Room for Both: Traditional (Herbal) and Modern (Allopathic) Medicine

I am happy to report that my mom is now officially part pig.  No, really!  She has a brand new mitral valve in her heart courtesy of our little snorting friends. We joke about it (mostly because she’s always snorted when she laughs), but it’s truly amazing what doctors are able to do these days! See, my mom had severe mitral valve regurgitation, which means that the valve didn’t close properly and too much of the blood her heart needed to function was being lost.  This leads to fatigue, shortness or breath, enlargement of the heart, and ultimately, death.

However, thanks to modern medicine and a wonderful surgeon, she has a new valve that’s working like it should, and her heart is getting enough blood.  In her condition, all the Hawthorn in the world wouldn’t have helped.  No, this was a life threatening issue that demanded a quick response. Thank you modern medicine.

But you know what? There are also a myriad of herbs that are wonderful for strengthening and improving overall heart function. Used regularly, some may even prevent you from a future hospital stay.

The first that comes to mind is Hawthorn, a member of the rose family.  It’s a heart tonic and antioxidant that strengthens the heart muscle and helps to regulate blood pressure. Hawthorn has a vasodilating effect that helps improve circulation and regulate heart rhythm.  Hawthorn helps comfort a nervous heart and is useful for conditions such as anxiety, depression, and arrhythmias. It is a strong, yet gentle herb, so while long-term use is certainly recommended, scheduled breaks are as well.

In general, herbs that are good for circulation are good for the heart. The first that comes to mind is gingko biloba. Gingko is thought to be the oldest tree on the planet, and chances are you’ve seen their distinct leaves more than you realize. Gingko is generally thought of for memory and circulation in the central nervous system, for which it is excellent. It is also useful for preventing clots, reducing inflammation, and improving overall circulation in the body: all wonderful for a healthy heart.


Adaptogen, or tonic, herbs such as ashwagandha (withania) nourish the body and help it adapt to and deal with stress.  This is important since chronic stress leads to all sorts of health problems such as fatigue, headaches, high blood pressure, and insomnia (see Stress blog for more information).   Ashwagandha is prized for restoring vitality, strengthening the nerves, and protecting the body from chronic inflammatory diseases.

And, of course, we have some very gentle herbs such as rose and linden that help soothe and comfort the heart. Linden is excellent for stress and anxiety and is often taken to lower high blood pressure. Rose is known for nourishing the skin, and for its lovely, intoxicating smell. I highly recommend taking a bath with Epsom salts and rose petals…just soak and let the stress of the day melt away.

In addition to herbs, a healthy lifestyle is crucial.  Exercising, eating whole foods, getting enough sleep, and stress management are all equally important.  We certainly can’t burn the candle at both ends and expect our bodies to have time to repair and regenerate every night. Nor can we skimp on good nutrition and expect our bodies to be nourished. It’s important to remember that if we’re not taking good care of our bodies in general there’s no herb, essential oil, remedy or medication that will keep us healthy.

I know it takes a bit more effort, but I’d much rather spend my days preventing illness than recovering from it!  Wouldn’t you?



Statements made in this blog are not meant to diagnose, treat, nor cure illness. This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. Consult your medical professional before making significant changes to your diet or lifestyle.