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Medicinal Herbs that are Heart Healthy

Updated: Apr 5

As we ease into February, our chilly winter landscapes are often dappled with shiny pink hearts and requests to be a loved one’s Valentine. While roses are red, and violets are blue, we can also take this time to say “I love you” to our hearts. Heart disease is currently the leading cause of death in the US, counting for about 1 in 4 deaths nationwide. While this statistic is clearly upsetting, it also highlights the places where we can make changes in our lives to have a greater impact on not just our quality of life but also our longevity. While some aspects of heart disease are out of our control like family medical history and age, there are also many other risk factors we can work to mitigate through methods of lifestyle modification as well as diet and exercise. Luckily, eating a heart-healthy diet is absolutely delicious (hello, Mediterranean diet!), and utilizing medicinal herbs that are beneficial to heart health is just as tasty and easy!

 

Herbs that are heart-healthy include:

 

Hawthorn:

Hawthorn is the perfect herb to have in mind this Valentine season! Not only is hawthorn known the world over for being heart-healthy and cardio-protective, but it has also long been considered a symbol of love. In folk medicine hawthorn has been used to ease a grieving heart as well as to help you connect to the energy of your heart. Hawthorn has also been well-researched as a cardiotonic herb and has been found to support heart health by lowering blood pressure, supporting coronary blood flow, providing antioxidant protection, and lowering LDL levels (bad cholesterol). 

 




Hibiscus:

Hibiscus is more than just a beautiful flower, it’s also a deliciously cooking and bitter medicinal herb. It has been found to lower the blood pressure levels of patients with hypertension as well as help manage healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels. 

 

Green Tea:

Green tea is pretty much a staple in many households at this point. But it’s so much  more than just a caffeinated beverage to help wake you in the morning. It’s also been found to have some of the highest levels of antioxidant potential of any plants. It can help lower LDL cholesterol and overall triglyceride levels.  

 

Garlic:

Garlic has been found to contain and produce compounds that are extremely beneficial for healthy blood circulation as well as maintaining healthy blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 

 

Turmeric:

Turmeric containes a highly antioxidant compound called curcumin, which has been found to help support healthy heart tissues, healthy levels of LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. Turmeric is also widely known for its ability to support anti-inflammatory pathways, which helps lower the risk of developing heart disease. 

 




 

Equipment

  • Food processor or blender

  • Double boiler or nested pots

  • Cheesecloth or potato ricer

 

Ingredients

  • 64 ounces apple cider vinegar

  • 10 ounces honey - Use less for a more savory vinegar.

  • 2 medium onions

  • 2 large garlic bulbs

  • 4 ounces fresh ginger root

  • 2 ounces fresh turmeric root

  • 5 ounces horseradish root

  • 2 large pomegranates - When ripe they are plump, succulent, and garnet in color. Can substitute with 4 ounces of pomegranate juice for 1 pomegranate.

  • 2 oranges

  • ½ ounce dried whole cayenne peppers - Can substitute 1 tablespoon of dried cayenne powder for 1/2 an ounce of whole peppers.

  • 1.25 ounce dried hibiscus flowers - Cut and sifted.

 

Directions

 

  1. Peel the garlic, and coarsely chop the onions, ginger, horseradish, and turmeric. Place them in a food processor or blender, along with the cayenne peppers. Add enough apple cider vinegar to cover. I prefer a glass blender if it is available. Work in two batches. Blend carefully with the lid on and take care not to let fumes or slurry get in your eyes.

  2. Place the slurried spiciness from both batches into a double boiler. Don’t have one? Nest a smaller pot inside a bigger pot or saucepan and use a couple of upside-down mason jar rings to keep the inside pot off the bottom of the outer one. Add a little water to the outside pot and voilà—double boiler! Add the rest of the apple cider vinegar to the slurry and keep the heat on low, with the lid on! Let the mixture heat on low; don’t let it get above 120°F (49°C) for three hours, stirring occasionally. Again, be careful with the fumes!

  3. Meanwhile, peel your oranges and deseed the pomegranates. Put on an old apron and mash the pomegranates and oranges with a potato masher in the sink.

  4. After a couple of hours, taste the slurry. If it’s too mild for your fire cider pleasure, this is your chance to add more of the spicy herbs and cook for one more hour. After three hours of total cooking time, turn off the heat, and add the hibiscus and the juicy pomegranate/orange mixture. Let sit for one hour and check the color—if it’s too light, add more hibiscus. When the cider is a beautiful red hue, strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or potato ricer. You’ll need to squeeze out or press the slurry, or you will lose a great deal of the medicine. (Don’t use your bare hands to squeeze out the cider or you’ll burn/irritate your skin.) Add the honey and mix well, making sure all the honey is dissolved.

  5. Place in sterilized, clear-glass jars, label, and refrigerate. The dosage is 1 teaspoon (5 ml) as needed.

 




Yields about 1/2 gallon of elixir.

 

Ingredients

  •  4 cups fresh hawthorn berries (or 2 cups dried organic hawthorn berries)

  • 2 organic vanilla beans

  • 2 organic Cassia cinnamon sticks

  • 1 Tbsp. organic cardamom pods

  • 1.75 L brandy

  • 1 cup raw, local honey (or to taste)

 

Directions

  • Put herbs into a half-gallon jar.

  • Pour brandy into jar.

  • Infuse for 4 to 6 weeks 

  • Shake daily!

  • Strain into another half-gallon jar.

  • Stir in the honey until dissolved. Use more or less, depending on how sweet you want elixir.

  • Decant elixir into dropper bottles.

  • Create a pretty label for the dropper bottles.

  • Gift to friends and family!

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