Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Happy Heart

The Heart Energy system according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
  • governs blood by the following actions: supplies blood to all body tissues, determines strength of constitution, converts food Qi (energy) into blood
  • blood vessels reflect the energy of the heart, if Heart Qi and blood is strong the pulse will be full and regular
  • manifests in the complexion - a rosy, lustrous complexion is a sign the heart is pumping blood all over the body and that the blood is abundant
  • houses the Shen (mind) which is considered to be all mental faculties as well as the emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of a person.
  • there are 5 functions in particular related to the heart: mental activity, consciousness, memory, thinking, sleep
  • opens into the tongue, therefore if the heart is out of balance there may be speech abnormalities
  • controls sweat because of the relation between blood and body fluids

Heart disease and stroke are two of the top three causes of death in Canada. High blood pressure and hypercholesteremia are risk factors associated with the diseases. There are many ways to help prevent or treat heart disease and Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a few options. One way is through acupuncture, which requires the expertise of a Doctor of TCM or a Registered acupuncturist, who will gather all pertinent health information to determine which organ systems are out of balance. Once this pattern of disharmony is revealed an individual treatment plan can be created, which may include dietary changes, lifestyle recommendations and herbal prescriptions.

Often the first step to health is diet. It is an easy, inexpensive way to help prevent or treat certain conditions. Some recommended additions to help with lowering cholesterol and blood pressure are as follows

Celery - lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
Button mushroom - decreases blood fat
Shiitake - decreases cholesterol
Banana, persimmon - lower blood pressure
Kelp, seaweed, mung bean, sprouts - soften blood vessels to help prevent atherosclerosis
Oregano, black pepper, basil, fennel and tarragon - help lower cholesterol
Whole grains, legumes, oats - are high in fiber, which can help to lower LDL without impacting the HDL

Of course general dietary recommendations also apply
avoid saturated fats, trans fats and hydrogenated oils.
take omega 3 fatty acids found in seeds such as flax, hemp and pumpkin and fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardine

Chinese herbs are the next step after dietary changes have been made. Many have been studied for their effects on the heart below are some results

Shan Zha (hawthorn) - lowers triglycerides and cholesterol, promotes vasodilation. Improves circulation in the blood vessels and is anti-clotting
Dan Shen (salvia root) - promotes vasodilation, lowers serum cholesterol. Used in treating angina pectoris and thromboangiitis obliterans (Buerger's disease)
San Qi (notoginseng radix) - lowers serum lipids and cholesterol. Powdered can be used for angina pectoris to decrease nitroglycerin and blood pressure.
Ge Gen (radix puerariae) - increases blood flow, decrease serum cholesterol. No affect on blood pressure but can moderate associated symptoms
He Shou Wu (polygoni multiflori radix) - lowers cholesterol levels through reducing absorption by the small intestine, also relieves arteriosclerosis
Ze Xie (alismatis rhizoma) - decreases cholesterol and triglycerides
Shu Di Huang (rehmanniae radix) - lowers blood pressre and serum cholesterol
Ma Dou Ling, Du Zhong, Xia Ku Cao - all reduce hypertension

Although all the herbs listed above have an impact on blood pressure and cholesterol their actions in TCM are different and may involve other organ systems, since there is not just one pattern of disease. In addition herbs are generally combined to create a balanced formula to regulate the organ systems that are out of balance therefore it is always important to consult a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine or Herbalist before taking any herbal remedies.

Regulating emotions is the final component to heart health, with imbalances resulting in scattered mind, excess or no laughing, loss of memory, speech problems, weak spirit and depression. Activities such as tai chi and yoga can benefit the spirit. Meditation, moving or seated is another option to help clear and calm the mind.

Journal of Chinese Medicine February 2009
Healing with Whole Foods

Chinese Herbal Medicine - Materia Medica

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