The Natural Blood Thinners

The ancient Indian tradition had recognised the importance of diet and its various varieties for the upkeep of the human health
The Natural Blood Thinners
Representational Pic

Very recently, on 29th June, the celebrated Cardiologist, Prof. (Dr) Upendra Kaul wrote in these columns on Heart Healthy Diet: An Important Component of Preventing Heart Attacks. “Making it as a part of our habit starting from early life”, he asserted, “is the key along with several other measures to prevent a heart attack and its aftermath.” Well, who can find fault with the advice of a acknowledged expert professional, much less a lay person like me who dabbled in law and accounts all my life. It only served as a trigger to write for informing other lay readers like me about the traditional blood thinning diets that would go a long in helping them to keep their hearts safe and healthy.

The ancient Indian tradition had recognised the importance of diet and its various varieties for the upkeep of the human health. No wonder that in Yajurveda, this mantra has been there for tens of centuries: amaṃtramakṣaraṃ nāsti nāsti mūlamanauṣadham‌ayogyaḥ puruṣo nāsti yojakastatra durlabhaḥ॥ (There is no letter in the script that is not a mantra, a chanting, a principle; what we need is a Pandit, a scholar to pronounce it. There is no root / plant without medicinal value; what we need is a doctor to diagnose it. There is no human being, who is worthless, all we lack is a good manager, who can manifest it.) Limiting our attention only to the herbs and plant food, we realise that the traditional spices box in the average Indian household is a veritable storehouse of immunity boosting additives which in our ignorance we have been thinking add only to the flavour of the dish. Ginger and turmeric, apart from being strong anti-oxidants and cure for many diseases, have also been discovered as miraculous immunity boosting foods. Ginger is said to have as many as 23 anti-bacterial and anti-carcinogenic nutrients that boost immunity and hold the virus and cancer at bay apart from being anti-ageing. Turmeric, which can also be used as a substitute for ginger for almost similar properties, contains curcumin, which protects the gut from damage from noxious agents in a big way and keeps the bacteria associated with ulcers in check, helps these to heal, and works actively on killing cancer cells in the gut. Clove (long), Cinnamon (Dhaar cheeni ) and Mulathi are other spice foods that help boost the immune system and also have favourable side effects on one’s health.

Among these are also blood-thinning foods, drinks, and supplements, which promote the heart health and prevent cardiac complications including a heart attack or a stroke. Natural blood thinners are substances that reduce the blood’s ability to form clots. Blood clotting is a necessary process, but sometimes the blood can clot too much, leading to complications that can be potentially dangerous. Blood thinners work in two ways; antiplatelets keep blood cells from sticking together to become a clot and anticoagulants cause clotting to occur more slowly. Let us talk about the nature’s bounties that abound around us and eat these moderately in the interests of our heart health.

Garlic: It is a superfood which deserves a spot on the list of natural blood thinners. A recent study showed that the garlic was as strong as aspirin in preventing blood clots. It discovered a new anticoagulant made from a substance that is not present in a whole garlic clove but forms when garlic is crushed or cooked. The chemical is produced when two chemicals in separate cells of the bulb react to each other. The resultant chemical, called allicin, has long been known to have antibiotic properties (During WWI, crushed garlic was pressed into wounds to prevent gangrene.) The anticoagulant made from allicin is called ajoene. Ginger: It is another one of the better natural blood thinners, and can reduce blood clot formation. Ginger contains a natural acid known as salicylate, which has blood-thinning potential. A synthetic version of salicylate is made into aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). One study found that dried ginger would inhibit platelet aggregation when added to a fatty meal with butter. This is why it is a good idea to use dried or fresh ginger on a regular basis in juices, cooking, or baking.

Turmeric: Used in Indian cooking for thousands of years, turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which contains blood-thinning and anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent platelets from forming clots. According to a 2012 study, one of its main active ingredients, is curcumin, which acts as an anticoagulant. It works to inhibit coagulation cascade components, or clotting factors, to prevent clots from forming; it also works as an anti-inflammatory agent. Remember to always take Turmeric in conjunction with black pepper - the piperine enhances curcumin absorption in the body by up to 2,000%, magnifying its health effects.

Cayenne Pepper: These peppers also have high levels of salicylates in them. They thin the blood, lower blood pressure, and increase circulation. That being said, cayenne pepper is quite spicy; therefore, many can only tolerate it in small amounts. The compound capsaicin in cayenne pepper promotes blood circulation and helps prevent blood clots. It also strengthens the arteries and capillaries- and is known to be used in the treatment of DVT (deep vein thrombosis). Clinical studies have shown that when ingested, capsaicin activates the body’s circulation process dramatically. Unlike drugs with stimulant side effects, capsaicin promotes circulatory blood flow through its’ natural ability to conduct thermal heat while also inhibiting the nerve receptors that cause swelling and pain.

Grapes: The flavonoids in grapes, such as quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin, have blood-thinning properties. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 1998 confirmed that these flavonoids in grapes have blood-thinning effects. Other studies have found these flavonoids to inhibit platelet aggregation. As a result, eating grapes regularly can help protect your heart. Grapes - along with their leaves and sap - have been traditional treatments in Europe for millennia. Grape seed extract is derived from the ground-up seeds of red wine grapes and can easily be added to food and drinks. Several studies suggest that GSE may improve blood flow. In an 8-week study in 17 healthy postmenopausal women, taking 400 mg of GSE had blood-thinning effects, potentially reducing the risk of blood clots. Grape seed extract is made by removing, drying, and pulverizing grape seeds. Grape seeds are high in antioxidants, especially flavonoids, anthocyanins, phenolic acids, and oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs). Grape seed extract is able to prevent and treat disease, and has been found to improve blood flow, reduce blood pressure, and protect blood vessels. Grape seed extract may also work like a blood thinner. Consequently, this supplement is not recommended for people with blood disorders, or those about to have surgery or who take blood-thinning drugs.

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) has been used since the time of ancient Greece for treating various health problems, including inflammation, swelling, and headaches. Feverfew may also act like a blood thinner through inhibiting platelet activity and preventing blood clots. This ancient herb is claimed to help with migraines, soothe skin irritation, and protect against UV radiation-induced skin damage. Although originally native to the Balkans, this plant from the daisy family now grows all over the world, including the Americas. New studies are also showing positive data with regards to blood clotting too - due to the Parthenolide as the active compound found in the leaves. The parthenopid inhibits phospholipase A and prostaglandin formation and reduces blood clots, which decreases inflammation.

Bromelain: It is an enzyme extracted from pineapple. It is known to be effective for heart health and high blood pressure. Research published in the journal Biotechnology Research International in 2012 suggests that bromelain can break down blood clots, reduce clot formation, and thin the blood. Since it helps prevent blood clots, it is best to be careful about consuming lots of pineapple or bromelain supplements while taking blood-thinner drugs. Bromelain is derived from the stem and fruit of pineapples. It’s often used to help reduce swelling after surgery or injury (there was recently a viral TikTok of a girl drinking a quart of pineapple juice before getting her wisdom teeth removed and had minimal swelling). What makes bromelain so powerful is the mixture of different thiol endopeptidases that break down proteins. This protein digesting activity is what contributes to its anti-inflammatory and anti-blood clotting properties. It may help heal burns and inhibit tumour growth by other mechanisms.

Ginseng: Also known as Dong Quai and a member of the celery family- is a staple of Chinese and Native American medicine. It is supposed to help the body fight stress and increase energy. Several studies on animals show that ginseng significantly increases the length of time it takes blood to clot (prothrombin time)- due to its coumarin content. Recent studies have also shown that Dong quai may raise the risk of bleeding, especially if you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin. Consult with a medical professional about drug interactions.

Cinnamon: The type of cinnamon known as Cassia Cinnamon is the best for blood thinning. Chinese cassia cinnamon contains a much higher coumarin content than Ceylon cinnamon. Cinnamon contains coumarin, a powerful blood-thinning agent. So powerful, in fact, that Warfarin, the most commonly used blood-thinning drug, is derived from it! Cinnamaldehyde, another compound in cinnamon, may help with blood clots by slowing down the formation of inflammatory molecules. Some studies have suggested that long-term use of cinnamon can cause liver damage, so discuss with a naturopath how much is enough to be effective.

Ginkgo biloba (Salisburia adiantifolia) is natural plant extract that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to heal various health issues for thousands of years. Ginkgo biloba is able to thin the blood, and it also has fibrinolytic effects, which means this plant may be able to dissolve blood clots. One 2005 study published in the journal Experimental & Clinical Cardiology found that ginkgo extract has similar effects to the anti-clotting drug called streptokinase. Dan shen root, or red sage, is a traditional Chinese herb often used for circulation and heart problems such as chest pain, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blood clot in the brain. Dan shen is able to thin the blood as it can prevent blood and platelet clotting. It can also cause blood vessels to widen, and this is what improves circulation.

Beetroot is another one of the more significant natural blood thinners. The nitrates in beets are known to improve heart health and reduce blood pressure. Beetroot is also able to relieve blood clotting. One 2008 study found that consumption of beetroot juice increased nitrate levels and reduced platelet aggregation.

Vitamin E: Recent studies are showing that there is hope for this vitamin’s use in blood thinning. A new study was recently publishes on the findings of 40,000 women aged 45 and older who took either 600 international units (IU) of vitamin E or a placebo every other day and were followed for an average of 10 years. During the trial, 213 women in the vitamin E group and 269 women in the placebo group developed venous thromboembolism (blood clots). Overall, women who took vitamin E were 21% less likely to develop venous thromboembolism than women who did not, but the reduction was 44% among the women who had a history of clots. Taking vitamin E appeared to cut the clot risk in half among women with genetic mutations that increased their risk.

Red Wine: The trans-resveratrol and quercetin in red wine have protective effects against atherosclerosis, or coronary heart disease, and they also act as natural blood thinners. This means having a glass of wine once in a while may not be a bad idea. Dark chocolate is high in cocoa and flavonoids, which can help thin your blood. Research shows that dark chocolate can inhibit platelet aggregation, while white and milk chocolate contain less cocoa and therefore do not have a significant effect on blood clotting. It may also have a role in the prevention of thromboembolic and cardiovascular diseases.

In this article, we went through some of the best natural blood thinners and a few artificial food. So we can use as a part of our routine daily diet. It is, however, important to remember that all blood thinners including the natural blood thinners, have side effects that may cause one to bruise or bleed more easily. Therefore, these should be used with caution, especially if one is taking other medications. It is a good idea to work with a natural health practitioner with experience treating heart problems such as blood clotting. Also, one shouldn’t take several of them daily; the results could be disastrous and the blood may be thinned far more than is healthy. During surgeries and other medical interventions requiring coagulation of blood, stopping of use of all blood thinners is imperative. Use caution and common sense.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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