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Happy Valentine’s Day! February is National Heart Health Month! Following are the best herbs for cardiovascular wellness.

Cinnamon’s Blood-Sugar Lowering Powers

Though often reserved for pastries, cinnamon is one of the powerful healing herbs and spices that deserves more widespread use in the kitchen. For people with Type II Diabetes,not only does it help lower blood sugar by supporting insulin sensitivity and function, but cinnamon is very impressive when it comes to antioxidant potential. In fact, scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), listed ground cinnamon as one of the top healing herbs and spices for increasing antioxidant levels in the blood (other noteworthy spices include ground cloves, and dried oregano, rosemary, thyme, and turmeric).

The Anti-Inflammatory and Healing Power of Garlic

A powerful anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent, this alleged vampire repellant has a long history in folk medicine. Almost 2,500 years ago, Hippocrates recommended using garlic to treat wounds, infections, leprosy, cancer and digestive disorders. Later, in the 20th century, garlic earned its reputation as “Russian Penicillin,” because Russian army physicians often successfully used garlic to control infection and gastrointestinal disorders throughout World Wars I and II.

Today, cardiologists often recommend garlic to promote cardiovascular health. Garlic, one of the most healthy herbs and spices in the world, is both a powerful antioxidant and blood thinner. It is commonly recommended as a cholesterol-lowering agent, and has been shown to help lower triglycerides – blood fats that are closely linked to heart disease. Garlic can even lower blood pressure as effectively as some drugs (as shown in studies where subjects supplemented with daily dosages ranging from 600 - 900 mg over a period of 3-6 months.

This incredible herb also helps safeguard against cancers, especially those of the stomach, colon and ovaries, and it can knock out the Borrelia bacteria responsible for Lyme disease. Eating or supplementing with garlic is also a great way to get more sulfur in our diets. An important and largely ignored mineral, sulfur helps us build muscle and connective tissue, contains enzymes important for countless chemical reactions and shields us against toxicity and oxidative stress.

Ginger’s Natural Blood-Thinning and Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

Like garlic, ginger is also a natural blood thinner* it is often referred to as “smart man’s aspirin.” Ginger is also commonly used as a digestive aid and is particularly helpful for treating nausea, especially if due to motion sickness or medications like codeine or morphine.

You can get your daily ginger dose in a few ways. Peel and grate or chop ginger root and add it to sauces, stir-fries, soups and even fruit and vegetable drinks. You can also make ginger tea from the root and drink it hot or cold; try it plain or with honey and lemon. If you don’t have the time to prepare your own ginger meals and drinks, you can also takeaginger supplement.

Since garlic and ginger can thin the blood much like aspirin, patients taking pharmaceutical blood thinners like Coumadin (warfarin) should consult with their doctors about how much of these herbs they consume in food or supplement form.

Turmeric/Curcumin a Heart-Healing Spice

Turmeric, the spice which gives yellow curry powder its distinctive color, contains a compound called curcumin, which has powerful healing potential. Some researchers believe the predominance of curry in the Indian diet explains why there is so little arthritis or Alzheimer’s disease there, compared with the U.S. Curcumin has a long history as an anti-inflammatory agent in Chinese and Indian medicine, and has proven itself in numerous clinical studies.

As an effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound, curcumin helps protect against cancer and enhances cardiovascular health. Not only does curcumin help support healthy blood pressure and prevent blood clots, but it can raise HDL cholesterol levels by almost 30 percent. Additionally, researchers in Japan have found that curcumin helps prevent cardiac hypertrophy (enlargement of the heart chambers) associated with heart failure. Clearly this is another of the healthy herbs and spices you want to consume.

Cayenne’s Herbal Healing Benefits

Widely used to give meals some extra punch, cayenne peppers have also been utilized as an herbal medicine. C This healthy herb can help provide relief from stomach aches and gas. When mixed with water it can be gargled to help combat sore throats. Rubbing it on the skin can also bring temporary relief of arthritic pain and muscle aches, not a surprise since the key medicinal compound in cayenne – capsaicin – also happens to be the main ingredient in various over-the-counter creams which ease muscle and joint pain.

Cilantro Can Lower Cardiovascular Risks

Although cilantro and coriander are different names for the same plant, most people associate cilantro with the leaves and coriander with the seeds. Both forms of this plantare commonly found in Chinese, Mexican and Indian cuisines.

High in beta-carotene, cilantro is a healthy herb that can help lower risk of cardiovascular events and prostate cancer, and increase one’s immunity to colds and flu. As a powerful detoxifying agent, cilantro is also used to help chelate mercury from the body. As such, it is especially beneficial for diabetics, who produce more toxic metabolites due to compromised metabolism.

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Author's Bio: 

Taryn DeCicco ND, LAc, LDN of Apple A Day Clinic in Arlington Heights, IL has been practicing Naturopathy and Acupuncture, specializing in acne, skin, and digestive disorders for over 16 years.