Heart pulse

During this season of love, as well as tending to your loved ones, care for your heart, too! Here are four terrific herbs that assist heart function, which could prevent heart attacks as well as treat cholesterol imbalances or high blood pressure.

Red Sage Root

Red Sage Root (dan shen; Salvia miltiorrhiza) moves blood, treating stasis in any part of the body but especially the chest, hypochondrium and lower abdomen. Specific for pain as well, it is wonderful for angina and menstrual pain. It may also be used for the early stages of sores and breast abscess. Even more, it is calming and so helps sleep, specifically alleviating restlessness, irritability, palpitations, insomnia, nervousness. Last but not least, it clears arteriosclerosis and removes accumulation of cholesterol and blood lipids. Unlike most blood-moving herbs, red sage is cooling and so may be used when there is heat, both alone and in combination with other herbs.

Family: Lamiaceae

Also named: Salviae miltiorrhizae Radix

Energy and flavors: Slightly cold, bitter

Organs and channels affected: Heart, Pericardium, Liver

Properties and actions: Peripheral vasodilator, regulates the heart, antibacterial, sedative, lowers cholesterol; invigorates blood and dispels blood stasis, cools the blood, nourishes blood, calms the spirit

Contraindications: pregnancy; profuse menses; do not use with Veratri nigri root or rhizome

Dosage: 6-15 g; Tincture: 10-60 drops tincture (1:5 @50%ABV), TID


Arjuna Dried Bark (Terminalia arjuna) increases the uptake of oxygen to the heart muscle, thereby strengthening it and improving its pumping activity. As a result, it relieves the painful frequency and severity of chest and heart pains (angina) as well other cardiovascular symptoms such as arrhythmias and congestive heart failure. It also treats hyperlipidemia and hypertension, reduces inflammation that can damage the heart, and tones the capillaries, improving their flexibility. It can be safely used with diuretics and other drugs that dilate the blood vessels. It treats anxiety and symptoms of stress as well as protects against DNA damage. As a result, it is used for emotional damage to the heart – a “broken heart.”

The phytosterols in arjuna have been found to be effective in the treatment of most cardiovascular diseases. The flavonoids help reduce inflammation and affect cognitive function, improve heart and blood vessels. They also have a positive action for the prevention of cancer. This herb is rich in minerals (calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper), flavones (natural anti-oxidants), and coQ10 (prevents incident of heart attacks and has cardiovascular and hypolipidemic protective properties).

Arjuna is rich in antioxidant effects but also uniquely possesses cardiac glycosides. Although cardiac glycosides can be toxic, like the common foxglove from which digitalis is derived, the cardiac glycosides in arjuna are potent but safe. Thus, they are able to gently strengthen and slow the heart rate with no risk or any adverse effects.

Family: Combretaceae

Also named: Terminalia arjuna Cortex

Energy and flavors: astringent, bitter, cooling

Organs and channels affected: Heart, Liver

Chemical constituents: arjunic acid, tannic acid, tannins, saponins, flavonoids, gallic acid, flavones, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, CoQ10

Properties and actions: cardioprotective, cardiotonic, hypolipidaemic, hepatoprotective, alterative, diuretic, vulnerary

Contraindications: see caution

Caution: Some theorize that arjuna might interfere with other cardioactive glycosides such as digoxin or lily of the valley.

Dosage: 1-6g per day, 10-30 drops tincture (1:3 @45%ABV), TID. 5 grams taken daily will prevent heart attacks, lower bad cholesterol and accelerate wound healing; it is usually cooked with boiled milk.


Motherwort Flowering Herb (Leonurus cardiaca, formerly known as: L. heterophyllus, L. artemesia) not only promotes menstruation and eases menstrual discomfort but also is highly regarded in its treatment of cardiovascular disorders as well as hyperthyroidism. It is often given for palpitations during menopause and is very effective at easing them.

Family: Lamiaceae

Also named: Leonuri Herba

Energy and flavors: slightly cold, bitter, spicy

Organs and channels affected: Liver, Heart, Kidney, Bladder

Chemical constituents: A bitter principle, bitter glycosides, leonurin, alkaloids, tannin, essential oil, resin, organic acids

Properties and actions: Emmenagogue, astringent, carminative, cardiac tonic, diuretic, antispasmodic, antirheumatic, uterine stimulant; invigorates Blood and dispels blood stasis, drains dampness, clears heat toxins

Contraindications: pregnancy

Dosage: 9-15 g, 10 to 40 drops tincture (1:2 @75% fresh; 1:7 @60%ABV dry) TID-QID

Night-Blooming Cereus

Night-Blooming Cereus Stem, Flower (Selenicereus grandifloras, formerly known as: Cereus grandiflorus, Cactus grandiflorus) treats diseases involving the heart and the lungs including carditis, pericarditis, valvular disease, hypertrophy, dyspnea, mitral valve insufficiency, pulmonary hemorrhage, chronic bronchitis, and interstitial pneumonia. It especially treats heart conditions with nervous exhaustion and cardiac weakness with a feeble and irregular pulse.

According to herbalist Roy Upton: “It stimulates the vasomotor system, the ganglia of the sympathetic nervous system, and directly influences the nutrition of the heart muscle. It increases the musculomotor energy, elevates arterial tension, and increases the height and force of the pulse wave. This is accompanied by increased heart action through stimulation of the spinal motor centers, the activity and general tone of which is permanently improved. Cactus grandiflorus was one of the Lloyd Brothers Pharmacy’s biggest sellers.”

Its sedative action treats depression, fear, poor memory, hypochondria, mental derangement, and PMS. It is also used for cerebral congestion, inflammation of the mucous membranes, prostatic disease, irritable bladder, renal congestion, dropsy, edema of the limbs, dysmenorrhea, and rheumatism. It is beneficial for visual defects, tinnitus, and exophthalmic goiter.

Like hawthornnight-blooming cereus is not classed with poisons; yet, if given in excessive amounts it has been recorded that it may act as an irritant, producing diarrhea and other unpleasant symptoms. Unlike Digitalis, it is not cumulative in action, and in proper doses can be administered for months without disturbing digestion.

Family: Cactaceae

Also named: Selenicereus grandiflora Caulis et Flos

Energy and flavors: Warm, bitter

Organs and channels affected: Heart, Kidney, Lungs, Urinary Bladder

Chemical constituents: Biogenic amines, flavonoids, rutoside, grandiflorine, hordenine alkaloid

Properties and actions: Sedative, diuretic, cardio-tonic; calms Heart Shen, transforms Phlegm, regulates qi, moves blood

Contraindications: Do not take with antidepressant medications; may increase blood pressure; dosage must be carefully regulated as overdose can aggravate these conditions

Caution: Cereus contains the chemical tyramine, which can cause dangerously high blood pressure. The body naturally breaks down tyramine to eliminate it and prevent it from causing hypertension, however some medications interfere with the body’s ability to break down tyramine, and some of these are used to treat depression. Thus, anyone taking anti-depressants should not take cereus.

Dosage: 30-40 drops tincture (1:2 @50-70%ABV fresh), BID-TID

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