Ayurveda has always recognized that the human heart is really two hearts: the physical heart that performs the function of a pump, and the emotional heart that experiences joy, sorrow, and everything in between.
It follows, then, that any problems the heart encounters are also on two levels: physical and emotional. On the physical level, accumulated undigested material, or ama, clogs arteries. Free radicals bombard the system, impairing—among other things—the efficient functioning of the heart. On the mental and emotional levels, day-to-day stresses can add up and damage the delicate fibers of the heart. According to Maharishi AyurVeda, stress aggravates two vital subdoshas—Prana Vata, from mental overload, and Sadhaka Pitta, from emotional trauma.
All these enemies of a healthy heart have one thing in common: they attack silently, insidiously causing damage over time. It is important, therefore, that the heart be maintained at a peak level of efficiency even when there seems to be no apparent damage to it. Ayurveda has scores of herbs in its arsenal to maintain heart health.
The key Ayurvedic heart-friendly herbs work on both physical and emotional levels. Among the stars of heart-care are arjuna, ashwagandha, and guggul. The supporting cast, including gotu kola and shankhapushpi, also play vital roles. It is important to look for a synergistic, balanced combination of herbs.
In this article, we’ll explore Ayurveda’s most heart-friendly herbs. Later on, we’ll also share The Council of Maharishi AyurVeda’s Tips for a Healthy Heart, as well as some tips for cooling massage to soothe and uplift the heart.
Heart-Friendly Ayurvedic Herbs
Arjuna is a Kapha and Pitta dosha pacifier. It works on blood plasma, and also helps maintain the health of the channels, or srotas, of our body. It is astringent and bitter in taste and is used in Ayurveda in anything pertaining to the heart and circulatory system.
We know that in Ayurveda, according to the Charaka Samhita, the heart is the seat of consciousness. And of course we know that the mind, body, and organs interact with each other, which means that mind, body, intellect, and consciousness interact with each other. So basically arjuna also has a lot to do with balancing Sadhaka Pitta—the subdosha of Pitta associated with the heart and emotions. That’s why it’s an active ingredient in Maharishi AyurVeda products like Stress Free Emotions, Cardio Support, and BP Balance. The former two affect not only physical heart health, but emotional heart health as well.
Ashwagandha is another powerful rasayana (rejuvenating food or behavior) that sweeps away stress and ensures good sleep, thereby soothing an overworked heart. A clinical study in 1997 established the role of ashwagandha in slowing down the circulation of adrenaline, the stress hormone that can literally tear heart muscle fibers. Scientists now know that ashwagandha also reduces plasma cortisol, which impairs heart health.
Says Ayurvedic expert Vaidya Gyawali: “In Ayurveda, garlic has been called rasona—where merely one rasa, one taste, out of the six tastes is lacking. It has bitter, sweet, astringent, pungent, and salty; only sour is missing. It has been used in cardiac health, it kills germs, and it is used to support the digestive system.
“Garlic’s a very interesting herb—not only from an Ayurvedic perspective. Garlic has always been used to protect human health. Even modern medicine has done over a thousand research studies on garlic; there have been quite a few studies, and it’s very popular in the kitchen. There has been far more research on garlic than arjuna and other Ayurvedic herbs. There have been meta-analyses and around fifty to one hundred randomized controlled trials on garlic showing its effect on maintaining cholesterol and healthy blood pressure levels already within a normal range, and generally helping to maintain cardiovascular health.”
Guggul is a very effective herb in Ayurveda for promoting healthy cholesterol levels already within a normal range. Says Gyawali, “It has always been used to address fat, which we call meda dhatu, that is, the fat tissue and the fourth of the seven dhatus, or tissues. It is not only used by itself, but also as a carrier in complex formulas. It can also be used as a catalyst in other formulas. Cardio Support has guggul and arjuna both, and is a very helpful formula.”
Maharishi AyurVeda Formulations for Cardiovascular Health
Our Worry-Free herbal supplement supports the healthy functioning of the heart and the cardiovascular system, for it combines powerful Ayurvedic herbs such as gotu kola, shankapushpi (dwarf morning glory), and ashwagandha with several other beneficial herbs. This powerful formula supports a stress-free day and a night of sound sleep, both of which are vital for a healthy heart. When Prana Vata is aggravated by an overuse or misuse of the mind, the Worry-Free System—the herbal supplement, tea, and aroma—can help you restore balance.
Our Blissful Joy herbal supplement is another superb restorative for the heart. A precisel blend of arjuna, ashwagandha (winter cherry), and other nourishing herbs, Blissful Joy helps uplift the heart by balancing Sadhaka Pitta in times of emotional stress.
But the real gem in this treasury of herbal formulations is Amrit. Scientific research has now established that Amrit is up to 1,000 times more powerful at scavenging free radicals than vitamins C, E, and even the pharmaceutical probucol. Its antioxidant properties inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which can lead to the clogging of arteries.
Made with great precision, Amrit (which translates as "the golden cup of longevity") combines 38 rare herbs and fruits that lend their synergy to heal and tone the heart, and, indeed the entire physiology.
A Word About Our Herbal Preparations
Herbal formulations work best when the ingredients are of the highest quality and are correctly combined. Following time-tested traditions of the ancient healers, Maharishi AyurVeda prepares its herbal formulations with the utmost precision. Our researchers in India are intimate with every part of the plants they use—be it root, stem, leaf, seed, bark, sap, or juice. They know the role each of these parts can play in either promoting health or simply counter-balancing the side effects. If the root, for instance, has a potent antibacterial ingredient, the leaf has a built-in antidote to counter the side effects of that ingredient. The result is a balanced, synergistic formulation that supports good health with no damaging side effects.
The Council of Maharishi AyurVeda’s Tips for a Healthy Heart
But herbs are not the only approach of Ayurveda. In fact, on their own, the herbs may not yield the best results. Ayurveda believes in prevention, as well as a holistic approach to healing. Make a lifelong commitment to total health. Follow a regular routine of eating, sleeping, and working. Meditate and think positively. Those ingredients are as active as any herbs could ever be when it comes to helping your heart stay strong and healthy!
Here are a few more tips:
- Get a good night’s sleep. A good sleep sets the tone for a fresh, stress-free day. Include Poppy Seed Chutney in your diet — for the recipe, visit the recipes
- Emotional trauma aggravates Sadhaka Pitta, and one result can be waking up at night feeling restless and depressed. To soothe your Sadhaka Pitta and help the process of going back to sleep, drink a cool glass of milk with a spoonful of Organic Rose Petal Spread.
- Do not skip meals.
- Include some cracked black pepper in your diet. Black pepper clears the channels of the body and supports the free flow of oxygen to the brain, helping you stay composed, yet alert.
- The daily Ayurvedic massage — abhyanga — is helpful for stimulating circulation and toning up muscles.
- Start your morning with a stewed apple.
- Ayurveda recommends moderate exercise, especially Yogasanas (yoga postures) and Pranayam (breathing exercises). However, Ayurveda believes that there is such a thing as too much exercise. Follow the Ayurvedic concept of balardha, or exercising such that you use up half your energy and conserve the other 50%.
- Practice Transcendental Meditation® twice a day, or use other relaxation techniques to manage stress.
Essential Oils to Soothe Pitta Dosha
In Ayurveda, essential oils and aromatherapy are said to be very beneficial at uplifting the emotions, soothing the heart, and cooling Pitta dosha. Aromas in general are especially effective coolers because they work very quickly. Depending on which aromas you use, aroma therapy can be a very quick way to insert a cooling sensation in the brain and bloodstream.
It is well known that smells can awaken long-forgotten memories and emotions. You catch a whiff of your friend's lilac perfume, for instance, and suddenly you're transported to a vivid memory of the happiness you felt as you walked under a lilac bush while holding your mother's hand. The reason smell is so closely linked with memory is a physiological one: scents are conveyed by the olfactory nerve directly to areas of the brain that can influence emotions and hormonal response. Odor molecules are chemical communicators that give specific and potent messages, and research shows that different smells stimulate different areas of the brain.
But aromas affect much more than the brain. They are inhaled through the lungs and from there go to the bloodstream and enter the circulation, the heart, and thus influence the emotions.
Only certain aromas are cooling. Rose is cooling, and is also the most nourishing for the heart and emotions.
Aromas also work much better in combination than alone. Essential oils, like herbs, must be combined in a balanced way to create the desired effect and no harmful side effects.
Essential Oils for a Cooling Massage to Uplift the Heart
One of the best ways to administer aromatherapy is through the skin, in the bath water, or in massage oils. Massage is a transdermal way to use aroma therapy for the whole body, which means that it's quickly inhaled as well as being slowly absorbed by the skin.
Wait a minute, you may be thinking. Isn't an oil massage rather warming? Although massage is usually thought of as a warming treatment, because it increases the circulation, it also helps the body excrete heat by clearing the channels. If you use a cooling massage oil, then the effect will be to release heat from the inside out. The cooling effect depends completely on using cooling oils for the massage.
It's best to add a few drops of essential oils in a base oil. Coconut is the most cooling base oil, and is suitable for people who have Pitta constitutions. But if someone has more Kapha or Vata, the coconut oil may be a little too cooling. Thus in formulating MAPI’s Soothing Massage Oil, a balanced combination of essential oils was added to cool the body, but not too much.
Essential oils have another use in massage—they enhance the bioavailabilty of the oil. All aroma oils have the quality of shukshma, a sharp quality that allows them to penetrate the smallest molecules. When added to the coconut oil, they carry the intelligence of the oil deeper into the body tissues, thus more effectively cleansing and rejuvenating the cells. This enhances the rejuvenating effect of the massage.
We hope these heart-friendly tips for both the emotional and physical heart will be useful to you on your holistic journey. Above all else, be sure to engage in activities you naturally find nurturing—as those are always good for the heart.
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