Safeguard Your Circulatory System

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Wisdom and experience come with age. So does Alzheimer's disease, high blood pressure, impotence and heart failure -- unless you take steps to safeguard your circulatory system. An aging circulatory system can rob you of your quality of life and shorten your lifespan.

For centuries a few key herbs have been touted for their ability to retard the aging process and rejuvenate the body from head to toe. They are gaining popularity as health-conscious consumers choose nature instead of drugs or surgery for wellness.

Hawthorn heals

Called "the cure for the aging heart," hawthorn works by nourishing the entire circulatory system. Targeting the heart first, hawthorn's red berries feed the heart muscle oxygen and nutrients to build a stronger heart from the inside out. Studies throughout Europe show hawthorn enhances heart function by increasing the metabolism of enzymes in the heart muscle, increasing the heart's ability to utilize oxygen and dilating the coronary vessels. Strengthening the heart beat and pulse, hawthorn works out from the heart toward the peripheral blood vessels, toning and strengthening the arteries, veins and capillaries. By restoring the youthful flexibility of the arteries, hawthorn helps prevent heart disease and high blood pressure.

As we age, our arteries harden. Hardened arteries are one cause of high blood pressure. Studies have shown hardened arteries also attract deposits of cholesterol plaque that forms the blockage. Taking hawthorn can help prevent high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack and heart failure.

For those who've already had a heart attack or undergone bypass surgery, studies show hawthorn speeds recovery and helps prevent complications. The rejuvenating herb has been known to help repair heart muscle damage from a heart attack or bypass surgery and fortify arteries weakened by balloon angioplasty. Renowned as a safe and effective long-term treatment for the gradual loss of heart function that comes from age, hawthorn is the key herb in the treatment of congestive heart failure.

Germany's famed Commission E cited hawthorn's success in treating patients with stage 1 and 2 congestive heart failure. Commission E reported that by increasing coronary circulation while stabilizing heart rhythm, the nourishing cardiac tonic herb greatly benefited elderly patients in the early stages of the disease.

Because hawthorn is non-toxic, non-addictive and non-cumulative, it can be used for long periods of time for prevention or therapy. Hawthorn can be taken in tincture or capsule, alone or in combination with other herbs.

Count on cayenne

When used in conjunction with a healthy diet, regular exercise and stress management, a combination of hawthorn berry and cayenne red pepper is a prescription for prevention for people facing hereditary heart problems. Adding cayenne to hawthorn boosts the power of the gentle herb and delivers it directly to the heart muscle.

Cayenne is one of the most common ingredients in herbal formulas because it acts as a catalyst to maximize the power of other herbs. In its own right, cayenne is one of the most powerful natural circulatory stimulants known to man.

Cayenne boosts circulation by strengthening the heartbeat and pulse while dilating the veins and arteries. Nicknamed "the Roto Rooter of the circulatory system," cayenne clears blocked arteries throughout the body's 60,000 miles of plumbing. Whereas heart bypass surgery only deals with the main arteries around the heart, cayenne travels throughout the entire circulatory system, dissolving blockages wherever they might be, lowering high blood pressure by dilating the arteries and removing blockages. One of the most effective substances in preventing heart attack or stroke, cayenne works with the body's natural blood thinning system to keep dangerous blood clots from forming in the bloodstream that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

In countries where cayenne is a regular part of the diet such as Thailand, India and Korea, the incidence of heart disease is strikingly low. The most startling evidence of the long-term heart protective effects of cayenne may be the Hunza tribe of Asia Minor. Living high in the mountains, these remarkable people subsist on a hot and sour diet centering around cayenne pepper, apricots and fresh spring water. They live to be over 100 years old and can be seen playing polo at age 150!

By increasing circulation from head to toe, cayenne has been known to enhance eyesight, ease arthritis, relieve asthma and rejuvenate the sex life. It stimulates all your body's systems including circulatory, respiratory, nervous, digestive and even the reproductive system. As my father Dick Quinn often said: "Cayenne puts lead in your pencil!"

To spice up your sex life, cayenne alleviates impotence without the potentially dangerous side-effects of Viagra. The herb simply gets the blood moving where you need it, when you need it. Viagra has been shown to have potentially fatal interactions with some heart medications.

Feeling youthful means having energy to spare. A capsule or two of cayenne pepper can fight fatigue better than a cup of strong coffee. Long touted as the "purest and most certain stimulant known to man," the pungent red pepper boosts the energy level and eases the effects of stress on the body by helping the circulatory system work more efficiently. Tests performed at the University of Dusseldorf found that cayenne also increased people's ability to concentrate.

The stimulant effects of cayenne were found to be immediate, temporary and harmless. Still, pepper novices may want to build a tolerance by starting with a lower power such as 40,000 heat units and working their way up to the hot African Birdseye blends, which boast more than 100,000 heat units. Adding ginger will "cool" the cayenne while increasing its effectiveness as a natural blood thinner.

Go to Gotu Kola

"A leaf or two a day will keep old age away," claims an ancient Indian proverb about the wonders of Gotu Kola. Hailed as a veritable fountain of youth, Gotu Kola is said to slow the aging process and cure senility. Used throughout India and China to promote longevity, the creeping plant with its fan-shaped leaves has been show to boost brain power, heal wounds and soothe nervous disorders.

Gotu Kola has been hailed for centuries as a brain food with the power to rejuvenate. The herb enhances brain function through the central nervous system by stimulating the transmission of nerve impulses. A tonic for the nervous and glandular systems, Gotu Kola has a long history of use for ailments of the brain and nervous system including epilepsy, memory loss, depression, schizophrenia and nervous collapse.

No relation to Kola nut, Gotu Kola does not contain caffeine. Instead, the herb fights fatigue by stimulating blood flow. It also dilates the peripheral arteries to lower high blood pressure and deacidifies the blood.

Thick, acidic blood has been linked to high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure and a host of other degenerative conditions. The standard American diet of sugar, processed carbohydrates, red meat and coffee all cause the blood to become acidic. Gotu Kola can help bring the blood back to its natural alkaline state so it flows freely and can carry the oxygen and nutrients necessary to maintain a young and healthy body.

Grab ginkgo biloba

To sharpen your mind and preserve your memory, ginkgo biloba sends more blood to your brain. By boosting cerebral circulation, ginkgo biloba relieves confusion while increasing alertness and the ability to concentrate. The herb has been used to guard against senility for longer than the 3,000-year-old ginkgo tree has provided shade to worshippers at Dinglin Temple in Shandong, China.

Now modern researchers are pointing to poor cerebral circulation as a possible cause for Alzheimer's disease. A new study by scientists at the University of Minnesota linked Alzheimer's to an over-production of a natural protein called amyloid-beta. Fragments of the protein appear to disrupt blood flow in the brain. The protein also produces oxygen radicals which can keep the tiny cerebral blood vessels from delivering the right amount of blood to the brain.

As a powerful cerebral circulatory stimulant, ginkgo biloba may be able to restore normal blood flow to the brain. As a natural antioxidant, the herb may be able to inhibit the production of damaging oxygen free radicals. Studies have shown ginkgo biloba prevents breaches in the brain-blood barrier that would allow toxins to be passed from blood vessels to brain cells. By safeguarding the brain-blood barrier, ginkgo biloba may be able to protect or restore proper brain function.

While defending the mind against the ravages of age, the herb's antioxidants strengthen the artery walls and help keep blood clots from forming that could trigger a heart attack or a stroke. Ginkgo biloba helps assure the proper contraction of the heart and blood vessels throughout the body by stimulating the production of neurotransmitters. A whole body tonic, the herb also activates beta receptors that open airways to the lungs.

Find Fo-Ti

Scientists are only beginning to understand how one of China's most popular anti-aging herbs works its magic. Fo-Ti helps the body hold onto youth by strengthening the heart and protecting the circulatory system against the ravages of age. A rejuvenating whole body tonic, Fo-Ti has been used throughout the ages to treat coronary artery disease, cancer, liver problems and fatigue.

Touted in China as the herbal secret for longevity, Fo-Ti's powers are the stuff of legend. It is said that Chinese herbalist Li Chung Yun lived to the ripe old age of 256 by ingesting a formula of Fo-Ti and ginseng every day. Intrigued by the story, a French researcher, Jacques Menier, experimented with Fo-Ti and isolated a substance he called vitamin X. According to Menier, vitamin X rejuvenates brain cells, nerves and the endocrine glands. Menier's results were later verified by French biochemist Jules Lepine. Lepine found Fo-Ti also aids digestion and boosts the metabolism of vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

Western scientists studying the herb theorized that Fo-Ti's cardiac tonic benefits come from a substance called leucoanthrocyanidins (LAC). Although LAC hadn't been isolated in the herb, similar species of plants containing LAC lower cholesterol, regulate blood pressure and prevent dangerous clots in the blood stream much the way Fo-Ti does. The theory might explain why Fo-Ti is such an effective cardiac tonic.

Fo-Ti can be combined with other herbs to help maintain health and resist disease. An effective formula blending Fo-Ti and a variety of oriental herbs is available in Chinese health stores under the name "shou wu chih," according to herbalist Michael Tierra, author of The Way of Herbs.

Mix in motherwort

Another herb of legend that may be easier to find on the health store shelf is motherwort. An ancient Chinese proverb tells of a boy who was banished to a remote valley where motherwort grew in profusion next to a freshwater spring. Nibbling on the stems, flowers and leaves, the lonely boy lived to be over 300 years old, the proverb says.

Motherwort's Latin name (Leonurus Cardiaca) is a tip-off as to the herb's benefits for the heart. Ancient Greeks and Romans used the herb to treat physical and emotional ailments of the heart ranging from palpitations to depression. These ancient claims of motherwort's ability to calm palpitations were reinforced in modern times by test tube studies in China which revealed the herb relaxes heart muscle cells. Other studies have proven motherwort's ability to inhibit the formation of blood clots, lower blood pressure and regulate heart rhythm.

The antispasmodic properties of motherwort calm the heart and the nervous system. Used to treat inflammations of the heart muscle (endocarditis and pericarditis), the herb has been shown to strengthen and protect the heart.

Like hawthorn, motherwort is a gentle herb that can be taken safely over a long period of time. Adding cayenne will help ignite the medicinal properties of motherwort as it does hawthorn, Gotu Kola and ginkgo biloba. Formulas are now available with different combinations of these anti-aging herbs.

Staying young at heart is the key to good health now and through the years. Combined with a healthy diet, regular exercise, stress management and proven anti-aging supplements like vitamins E and C, these herbs can help you enjoy the benefits of age without the limitations. After all, you're as young as you feel.

Measurements & Data Corporation.

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By Shannon Quinn

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