarest)
3) Niacinamide: 1000mg/day
(Brand: Metagenics Alapars)
4) Folic Acid/B12: 600 mcg of B12
(Brand: Professional Complementary Health Formulas Homocysteine Spray)
If cholesterol levels do not normalize within 3 months, add:
5) Red Yeast Rice: 1200 mg w/ CoQ10 30 mg (minimum). Preferred: w/ CoQ10, 100 mg/day.
(Brand: Doctor’s Best)
NOTE: Red Yeast Rice can affect the liver, so yearly liver function tests are recommended.
Although I highly recommend not using statin drugs, if you are taking a statin drug for reducing hyperlipidemia, the anti-oxidant CoQ10 is definitely needed. See brief article about statin drug use and CoQ10.