The heart of the matter

An Ayurvedic herb improves cardiac muscle function and the pumping activity of the heart.

| March/April 2001

Mary was despondent. “I’ll never have my life back,” she sighed. At seventy-two years old, Mary had heart problems that were becoming unbearable. She would find herself at the hospital at least once a week with an uncontrollable rapid heartbeat known as tachycardia. But the digoxin that stabilized her heart rhythm left her feeling like she was wearing a lead blanket. Worse yet, it only worked for a short time. So the merry-go-round continued.

Mary was seeing a cardiologist, who was aware that she was seeking an alternative to taking digoxin. She was also under the care of a chiropractor in a holistic clinic, who suggested that she consult me. Heart conditions, including the arrythmia that Mary suffered from, are serious conditions. No patient should self-treat such conditions; if Mary hadn’t also been seeing a cardiologist, I would have refused to advise her on using Ayurvedic herbs for her condition. She also made sure her cardiologist knew she was taking the herb.

I suggested that she try the famed Ayurvedic heart herb, arjuna. Mary hasn’t made a trip to the emergency room since, and is working with her cardiologist to gradually reduce her heart medication.

Although it is rather new to us in the United States, arjuna is one of my favorite herbs. Countless times, I’ve seen it help people with just about any type of cardiovascular disease.

Arjuna is made from the bark of Terminalia arjuna, a deciduous tree that grows up to ninety feet tall throughout India. The tree’s thick, white-to-pinkish-gray bark is probably the most widely used cardiac herbal medicine in Ayurvedic medicine. Doctors in India use it for a variety of cardiovascular conditions; it is thought of as beneficial for nearly all heart and circulatory systems. Arjuna holds a position very similar to that of hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) in European herbalism. Among the diseases for which arjuna is prescribed in India are cardiac failure, hypertension, angina, endocarditis, pericarditis, and edema.

Alan Keith Tillotson, Ph.D., author of the forthcoming One Earth Herbal Sourcebook (Kensington Publishers, 2001), says that arjuna bark is “one of the most important heart tonics in Ayurvedic medicine, used to treat all forms of heart disease. It reduces the heart-damaging culprits of inflammation and mucus.”

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