Heart of the matter

ANANTHA NARAYANA | Updated on October 03, 2014



Ayurveda holds several secrets to a healthy heart

Arjuna is a central character in the epic Mahabharata, and so is the heart in the general health and well-being of a person.

And that perhaps explains the “Arjuna” bark, a herb that is good for your heart’s health. Its botanical name is Terminalia arjuna.

As the world clocks another World Heart Day this week and PM Narendra Modi calls for a World Yoga Day – another traditional Indian system of medicine – Ayurveda holds several secrets to a healthy heart.

In its guidelines for the heart, for example, it recommends spices, herbs, and other nutrients to be taken in small and daily doses. Ayurveda aims to maintain the health of an individual through lifestyle changes that include achar rasayana (behavioral), ahar rasayana (diet and nutrition) and dravya rasayana (drug-based).

The inability of the present-day population to follow these lifestyles that put them at high risk for heart diseases.

Benefits of Arjuna

Bhavaprakasha, an authoritative ayurvedic text, describes Arjuna bark’ s benefits as being heart healthy ( hrudya), improving blood quality ( raktha sangrahik) and preventing and removing swelling and clogging ( shotaghna), apart from promoting other cardiac functions.

Arjuna is rich in potassium (about 24 per cent) which is good for the heart, in addition to a number of other goodies like arjungenin, arjunolic acid, polyphenols and gallates. Its cardio-tonic activity, which strengthens the heart muscles, is also described in many ayurvedic books.

Several human studies have shown that Arjuna bark extracts are useful to treat heart disorders like chronic stable angina (pain in the heart). In fact, a research paper in an Indian journal, found it useful in cases of cardiac failure.

Laboratory studies on Arjuna have also demonstrated high antioxidant activity, besides promoting nitric oxide formation in the walls of blood vessels, which give necessary elasticity to the arteries, preventing hardening.

Arjuna powder has a long history of safe use and can be taken once a day, about half-a-spoon, boiled in water like your regular cup of tea. The powder can be boiled on low-heat with a mix of one cup of milk and a cup of water, till the water evaporates. This is then cooled, strained and consumed for the general well-being of the heart.

If this is taken in the evening, you could experience a calmer mind and better sleep too. Ayurvedic vaidyas also recommend Arjunarista, a self-fermented recipe of Arjuna with other herbs (that has about seven per cent of self-generated alcohol), twice a day as a preventive and treatment product for heart problems.

Not just Arjuna

Not just Arjuna, taking a mixture of pomegranate seeds ground with a pinch of black salt, dried ginger and hing (asafotida) is also good for the heart. Common spices like ajwain (Omum or carom seeds) , jeera (Cumin), methi (Fenugreek) and dalchini (cinnamon) are also good for your heart.

Eating a spoonful of soaked and germinated methi seeds everyday in the morning helps better digestion and excretion of triglycerides (a form of oil and fat that we consume).

Indians are known to have high triglyceride accumulation – a risk factor for the heart.

Chewing a fruit of harad (also known as haritaki) everyday, taking a third of a spoon of dalchini powder with two spoons of honey are also known to help.

And while a glassful of buttermilk is good, curd in the night is best avoided as it could promote blocks in the blood vessels.

Indian traditional cooking, with its mix of spices and herbs is in itself a good formula to maintain health.

So as present day lifestyles and demanding work pressure take their toll on our lives, a dash of Arjuna and spices in our food can play a small but vital part in keeping the heart healthy.

(The writer, formerly head of regulatory affairs with HUL, has researched into herbs)

Published on October 03, 2014

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