Indian Herbs and Yoga Protect Your Heart
Ayurvedic medicine mirrored modern treatments thousands of years ago
Posted August 18, 2009
Atherosclerosis and coronary heart diseases were rare in India up to the early twentieth century. However, the Bhagwad Gita describes the virtues of healthy lifestyle in prevention of ill-health, advising that people who combine a balanced diet, regular physical activity, regular hours of work and sleep, and maintain equanimity and balance in thoughts and action, are safe from infirmity. Current recommendations for prevention of vascular diseases also include a balanced diet, regular physical activity, smoking cessation, and stress management.
Ayurveda focuses on use of pulse to refine the diagnosis of heart diseases. The pulse quality may indicate which of 3 doshas (humors) is involved and, therefore, suggest the most effective dietary, herbal and lifestyle therapies. For example, the pulse may be smooth like a swan (kapha), choppy or bumpy like a frog (pitta), or thin, wiry, and irregular like a snake’s movements (vata). If kapha dominates the pulse, dietary changes that stress fat- and cholesterol-reducing foods may prove effective. If vata dominates, stress-reducing lifestyle changes are in order. Considering modern life, both will most likely be involved.
Many Indian herbal products improve heart conditions. Among them are anti-cholesterol foods: garlic; guggul (Commiphora mukul), a sap similar to myrrh; amla (Emblica officinalis), a powerful rejuvenator, antioxidant and diuretic; arjuna, a respected heart tonic; fenugreek, which reduces triglycerides and treats hypoglycemia; and basil, an anti-inflammatory adaptogen (stress-reducer). Ginger is recommended for digestion and ashwagandha for energy, vitality and muscle strength. They hold great promise for prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.
A large number of Ayurvedic preparations for the heart, such as Abana pills (also known as HeartCare) made by Himalaya Drug Company, contain all of these herbs. They are considered valuable tonics because they support health in many ways. Guggul capsules are used to reduce cholesterol, fat, and tumors. Amla is recommended for beauty issues such as hair loss, wrinkles, and obesity as well as for reducing excess acidity and cholesterol. Ashwagandha (also known as winter cherry or Indian ginseng) is used for weakness, fatigue, poor memory and low immunity to illness. It supports adrenal health and sexuality. These tonics can be used by many people with confidence. They are available in capsules in many health foods stores. The herbal powder can be added ½ tsp per cup of water once or twice daily. For the best results, check with an herbal specialist.
Ayurveda also teaches us that improving lifestyle and reducing stress can improve heart function. Yoga has become popular as a means of maintaining optimum wellness. Manchanda et. al., in India studied influence of yoga and comprehensive lifestyle intervention in patients with coronary artery disease. In a prospective randomized controlled trial 42 patients were enrolled, 21 as controls and 21 in yoga intervention group. Lifestyle changes were smoking cessation, regular walking, diet control and yoga exercises included health rejuvenating exercises, breathing exercises, yogic postures for stretch relaxation, relaxation, meditation, and reflection and contemplation. After one year of follow-up there was a significant decrease in weight, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Progression of coronary atherosclerosis in these patients with severe coronary artery disease was evaluated by serial coronary angiograms. Coronary arteriography repeated at one year showed that significantly more lesions regressed in the yoga group as compared to controls (20% vs. 2%), and fewer lesions progressed (5% vs. 37%). Yoga group subjects also required less revascularization procedures.
Many yoga postures and breathing practices improve heart health because they tense and relax the body, improve breathing, and relax the mind. Among them are Kapalabhati breathing—a pranayama technique you can do sitting in your chair. Kapalabhati requires that you breathe in rapid succession while consciously controlling the movements of the diaphragm. This exercises the entire respiratory system forcing higher oxygen absorption in a short time. It ensures richer blood to reach cardiovascular muscles regardless of its quantity, thus removing the major heart complaint.
Other useful yoga poses best done with the guidance of a good teacher are the Warrior Pose and Triangle Pose. See www.asianhealthsecrets.com for the article "Yoga and Your Heart" for further instruction and detailed video guidance.
Letha Hadady, alternative health expert and author, leads walking tours of Asian food and herb markets through New York Open Center. She is the author of many personal transformation books, including Feed Your Tiger: The Asian Diet Secret for Permanent Weight Loss and Vibrant Health. She is widely acknowledged as a top expert on natural health and beauty. Her website is AsianHealthSecrets.com.