Everybody is getting their garden catalogs in the mail, and once the holiday rush is through we’re sure to start thinking about planting our gardens again. For my part, I’m already thinking about gardening ideas that are based on health issues I’ve been hearing a lot about in my shop.
Last week I shared some of the herbs you can grow to give a lift when things get emotionally heavy. This week I thought I’d talk about plants that could be helpful for those of you looking to support the health of your cardiovascular system.
Cleavers (Galium aparine)
The leaves and stems of this plant have successfully been used in the circulatory system to clear cholesterol deposits. It’s also been shown to benefit the the liver, as well as remove stones and calculus in the urinary tract. Cleaver seeds are a little difficult to find—the plant is classically a weed—but they can be found. In the spring, check your property for these grasping plants, which appear to be sticky and grab onto your clothes and even your hands with their modified tiny hooks.
Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
Also called “roselle,” the use of the calyx around these flowers has been studied extensively for its historic use in blood pressure regulation, liver issues and fever reduction. In 2008, a study at Tufts University saw that using hibiscus blossom led to a 13.2 percent reduction in blood pressure. That same year another study published in the Journal of Human Hypertension showed a reduction in blood pressure between 8.1 and 15.4 percent on average among their study participants. There is further evidence that serum cholesterol may be reduced as well.
A Few More
There are a handful of additional herbs that studies have found successful in demonstrating healthy benefits to the cardiovascular system:
- Holy Basil (Ociumum sanctum)—leaf
- Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)—root
- Wild Strawberry Leaf (Fragaria vesca)—leaf
- Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)—fruit
- Garlic (Allium sativum)—bulb, leaf and scape
- Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)—leaf, flower and fruit
- Nettle (Urtica dioica)—leaf
All of these plants can be grown in a temperate climate. Some of them, such as hibiscus, are perennial in other climates, but we are able to harvest the plant’s medicinal components before winter’s chill kills them off.
When using plants that are good for the heart and circulation, it is important to double-check to make sure they are safe to use with the medications you take. In particular, be careful when using a clinical “dose” of cayenne or garlic when you are on prescription blood thinners. When in doubt, a beautiful hawthorn tree will produce heart tonics that carry no known contraindications for years to come!
And keep in mind that, while we can enjoy all of these herbs from time to time in teas or food without too much worry, anything taken multiple times a day can become a different matter. So moderate your intake of these medically beneficial plants.
While you’re making plans for next season’s garden and resolutions to improve your health in the new year, consider combining the two by growing some medically beneficial herbs for cardiovascular health.