Ayurveda for a Healthy Heart

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 and 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, spewing adrenaline that can 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.

Heart-Friendly Ayurvedic Herbs

How the ayurvedic herb "Arjuna" got its name is by itself an interesting story. Legend has it that when the need arose on earth for such an herb, Nature manifested it. Arjuna, the archer-hero of the Mahabharata, was traumatized by the thought of having to wage war on his relatives and his teacher, and Lord Krishna had to counsel him at length (the origin of the Bhagavad Gita) before Arjuna's heart was strong once more. "If this could happen to the great Arjuna," reasoned Brahma the Creator, "what of the lesser mortals who find themselves unable to cope with emotional strain?" Thus was born the mighty herb Arjuna, which, it is said, can live for several hundred years in ideal conditions.

The herb lives up to its name. A great restorative, Arjuna soothes both physical and emotional hearts. It calms an aggravated Sadhaka Pitta, slowing down the release of toxic hormones. Arjuna has the unique ability to balance all three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Recent research has revalidated Arjuna's role in promoting cardiovascular health.

Ashwagandha is another powerful rasayana that sweeps away stress and ensures good sleep, thereby healing 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.

Maharishi Ayurveda Formulations for Cardiovascular Health

Herbal formulations are demanding — they work best when the ingredients used are of the highest quality and are correctly combined. In the best tradition of the ancient healers, Maharishi Ayurveda prepares its herbal formulations with the utmost precision. Its researchers 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 anti-bacterial 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 Worry Free herbal supplement, for instance, 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. Free of side effects and completely non-addictive, Worry Free ensures 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 all help restore balance.

The Blissful Joy herbal supplement is another superb restorative. A careful 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 thirty-eight rare herbs and fruits that lend their synergy to heal and tone the heart, and, indeed the entire physiology.

But herbs are not the only weapons in the arsenal of ayurveda. In fact, on their own, 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 positive. Those ingredients are as active as any to help your heart stay strong and healthy.

The Council's 'Tips for a Healthy Heart'

  • Sleep on time. Good sleep sets the tone for a fresh, stress-free day. Include Poppy Seed Chutney in your diet — for the recipe, visit the recipes section.
  • 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 for Cooling Massage

When the sun is beating down and the temperatures soaring, do you have visions of cool, moonlit gardens? Even if you don't have the garden, you can still cool off with floral scents in your bath, your bedroom, and even your car.

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 Cooling Massage

One of the best ways to administer aroma therapy 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.

The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.