What are some ancient treatments of heart failure?

Linda Rohyans
Cardiac Rehabilitation

Hawthorn:  Scientists date the use of this shrub to the 1st century. Perhaps the Pilgrims had “Dropsy” (as congestive heart failure used to be called), and that’s why they named their ship the Mayflower; an alternate name for Hawthorn, an age-old herbal remedy believed to help congestive heart failure (CHF). Hawthorn leaves, flowers, and red berries were thought to improve the heart’s pumping ability and blood flow through the body. In the early 20th century, it was recommended when “heart muscles seem flabby, worn out.” Antioxidant compounds in Hawthorn were thought to relax arterial walls, increasing blood flow to the heart and maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Flavonoids in Hawthorn were thought to contain antioxidant activity; possibly preventing heart disease.

Butcher’s Broom: Originating in Europe, Butcher’s Broom was historically used as a diuretic, which would have helpful effects on blood pressure. For hundreds of years, it was used to treat edema of the legs.

Green Tea:  The history of green tea began in China as far back as 5000 years ago. Green Tea was used as a diuretic to help rid the body of excess fluid.

Willow: As early as 400 B.C., the bark of the willow tree was chewed to relieve pain and reduce fever. Willow bark contains a compound (salicin) that’s a natural form of aspirin. Drinking willow bark tea was believed to help prevent blood clots that could lead to CHF.

Tai Chi: In Chinese medicine, Chi refers to “energy.” CHF was thought to result from chronic fatigue of Chi. As Chi weakened, the heart pumped less efficiently; blood wasn’t able to move as it should, and fluid accumulated in the body. Tai Chi was practiced to enhance one's energy.

Lemon Balm: Tradition says, Lemon Balm, a lemon-scented member of the mint family, has been used since the 16th century. It was touted, "good against biting of venomous beasts, comforts the heart, and driveth away all melancholy and sadness.”

Ayurvedic: This ancient healing system has been in practice in India for more than 5000 years. Ayruvedic literature describes the use of Arjuna bark to improve the pumping action of the heart; brewing Arjun Tea delivered the same benefit as the bark.

Because botanical and herbal remedies can interact with the medications your doctor has prescribed for you, always talk to your doctor before taking anything that has not been prescribed for you!

Aulus Cornelius Celsus, a Roman physician, was known to use bloodletting to treat dyspnea, a condition which results from excess fluid in the lungs and which causes difficulty in breathing. He also used bloodletting to treat orthopnea, which also results from too much fluid in the lungs and causes difficulty in breathing while lying down.

Evidence also shows that the Egyptians treated dropsy by sweating it out and with substances having laxative properties.

Another recorded treatment was cupping, which is still used today.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.