Saturday, September 23, 2006

Ayurveda Heart Haelth Balance

Q: In modern medicine, we think of the heart in its physical sense, pumping gallons of blood each hour. What is the perspective of Ayurveda on the heart?

A: This is an excellent question, because it points directly to the difference between Ayurveda and modern medicine. While modern medicine studies and treats the physical heart, Ayurveda does this but much more. Ayurveda recognizes that there are actually two aspects to the heart: the physical organ that pumps the blood and the emotional aspect that experiences joy, love, and sorrow.

In fact, Ayurveda even goes beyond this to the deeper, more subtle elements. For example, the ayurvedic texts say that prana, the life force, is seated in the heart. One ayurvedic text, the Bhavprakash, describes the heart as a lotus flower with the petals pointing downwards.

At night, when you are sleeping, the petals are closed. During the day, when you are active, the petals are open. The lotus petals are reflective of the essential energy of the heart.

The heart is also the seat of the subtle, life-sustaining substances ojas and soma. Ojas is the material equivalent of immunity and bliss. It circulates throughout the body, giving luster to the skin, clarity to the mind and balance to the emotions. A special kind of ojas, known as the essential ojas, is stored in the heart. Eight drops of essential ojas reside in the heart as long as the person lives.

Soma is the first expression of consciousness itself, the first subtle expression of nature's intelligence in material form. Soma sustains the body, mind and emotions from the side of consciousness, while ojas is a more material expression of soma.

For the health of the heart, then, it is necessary to support the intelligence of nature expressed in soma and ojas, and to support the mental, emotional and physical aspects of the heart.
Q: That's fascinating. Can you tell us something about the doshas that govern the heart?

A: Yes. The main subdoshas that govern the health of the heart are Vyana Vata, which is seated in the heart and governs the beating of the heart and the circulation of blood throughout the body; Sadhaka Pitta, which governs the emotions and their effect on heart functioning; and Avalambaka Kapha, which governs the structure, stability and strength of the heart.

Other subdoshas are also involved in heart health, such as Prana Vata, which governs the mind. When, due to mental stress, Prana Vata is out of balance, it can impact the health of the heart. Udana Vata, which governs the chest and throat area, is also involved in keeping the heart healthy.

Q: What are the factors that can cause an imbalance in the heart?

A: To keep the heart running in a healthy way, all of these subdoshas I just described must be kept in balance. You must also do what is necessary to keep ojas in balance and to nourish the production of ojas in the body.

Also, the life energy, or prana, is maintained by a delicate balance between soma and agni. Agni is the principle of nature that governs the digestive and metabolic functions in the body. Because it involves heat, it is associated with the energy of the sun. You could say that the sun's energy takes the form of agni in the human body.

Soma, on the other hand, is cooling and associated with the cooling, nourishing influence of the moon. In terms of heart health, soma soothes the emotions and mind and builds a strong heart.

When you say that a person has a flowing heart, you are talking about the influence of soma.

There needs to be a balance between these two influences for the heart to be healthy.

Unfortunately, our modern, fast-paced life inevitably tips the scale in favor of agni and diminishes soma. The nourishing, soothing influence of soma is diminished when people are under pressure at work, when they are rushing around, when they don't get enough sleep, when they are overexposed to electromagnetic influences, when they drink impure water, breathe impure air, and when they eat "fast" foods or chemical-laden foods. You could say that modern life causes soma to waste away.

This is seen literally in the doshas. The fast pace of life aggravates both Vata and Pitta dosha. In terms of the heart, Sadhaka Pitta, when out of balance, becomes overheated and literally burns soma. Vyana Vata, when hyperactive, dries soma. Both doshas affect ojas in a similar way. Too much aggravation of Vata and Pitta dosha can dry up Avalambaka Kapha also.

Most serious heart imbalance is caused by mental and emotional stress (in ayurvedic terms Vata and Pitta aggravation). If a person consistently eats the wrong types of fats, or a diet that is too high in fat, the likelihood of an imbalance in heart health and function increases.

So to protect the heart, it's important to understand what kinds of dietary and lifestyle choices cause Vyana Vata and Sadhaka Pitta to become imbalanced and the soma and ojas to be diminished. Once you know what these are, you should avoid those things. You should support the production of soma and ojas in the body with your diet and lifestyle.

Q: So mental and emotional stress are really detrimental to the well-being of the heart. Can you elaborate on that?

A: Yes. Mental and emotional stress build up over time, and they cause adrenaline and other toxic hormones to be overproduced and that can damage the fine fabrics of the heart.

It's true that the buildup of cholesterol and plaque in the arteries, due to eating a diet of improper fatty foods, is a major problem. And certainly a Kapha imbalance, when excessive ama is being produced and clogs the arteries, can contribute to heart damage. This type of simple blockage is caused by Kapha dosha.

But what many people don't realize is that mental stress, or Prana Vata imbalance, can cause the digestive agni to be sometimes high, sometimes low. This variability can also lead to the build-up of ama, and eventually plaque in the arteries. Mental stress also affects Vyana Vata, and if it continues over time it can lead to circulatory problems and cardiovascular imbalance stemming from stress.

And if there is an emotional imbalance, that also can cause weakness in the digestion. When Pitta dosha starts to escalate due to emotional stress, a whole imbalanced enzymatic reaction can take place, causing an over-reactive response along with the build-up of amavisha, a more Pitta-related, reactive kind of toxin in the cardio area. This situation creates blockages in the channels of the heart, and can result in quicker, sharper pain as associated with hyperactive anginic reaction.

Q: What is the Ayurveda perspective on the other Major known risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure?

A: According to Ayurveda, high blood pressure is one symptom of an imbalance in the heart, but the underlying causes could be very different in different people. One person may have a Vyana Vata imbalance, aggravated by a Vata-aggravating diet and lifestyle. Taxing the mind with too much mental work or too much mental stress aggravates Prana Vata as well, and the result of both Vyana and Prana Vata aggravation is Vata-predominant high blood pressure and other Vata-related heart problems.

Other contributing factors might be not getting enough sleep, working late at night, watching TV late at night, constantly dividing the mind by doing two things at once (such as talking on the phone and cooking or driving), constantly rushing from one thing to the next, feeling pressure of time, exercising too much for your body type.

Dietary causes might include eating too many dry, light or raw foods, having an irregular meal time, skipping too many meals, eating while standing up, eating while doing business or talking on the phone, and in general not eating enough.

Q: There must be Pitta-related causes for high blood pressure and heart imbalance then.
A: Yes, Sadhaka Pitta aggravation can cause faster, more reactive changes in the heart area. Sometimes it is related to toxins from food that accumulate in the liver (which is also a seat of Pitta in the body).

When Sadhaka Pitta is aggravated, people lose their capacity to cope with emotional challenges, and then their blood pressure also goes up. Some lifestyle habits that might cause this to happen are going to bed late, watching disturbing movies, and exposing their heart to too much emotional stress. As for diet, eating too many spicy, hot foods such as chilies and jalapeno peppers can aggravate Pitta dosha. Too much of sour foods such as ketchup, mustard, vinegar-based salad dressings or sour oranges, grapes or lemons; and highly salty foods such as chips, cheeses and most processed foods should also be avoided. In general, foods that are not "intelligent"--such as processed foods, non-organic foods grown with chemicals and pesticides--overtax the liver and cause Pitta to go out of balance.

Q: Tell us more about Kapha-related causes for high blood pressure and heart imbalance?
A: If digestion is weak and ama, the waste-product of digestion has been present in the body for a long time, it can spread to the fat tissue and mix with Avalambaka Kapha in the heart region. This kind of ama imbalance blocks the pranavahi srotas, the channels that circulate oxygen throughout the body. This causes high blood pressure also.

In this kind of situation, it's extremely important for the person to examine their diet and switch to healthier fats, such as ghee (clarified butter) and olive oil, in moderation. It is the unhealthy fats, the fats found in red meat and the transfats such as hydrogenated vegetable oil found in almost all packaged foods, that cause this kind of ama /Kapha imbalance.

Sugar in the diet is also an important factor. If the person is eating too much refined sugar in packaged sweets, he or she will need to stop. There are healthier sweeteners you can use if you have Kapha-related high blood pressure or heart imbalance. Honey is actually a sweet that reduces Kapha dosha. It's important not to cook it though, as this releases toxins in an otherwise pure and light food.

Other foods to avoid are hard cheeses, whole milk, and butter. In this situation, it's important to monitor your cholesterol levels.

For this person, it's essential to exercise every day (If you have heart problems, be sure to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program). You can start with something as simple and gentle as walking for half an hour and then start to build up. The important thing is to do it every day and as vigorously as you can comfortably sustain.

Be sure not to sleep during the day or late in the morning if you have this type of Kapha-related high blood pressure. Sleeping late clogs the channels further, so make a habit of rising before 6:00 a.m. Sitting too much and not having enough mental stimulation can contribute to this imbalance, so try to keep some variety in your diet and stimulation in your life.

In this case, all three factors are causing the high blood pressure, because Vyana Vata is drying the soma and disturbing the production of ojas, and Pitta is trying to burn both the soma and the ojas, and Kapha is blocking the channels. This person should follow the dietary

recommendations to pacify Kapha dosha and open the channels. It is essential that the arteries be clear of ama and blockage, because even if a Kapha-predominant person has more ojas or soma, the soma cannot reach the targeted areas of the heart to give it support as and when needed if the channels are blocked.

Q: So how do you prevent these problems of heart imbalance and high blood pressure?
A: Of course, if you have high blood pressure, you should follow your doctor's advice. But an Ayurvedic physician could also help you to determine which type of doshic imbalance is at the root of your problem. Once you determine whether your blood pressure is due to Vata, Pitta or Kapha imbalance, then it is important to stop practicing those behaviors or eating that diet.
There is a term in Ayurveda for this: nidaan parivarjan. Nidaan means the causal factors, and parivarjan means "to get rid of. So what I am recommending here is to get rid of the causal factors. I think you can see that until you do that, no amount of medicine that you take is going to help.

I've included a chart that gives the dietary and lifestyle choices to avoid and to favor for each type of imbalance. People who have a certain body type or imbalance will need to be more careful to avoid the things that aggravate their body type or imbalance. It's also important to avoid the aggravating factors during certain seasons. For instance, in summer, or Pitta season, when the weather is hot and humid, it's essential to avoid spicy, sour foods and to avoid getting overheated physically, emotionally and mentally. Drink plenty of water; eat sweet, juicy fruits; eat cooling vegetables such as asparagus, zucchini, yellow squash, lauki squash, and broccoli -- all of these are ideal for cardiac health. In the hot season, keep in mind that you should always be doing something to rehydrate and cool your mind and emotions, such as eating sweet juicy fruits -- watermelon, for instance.

Lifestyle Factors that Aggravate Vyana Vata
Too much mental work
Using the mind for things it is unsuited for
Too much TV, especially at night
Working at night
Staying awake after 10:00 p.m.
Sleep problems
Constantly doing two things at once
Rushing around
Feeling pressured on the job or at home
Cold, dry, windy weather
Dietary Factors that Aggravate Vyana Vata
Eating too much if light, dry and pungent foods
Eating at a different time every day
Eating too fast
Skipping meals
Eating while working or talking on the phone
Eating while standing up
Eating while in the car
Cold foods and drinks
Dietary Factors that Pacify Vyana Vata
Eat more unctuous, freshly cooked, warm foods
Avoid cold foods and drinks
Eat more sweet, sour and salty tastes, in moderate amounts
Eat less astringent, bitter and pungent tastes
Eat home-cooked meals
Avoid leftover, packaged, canned, frozen, processed or fast foods
Eat in a settled, quiet atmosphere
Focus on your food when you eat
Turn off the telephone and TV when you eat
Lifestyle Factors that Pacify Vyana Vata
Spend your evenings relaxing with family and friends
Go to bed before 10:00 p.m.
Turn off your cell phone when driving, cooking or eating
Focus on one activity at a time
Spend time enjoying every day
Reduce your mental work load
Stop doing work that strains your mind
Do mild exercise every day, such as taking a walk or stretching exercises like yoga.
Stay warm and use a humidifier during winter
Ayurvedic Products to Pacify Vyana Vata:
Cardio Support
Worry Free tablets and aroma
Blissful Sleep
Vata Churna (use it to cook with) and Vata Tea

Lifestyle Factors that Aggravate Sadhaka Pitta
Exposing yourself to emotional stress
Pressured situations at work or at home
Overexerting or exercising in the hot sun
Associating with people who are habitually angry or critical
Staying awake after 10:00 at night
Exposure to hot weather
Dietary Factors that Aggravate Sadhaka Pitta
Skipping or delaying meals
Eating too much spicy, salty and sour foods
Eating foods that are made with chemicals, preservatives, or were grown with chemical fertilizers
Eating in a hurry
Eating while distracted
Snacking during the Pitta time of night, between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.
Lifestyle Factors that Pacify Sadhaka Pitta
Avoid emotional confrontations
Associate with people who are loving and uncritical
Go to bed before 10:00 p.m., the Pitta time of night
Plan time to appreciate beauty in your environment
Create a home environment that is pleasing and restful to the senses
Avoid watching TV at night, especially any violent movies or shows
Exercise every day, but avoid exerting in the noonday sun
Choose cooling sports such as swimming
Keep your living environment cool, especially at night
Dietary Factors that Pacify Sadhaka Pitta
Eat more sweet, and moderate amounts of bitter and astringent foods
Eat a cooked sweet, juicy pear for breakfast
Eat sweet, juicy pears as snacks when you feel hungry
Eat organic, fresh foods
Avoid delaying or skipping meals Drink plenty of pure water throughout the day
Avoid ketchup, mustard, salad dressings and other foods made with vinegar
Products to Pacify Sadhaka Pitta
Cardio Support
Blissful Joy tablets (1 tablet a day if taking in conjunction with Cardio Support)
Blissful Heart aroma
Deep Rest
Rose Petal Preserve
Pitta Churna and Pitta Tea

Lifestyle Factors that Aggravate Avalambaka Kapha
Sleeping during the day, after 6:00 a.m.
Not exercising
Lack of mental stimulation
Cool, wet weather
Dietary Factors that Aggravate Avalambaka Kapha
Food that is too rich and high in fat
Food that is too sweet, sour and salty
Cold foods and drinks
Snacking before the previous meal is digested
Eating while standing up
Eating leftovers, packaged foods, processed foods, fast foods
Lifestyle Factors that Pacify Avalambaka Kapha
Wake up early, well before 6:00 a.m.
Exercise for at least 1/2 hour daily
Try new activities in your free time
Stay warm and dry during the rainy season
Dietary Factors that Pacify Avalambaka Kapha
Favor the bitter, astringent and pungent tastes
Eat less of the sweet, sour and salty foods
Avoid heavy desserts. Have a piece of fruit instead.
Eat cooked apples or pears for breakfast
Eat fresh foods cooked with small amounts of ghee or olive oil
Avoid all processed foods as they contain unhealthy fats
Avoid leftovers
Avoid hydrogenated vegetable oils
Eat warm, cooked, light, easily digestible foods
Avoid cold foods and drinks
Products to Pacify Avalambaka Kapha
Kapha Churna (cook with it) and Kapha Tea
Q: Are there special foods that support the heart?
A: Yes. There are some foods that are especially nourishing to the heart. These include mature pomegranate fruit or juice; asparagus; any sweet, juicy, seasonal fruits; Rose Petal Preserve (especially for pacifying Pitta or Vata-induced heart problems); sweet lassi; avocado; and leafy greens cooked with the Heart Healthy Heart Spice Mixture.
Healthy Heart Spice Mixture
1 part ground turmeric
2 parts ground cumin
3 parts ground coriander
4 parts ground fennel
Mix the spices and store in an airtight jar. When it is time to cook the meal, steam the vegetables. Melt a small amount of ghee in the pan, and add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture per serving. Saute the spices until the flavor is released. Add the vegetables, saute lightly, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately. If you have constipation, be sure to cleanse the bowels by eating fruits, vegetables and grains with fiber, eating a stewed apple or pear with prunes or figs each morning for breakfast. By cleansing the bowel you maintain the digestive fire and enhance digestion and assimilation. This is an excellent breakfast for people with Sadhaka Pitta imbalance, and Prana and Vyana Vata imbalance. Sweet lassi (a drink made by blending 1/4 c. yogurt and 3/4 c. water along with honey) is also good for people with weak digestion.
Q: Should the pomegranate juice be made fresh?
A: Yes, that is better. In that case take the seeds and put them in a juicer. Whether you eat the fresh fruit or the juice, be sure the fruit is mature.
Or, if you cannot get fresh pomegranate, you can purchase an organic juice that is pure juice, without corn syrup. It is not the same as eating fresh pomegranate juice, which is actually a nectar for the heart, but it has value if you can't get the fresh fruit.
Q: What about the use of green tea to help the heart?
A: Research shows that green tea is good for the heart, due to the flavanoids that it contains. Flavanoids act as antioxidants, and one research study showed that men who drank several cups of green tea had significantly lower total serum cholesterol levels than those who drank two or less cups.
However, you should be sure to drink fresh tea, not bottled or iced tea. Black tea also has some good effects, but green tea has less caffeine and therefore is healthier, especially for people with Vata or Pitta constitutions or imbalances who should avoid caffeine. Green tea also is not processed, and therefore is more natural and safe than processed black teas.
Q: Can you talk about the foods you should avoid for heart health? Obviously, eating too much of fatty foods is a bad idea.
A: Fats are actually essential to smooth and lubricate the channels of the heart and brain. But the important thing is to eat good quality of fat--as I mentioned earlier, you'll want to eat ghee and olive oil in moderation and with spices, as these are the healthiest fats. Ghee, the traditional clarified butter recommended by Ayurveda, is healthy because it contains approximately eight percent lower saturated fatty acids than other oils and fats, which makes it more easily digestible. Its rate of absorption is measured at 96%, which makes it the most absorbable of all oils and fats. Ghee increases the potency of certain herbs by carrying the active components to the interior of the cells where they have the most benefit.
These lower saturated fatty acids are the most edible fat and are not found in any other edible oil or fat. It also contains the antioxidants beta-carotene and Vitamin E. One-half to one teaspoonful of ghee in food increases digestive power and also assists in assimilation of food and antioxidants.
Cholesterol in the blood stream, by itself, actually serves many important functions critical for health. It is only when cholesterol is damaged by free radicals that it becomes dangerous to the heart. Pure ghee actually protects the heart from free radical damage, making it a perfect source of essential fatty acids.
Ghee also balances Vata and Pitta, and is thus good for preventing mental and emotional stress on the heart.Of course, if you are on a low-cholesterol diet prescribed by a doctor, you should check with him or her before eating ghee.
Q: Earlier you mentioned that emotional and mental stress are the main factors in creating a heart imbalance. How can we create a healthy heart by improving our emotional health?
A: Yes, this is an important area to discuss because today a lot of cardiac problems are caused by emotional challenges.
Besides practicing the Transcendental Meditation program to help lower blood pressure, reverse arterial blockage and enhance resistance to all kinds of stress, it's important to follow the Pitta-pacifying dietary and lifestyle guidelines mentioned earlier to increase ojas, which supports bliss, contentment, vitality and longevity. Eating plenty of sweet juicy fruits is important for emotional health. Start the day with a stewed pear for breakfast, and you can even carry a pear with you to eat whenever you start to feel frustrated, angry, or upset.
In addition, it's important to actively seek the positive in life. While ojas creates bliss and emotional balance, there are also behaviors, called Behavioral Rasayanas, that cultivate ojas in the body. Some Behavioral Rasayanas include practicing Transcendental Meditation; staying in the company of wise people; keeping a regular routine and pure diet; getting enough sleep; eschewing alcohol, cigarettes and drugs; cultivating a calm attitude; adhering to the teachings of your religion; and speaking the truth. Each day offers opportunities to enjoy--it is up to you to seek out the activities and people that bring you true happiness and contentment. This is essential for the health of your heart; it's essential for your life.
Q: You've effectively made the point that a person must first change whatever lifestyle or dietary mistakes are causing the problem, otherwise no herb or medicine will work. Assuming that that is being done, what kind of herbal supplements does Ayurveda offer?
A: I'm glad you asked that. We now have a new formula for cardiac health, called Cardio Support. Cardio Support contains three stellar herbs for supporting the heart. The principal herb Arjuna is renowned in Ayurveda for its ability to pacify Sadhaka Pitta, and thus balance the emotions, and to nourish the physical heart as well.
Ashwagandha helps enhance natural resistance to stress and promotes better sleep. Guggul, the third herb, has been shown to help balance cholesterol by purifying the fat tissues.
This Cardio Support formula is especially designed with the modern American lifestyle in mind, to support the heart amidst the challenges of modern life. It protects the life force by enhancing both ojas and agni in the heart, and by enhancing the level of soma. It is particularly targeted to protect the heart against the pressured lifestyle, the impurities in the food, and the electromagnetic overexposure that most people experience in America today.
This formula is excellent for long-term Sadhaka Pitta imbalances, which in turn affect the life-energy of the heart. It also balances the effects of electromagnetic energy from the environment, and helps balance Vyana Vata and Prana Vata. It is designed to help the average person support the heart physically and emotionally.
Q: Can you tell us something about these herbs and their traditional uses?
A: Certainly. Arjuna is a divine herb that has a fascinating history. The herb is named after Arjuna, the archer-hero of the Bhagavad Gita, which is part of the larger epic called the Mahabharata. At the start of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna, the most fully developed and respected man of his age, is faced with a terrible dilemma: whether to fight on the side of good, even if that meant fighting against his own cousins and his beloved teacher. This emotional strain completely immobilizes him, and it is only after Lord Krishna reveals the nature of the eternal, imperishable reality of life that Arjuna is able to recover his emotional strength, to "take heart," so to speak, to save the world from destruction.
Legend has it that Lord Brahma, the Creator, witnessed Arjuna's emotional dilemma, and reasoned, "If this could happen to the great Arjuna, what of the lesser mortals who find themselves unable to cope with emotional strain?" Thus was born the powerful herb Arjuna, which, it is said, can live for several hundred years in ideal conditions.
Arjuna is a great restorative and soothes both the emotional and the physical heart. It calms Sadhaka Pitta and slows down the release of toxic hormones. It is a divine plant that has the special ability to balance all three doshas--Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
It is ideal for the heart because its prabhava (its ultimate action) is to support the heart. This type of heart-supporting herb is known as hridya in Ayurveda, and Arjuna is the foremost hridya herb. Its virya, or energy is cooling and sweet, which supports soma and pacifies Sadhaka Pitta.
At the same time, Arjuna's qualities (gunas) are light and dry, which helps to clear blockages from the arteries. Now usually if an herb has qualities of light and dry it is also pungent, like chilies. But this divine plant has exactly the right combination of qualities to make it the most supportive to the heart--its light and dry qualities help it to clear the blockages caused by Avalambaka Kapha imbalance, but at the same time it is cooling and balancing to Sadhaka Pitta and enhances soma.
This is ideal for modern life, because today so many people are under stress and eating Pitta aggravating food, which diminishes soma and ojas. At the same time they are eating harmful fats, which creates the additional risk factor of ama and clogging of the arteries. All of these factors combined put the heart at great peril. But Arjuna is exactly designed by nature to keep Kapha in balance while also supporting soma production and Sadhaka Pitta balance.
There is one caveat about taking Arjuna. It should never be taken alone as a tablet, because its light and dry qualities make it aggravating to Vata. It needs, instead, to be combined with other herbs that pacify Vata, such as Guggul. This shows the importance of combining herbs in the right proportions, as they are combined in Ayurvedic formulas, in order to avoid negative side effects.
But when Arjuna is taken in Cardio Support with other herbs to balance its effects and to enhance absorption, it enhances fat metabolization, rids the body of toxins and supports the cardiac muscle. By nurturing the cardiac muscle, it provides good flow and rhythm to the pumping muscles and supports the entire cardiac system with its specific hridya effect. It supports and nourishes the heart physically and emotionally. It gives more strength to the heart so people can tolerate emotional challenges. These are the traditional benefits of Arjuna as mentioned in the Ayurvedic texts.
Other herbs in Cardio Support that support the actions of Arjuna in pacifying Sadhaka Pitta are Cabbage Rose, Licorice, Shatavari, Mica Bhasma, Indian Tinospora, Corallium rubrum and Sugar Cane.

Q: That's quite amazing. Can you tell us if modern research has validated these ancient benefits of Arjuna?

A: It's very interesting that modern research has validated the effects of this potent herb. In one research study, Arjuna was given one group of patients, the antioxidant Vitamin E was given another group, and another group received placebo pills.

The results showed that Arjuna had comparable antioxidant action as Vitamin E, but at the same time significantly decreased total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. A study showed that Arjuna caused 50% reduction in anginal episodes in patients with stable angina pectoris. The herb had an insignificant effect on patients with unstable angina pectoris.

Q: What are some of the other major herbs in Cardio Support?
A: Ashwagandha helps balance Vyana Vata. Ashwagandha also balances Prana Vata, helping promote happiness in the face of mental or emotional stress. It nourishes the mind-body connection and helps coordinate the mind and sense, which is essential for a good quality of sleep. It also increases the quality and quantity of ojas, the master coordinator of all the actions of mind and body. It helps pure consciousness to "slide" into the physiology. As with all herbs, Ashwagandha should not be taken alone but should be combined with cooling herbs such as licorice to balance its heating effects and protect the heart. Cardio Support does include licorice to balance this heating effect. Other herbs contained in Cardio Support that help balance Vyana Vata are Boerhavia, Mica Bhasma, Licorice, Holy Basil, and Malabar Nut Tree.
Guggul, the third most important herb in Cardio Support, also helps balance Vyana Vata. Its main action, though, is to support Avalambaka Kapha. It is famous for lowering cholesterol and protecting against cardiovascular disease. It rids the channels of ama and purifies the fat tissue. This is, of course, very necessary for keeping the heart healthy.
Some of the modern research studies on Guggul are very interesting. One study published in Cardiovascular Drug Therapy in 1994 showed that in patients with hypercholesterolemia who were fed a diet enriched with fruits and vegetables, the administration of Guggul significantly reduced total cholesterol levels by 11.7%, LDL by 12.5%, triglycerides by 12%, and total cholesterol/high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ratio by 11.1%. The placebo group, who ate the same diet but received no Guggul, showed no change. The researchers concluded that the combined effect of diet and guggul at 36 weeks was as great as the reported lipid-lowering effect of modern drugs.Finally, both ojas and soma are supported by special herbs in the Cardio Health formula. Shilajit, Zinc Bhasma, Mica Bhasma and Licorice promote ojas; and the combination of Shatavari, Holy Basil, Corallium rubrum, Indian Tinospora and Sacred Lotus promotes soma.
Q: Who should take Cardio Support?
A: That's a good question. Cardio Support can certainly be taken by someone who already has an imbalance in the heart, as long as your doctor approves. It is also excellent as a preventive for people who have a history of heart problems in their family. Sometimes people just feel uneasy in the heart, but when they have the doctor check it with tests, nothing shows up. In that case no medication would be prescribed, but you could still take this product to help strengthen the heart.
Sometimes an individual is living a high-stress life, with emotional or mental strain, and the person knows it is bad for the heart. But they don't feel they can change. In this case it would be good to protect the heart with Cardio Support.
Q: What are some other products that Ayurveda offers for heart health?
A: In addition to taking Cardio Support, if someone has an Avalambaka Kapha imbalance and has accumulated ama in the fat tissue, it's important to take Elim-Tox-O to help remove it.
If someone is experiencing a lot of emotional upsets, Blissful Joy is recommended to help further pacify Sadhaka Pitta. Blissful Joy is really the best product for emotional heart health and to help create healthier relationships. Blissful Joy also has the heart-supporting herb Arjuna, combined with other herbs that also target Sadhaka Pitta. The rose is very soothing for emotions so anyone with a Sadhaka Pitta imbalance should also take Rose Petal Preserve.
To explain the difference between the two products: Blissful Joy focuses only on the emotional aspect of the heart. Cardio Support also support the emotional heart, but it goes beyond the emotions to also support the deeper, life giving energy of soma. It supports the structure of the heart, protects also from day-to-day mental stress, and gives life-giving strength to the heart. If you have emotional stress on the heart, it would be wise to take both products together.
For day-to-day mental stress, it's best to take Worry Free along with Cardio Support to help balance Prana Vata and create more resilience to stress in daily living. It's very necessary for cardiac health that one's heart and mind work together in a very coordinated way. So if an individual has both problems--imbalance in mind and emotions-- they should take both Blissful Joy and Worry Free. They should also add Elim-Tox-O if ama is present in the fat tissue.
If you are having problems with sleep, choose Blissful Sleep or Deep Rest depending on the kind of sleep problems you are experiencing. Blissful Sleep is for people who have overactive minds and have trouble falling asleep (usually caused by a Vata imbalance), Deep Rest is for people who wake up feeling energetic between two and four a.m. (usually caused by a Pitta imbalance).
Q: Is there any modern research that supports the Ayurveda perspective on cardio health?
A: That's a good question, because there is quite a bit of research on Ayurveda approaches and the health of the heart.
First of all, the Transcendental Meditation program alone is extremely effective in keeping the heart healthy. Research conducted at the NIH-affiliated Center for Natural Medicine and Prevention at University of Management, which has been published in the National Heart Association Journals Hypertension and Stroke, shows that high blood pressure and atherosclerosis can be lowered or reduced dramatically through the Transcendental Meditation program.
Secondly, there is impressive research on the effects of Amrit Kalash on cardiac health. Amrit has been found to be the most effective scavenger of free radicals, the oxidizing rogue molecules that cause oxidized LDL cholesterol and plaques to build up in the artery walls. Research shows that Amrit Kalash strongly protects low-density lipoprotein (LDL) from free radical attack. One clinical study at Ohio State University showed that Amrit Kalash increased resistance to oxidation of LDL in hyperlipidemic patients.
Q: Thank you. That was very enlightening. Do you have anything you'd like to add?
A: The heart is the home of the vital life force in the body. The enemies of the healthy heart all work silently: you don't see the effects of mental and emotional stress tearing at the fibers of your heart. You don't see the arteries clogging up with ama. And by the time you do become aware of it, much damage has already been done. So it's very important that you always take care of your heart, emotionally and physically. Try to always maintain your heart in peak condition, to enjoy a long and happy life.
REFERENCESResearch on Arjuna and Its Effects on Cardiovascular Health
Gupta R, Singhal S, Goyle A, Sharma VN., "Antioxidant and hypocholesterolaemic effects of Terminalia arjuna tree-bark powder: a randomized placebo-controlled trial," J Assoc Physicians India, 2001 Feb;49:231-5
Dwivedi S, Agarwal MP, "Antianginal and cardioprotective effects of Terminalia arjuna, an indigenous drug, in coronary artery disease,"
Research on Guggul and Its Effects on Cardiovascular Health
Singh RB, Niaz MA, Ghosh S., "Hypolipidemic and antioxidant effects of Commiphora mukul as an adjunct to dietary therapy in patients with hypercholesterolemia,"Cardiovasc Drugs Ther 1994 Aug;8(4):659-64.
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Research on the Transcendental Meditation Technique and Cardiovascular Health
R.H. Schneider, M.D., et al., "A Randomized Controlled Trial of Stress Reduction for Hypertension in Older African Americans," Hypertension, vol. 26 (1995), pp. 820-827.
A. Castillo-Richmond, M.D., et al, "Effects of Stress Reduction on Cartoid Atherosclerosis in Hypertensive African Americans," Stroke, vol. 31 (2000), pp. 568-573.
C.N. Alexander et al., "A Trial of Stress Reduction for Hypertension in Older African Americans (Part II): Gender and Risk Subgroup Analysis, "Hypertension, vol. 28 (1996), pp. 228-237.
R.H. Schneider, M.D. et al., "Lower Lipid Peroxide Levels in Practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation Program," Psychosomatic Medicine, vol. 60 (1998), pp. 38-41.
Research on Amrit Kalash and Its Effects on Cardiovascular Health
H.M. Sharma et al., "Inhibition of Human Low-Density Lipoprotein Oxidation in Vitro by Amrit Kalash and Coffee Substitute," Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, vol. 43 (1992), pp. 1175-1182.
Sundaram V, Hanna AN, Lubow G, Falko J, Sharma HM, "Increased resistance of human LDL to oxidation in hyperlipidemic patients supplemented with oral herbal mixture MAK-4," 1995, Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology 9 (3): A141 (abstract).
S.C. Bondy, et al., "Antioxidant Properties of Two Ayurvedic Herbal Preparations (MAK-4 and MAK-5)," Biochemical Archives, vol. 10 (1994), pp. 25-31.
H.M. Sharma et al., "Amrit Kalash Prevents Human Platelet Aggregation," Clinca and Terapia Cardiovascolare, vol. 8, no. 3 (1989), pp. 227-230.
A.N. Hanna et al., "Effect of Herbal Mixtures MAK-4 and MAK -5 on Susceptibility of Human LDL to Oxidation," Complementary Medicine International, vol. 3, no. 3 (May/June 1996), pp. 28-36.
Dwivedi C, Sharma HM, Dobrowski S, Engineer FN 1991, "Inhibitory effects of Maharshi-4 and Maharishi-5 on microsomoal lipid peroxidation," Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 39: 649-652.
Sharma HM, Hanna AN, Kauffman EM, Newman HAI, "Inhibition of human low-density lipoprotein oxidation in vitro by Ayurvedaa herbal mixtures," Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 43: 1175-1182.
Research on Green Tea and Cardiovascular Health
Kono S, Shinchi K, Ikeda N, Yanai F, Imanishi K. Green tea consumption and serum lipid profiles: a cross-sectional study in northern Kyushu, Japan," Prev Med 1992 Jul;21(4):526-31.

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