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Happy Hearts: Chinese Herbs for Cardiovascular Health 

Modern life moves fast – sometimes too fast for the well-being of our ever-beating hearts.

The heart is a tireless organ that works ceaselessly to pump blood, nutrients, and oxygen through our bodies so we can live. Caring for our hearts is not just a matter of ticking a box on the health checklist; it’s a fundamental investment in our overall well-being.

Along with exercise and a healthy diet, Chinese herbs for heart health offer a unique yet time-tested way to support cardiovascular health and prevent issues like heart disease. Let’s explore how Traditional Chinese Medicine views the Heart system (hint: it’s more than just an organ of circulation!). Then, learn how Chinese herbal formulas can help our hearts beat a little smoother.

The Heart of the Matter: A Look at Cardiovascular Disease

With heart disease consistently ranking as one of the world’s leading causes of death for the past 30 years, it’s clear that heart health matters.

Why are people struggling so much with their heart health? Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common underlying factors that lead to poor heart health:

  • Cholesterol Levels
    Cholesterol is a fatty substance contained in our cells. High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (often called “bad” cholesterol) can lead to the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Why does this matter? More plaque means narrow arteries and poor blood flow – the beginnings of atherosclerosis and an increased risk of coronary artery disease.
  • High Blood Pressure
    Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries. High blood pressure (hypertension) can damage the arteries over time, making them more susceptible to cholesterol buildup and narrowing. This uncontrolled high blood pressure can strain the heart, making it a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle
    Regular physical activity is one of the best ways to boost cardiovascular health. Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, lowers blood pressure, and improves cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough physical activity in their daily lives, which weakens the heart and puts them at risk of developing heart disease.
  • Low-Quality Diet and Nutrition
    A diet high in processed foods and added sugars is a recipe for obesity and heart-related issues. A nutritious diet is essential for maintaining optimal cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and overall cardiovascular health. It also helps prevent obesity and related conditions. Focus your plate on balancing heart-healthy foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, with little to no saturated or trans fats and refined sugars.
  • Overwhelming Stress 
    Chronic stress does more than wreck your mood and leave you with a headache. Stress is one of the main factors that lead to heart health problems. When we’re triggered by stress, the body releases stress hormones which affect blood vessel function. Not to mention, those under a lot of stress are more likely to engage in unhealthy habits (such as overeating or smoking) to “unwind.”
  • Smoking and Tobacco Use
    Most people think of lung damage when they think of the side effects of smoking. But the truth is that tobacco can affect the heart just as much as the lungs. Smoking introduces harmful chemicals into the body, causing damage to blood vessels, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis, and reducing the amount of oxygen that reaches the heart. Quitting smoking can offer immediate improvements in heart health and reduce your risk of cardiovascular issues.
  • Diabetes
    Diabetes is a serious condition in and of itself. But, it can also damage blood vessels and the heart over time, increasing the risk of coronary artery disease and heart failure. Managing blood sugar levels through medications, lifestyle changes, diet, and Chinese herbs for blood sugar management is crucial for heart health.

Chinese Medicine: A Holistic Path to Heart Health

In Western medicine, the cardiovascular system is made up of the heart organ, the arteries, and the veins. Its main function is to keep blood flowing to all areas of the body to sustain life.

When it comes to the Heart in Chinese medicine, we consider not only the organ itself, but also the entire circulatory system, acupuncture channel, paired organs, sense organs, and associated emotions. The heart is responsible for blood circulation, but it also plays a key role in mood, sleep, emotional processing, communication, and more.

A Closer Look at the Heart in TCM

The Heart is considered the “Emperor” of the body in TCM. Although mighty and revered, it is also vulnerable and requires thoughtful protection. The Heart manages not only proper blood-pumping functions, but also healthy sleep patterns, appropriate emotional responses, sweating, urination, and even fertility.

The health of our Hearts – and minds – can be seen through our eyes. The eyes are considered the window to the “shen” (or spirit/soul) and hold our truest selves. The Heart’s emotion is joy, and you can imagine how your eyes might shine when feeling joyful. Fire is the element attributed to the Heart and when in balance, allows us to be eager and excited to enjoy all that life has to offer.

The Heart system encompasses much of the body’s physiological and psychological processes. For this reason, imbalances can cause a variety of issues.

How TCM Supports Heart Health

Rather than focusing solely on symptom management, TCM seeks to address the root causes of imbalances in the body. Herbs like hawthorn, salvia (Danshen), and ginseng have been traditionally used to improve blood circulation, regulate blood pressure, and enhance overall cardiovascular function.

Here are 4 of the most significant functions the Heart has in TCM:

  1. Healthy Circulation
    Life is better when you go with the flow, right? Well, our bodies are happiest when our blood is flowing smoothly too! Healthy blood flow is essential for not only health, but also general well-being and emotional stability.

    The Heart is the grandmaster of circulation in Chinese medicine, just as in biomedicine. When we consider the Heart system, we consider the heart itself, but also all the blood vessels and capillaries along the way. Chinese medicine can help ensure healthy flow through all of these areas, from head to toe.

    Problems with circulation, however, can happen in many ways. Symptoms like pain or weakness in a particular area, fatigue, digestive issues, headaches, dizziness, or menstrual pain are often signs of poor or blocked circulation.

    Heart imbalances can also be a key factor of imbalance in diseases like cancer, infertility, varicose veins, fibromyalgia, or arthritis. Each of these issues has a particular set of root causes that vary from person to person, but poor circulation is a common underlying culprit.

  2. Restful Sleep
    Would you have ever thought your Heart was involved in managing your sleep habits? It might sound strange, but in Chinese medicine, the Heart has a strong connection with this ever-important aspect of our health.

    At night, our bodies begin to slow and cool, entering the more yin part of the day. As we lay in bed ready for sleep, a healthy Heart will easily be able to “house” the spirit and let us fall to sleep peacefully. We will sleep deeply through the night, without waking or tossing and turning. We might dream, but nothing too scary, vivid, or disturbing. We will wake feeling rested, content, and ready for the day.

    Unfortunately, this is an uncommon scenario for most people. Many of us suffer through restless nights, tossing and turning, waking in the middle of the night, sweating, having dream-disturbed sleep, or failing to fall asleep at all. While there are many potential reasons for insomnia and sleep disturbances, much has to do with the state of the Heart.

    We need a well-nourished Heart to enjoy healthy sleep. Good quality blood, healthy qi and blood flow, and regulated emotions are essential for a healthy Heart. Each of the organs in Chinese medicine is responsible for managing a different emotion. The Heart’s emotion is joy (and on the flip side, mania), but it also processes all of the emotions. This means we need to take care to process and release pent-up emotions to relax the Heart and allow a restful sleep.
  3. Emotional Harmony
    Emotional imbalances affect us all at some point. But when they become chronic or severe, finding your mental health balance can be tricky to navigate. While there is no one right answer for everyone who suffers from conditions like anxiety or depression, there are some changes we can make to help light the way.

With its holistic approach to emotional balance, Chinese medicine can help improve and prevent mood imbalances. The power lies in its ability to regulate hormones, release tensions, and even out underlying disharmonies. This helps to treat the root issue and put us on the best path to happiness.

So, where does the Heart come in? Chinese medicine considers the Heart the seat of all emotions. When the Heart is undernourished or over-taxed, it can lead to feelings of emptiness and sorrow. In others, it can stir anxiety, worry, and restlessness. Restoring balance to the Heart system eases these tensions so we can return to a state of calm, happy balance.

The Best Chinese Herbs for Heart Health

Ready to support your cardiovascular health, as well as your TCM Heart system? There are many different herbal supplements for heart health, each with its own functions and uses. Let’s explore a few of the most popular herbal formulas to find out which one is right for you.

The Best Chinese Herbs for Blood Circulation

Dan Shen Pian
A great overall herbal formula for circulation is Dan Shen Pian. This formula best supports anyone who needs a little help getting the blood moving throughout the body – those with cold hands and feet, swelling, dizziness, heart palpitations, or who have a sedentary lifestyle.

Shan Zha Jiang Zhi Pian
If you have known heart issues, herbal formulas that include shan zha are particularly helpful. This herb helps to dissolve and prevent blood clots and improve the flow of blood through the vessels.

Wenxin Keli
Wenxin Keli
is a popular treatment for many heart health symptoms including arrhythmias, restless heart palpitations, shortness of breath and fatigue, dizziness and palpitations, chest pain and oppression, and other signs of heart imbalances.

The Best Chinese Herbs for Lowering Cholesterol

Cholesterol Support Tablets
This formula is designed to help maintain cardiovascular function and regulate healthy cholesterol levels. It contains the key herb shan zha, or hawthorn berry, which is known to regulate cholesterol and specifically support cardiovascular health.

Cholesterol Guard Herb Tea
A daily tea can help you improve your cholesterol levels and boost heart health. This herbal tea supports healthy blood circulation, improves circulation, and helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

The Best Chinese Herbs for Managing Blood Sugar

Liu Wei Di Huang Wan
One of the most popular formulas for diabetes management is the classic formula Liu Wei Di Huang Wan. This formula helps restore the deficient Yin common in diabetes and is helpful in managing blood sugar levels, neuropathy, and kidney-related issues. It also helps reduce inflammation to help relieve pain and neuropathy.

Wu Ling Wan
Wu Ling Wan is a special blend of five different herbs that help your body manage excess water so it doesn’t stress your cardiovascular system. This formula is particularly useful for those with excess swelling and urinary issues due to diabetes.

The Best Chinese Herbs for Heart-Related Emotional Balance

An Shen Bu Nao Wan (Calm Mind)
To revive the Heart, we must nourish and relax; supplement and comfort. Calm Mind tablets are great for an easy as-needed natural way to release tension and improve depression.

Xiao Yao Wan (Free and Easy Wanderer)
Free and Easy Wanderer Teapills
are one of TCM’s most famous go-to formulas for stress. This supplement helps tackle stress specifically related to deep-seated frustration and depression by encouraging good circulation of Qi and blood.

Gan Mai Da Zao Wan
Anxiety can be a complicated issue, but it is often rooted in an imbalanced heart system. If your anxiety comes with a tight feeling in the chest, heart palpitations, and sleep issues, consider Gan Mai Da Zao Wan. This simple and gentle formula can be taken nightly to help settle the mind during times of increased stress.

Suan Zao Ren Wan
For anxiety that stems from an underlying lack of nourishment, Suan Zao Ren Wan may help. You might fall into this category if you feel weak in other areas of your health. For instance, you may have dry and brittle hair, nails, and skin, find yourself tired and lethargic, have pale and light periods, experience dizziness or headaches, hot flashes or night sweats, recently delivered a baby, or are pre or post-menopausal. Suan Zao Ren Wan offers supportive nourishment for the Heart system, as well as qi and blood.

Bai Zi Yang Xin Wan (Heavenly Heart Teapills)
Anxiety can also be caused by excess heat agitating the Heart – a very different Heart presentation that requires cooling and clearing herbs, like Plum Flower’s Heavenly Heart Pills. With this formula, the goal is to cool and calm the Heart and simultaneously re-establish healthy blood flow to relax the body and mind.

The Best Chinese Herbs for Insomnia

Emperor’s Teapills
When there is excess heat in the body, it can disturb Heart system and lead to chronic insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, and heart palpitations. These symptoms are also accompanied by other heat signs (like night sweats, hot flashes, or skin irritations). Emperor’s Teapills work to calm the Heart and relax the mind so you can get a good night’s sleep.

An Shen Bu Xin Wan
For those who find they worry their way into restless, sleepless nights, An Shen Bu Xin Wan might be in order. This is especially great if you also feel worn down in other ways; you’re easy to fatigue, have weak back or knees, or feel generally burned out.

Gui Pi Wan
If you are a light sleeper, tired, and often suffer from indigestion, you might benefit better from Gui Pi Wan. This Chinese herbal formula is great for nourishing the Heart, but does so by restoring the beautiful harmony between the digestive system and our nervous system.

Embrace Wholesome Heart Medicine with Chinese Herbs

Have you been protecting your body’s Emperor?

With our modern lives, it can be easy to push our Heart troubles under the rug. We let stress build up, miss precious hours of sleep, or ignore our emotions. When life gets busy we may skip exercise and self-care practices, or fall back on indulgences to help relieve our stress.

The heart is an extremely important organ, both in biomedicine and Chinese medicine. It deserves our protection and loving care. With Chinese herbs for heart health, you can support your entire cardiovascular system, mental health, and overall well-being.

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