Santa Barbara Wellness Directory
A Happy, Healthy Heart

by Claudia Ward, L.Ac

Ayurveda considers the heart as the most precious organ and the seat of human consciousness. The soul is said to be a jewel that resides deep in the lotus, which represents the heart. The lotus petals need to be open in order for light to come in and make the jewel shine. How we feel in our heart is how we connect to the world. When our emotions are healthy and stable our heart will thrive. Heart diseases reflect the deep-seated issues of identity, emotions and consciousness. Emotional problems play a key role in heart disease and should always be considered when treating heart disease.

The western lifestyle is hazardous to the heart. The emphasis on personal achievement, materialism and consumerism leads to emotional and spiritual starvation. The Western diet is loaded with sugar, fat, processed foods, and fast food. Such a diet in combination with a sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise, suppressed emotions, and excess stress and anxiety, is obviously the cause for the high incidence of heart disease in the West.

Other factors for various heart disorders:

  • Excessive exercise.
  • A diet high in fat, sugar and processed foods
  • Toxins, stress, fear and anxiety
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity

General Ayurvedic Recommendations for a Healthy Heart

Walking is excellent exercise for everyone and excellent therapy as well. The early morning is ideal for taking a 30-minute walk. It will not only help your heart, it will prepare you for the day by charging up your circulation and your metabolism.

Conscious breathing, as in pranayama, is an effective means of taking care of the heart. Practice of pranayama or breathing exercises directly affects the functioning of the cardio-pulmonary system. Breath control in pranayama strengthens heart muscles and improves the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood vessels.

Ayurvedic Massages
Ayurvedic massages with warm vata pacifying oils melt away aches and pains, improve circulation and general body tone, relieve mental and physical fatigue, and reduce blood pressure and heart rate. For me regular massages are no only a treat, they are a necessity! I also religiously do the Ayurvedic warm oil self-massage (abhyanga) before taking a warm bath or shower, which is a great way to start or end the day!

A Fresh, Wholesome Diet
You can make your diet more heart-healthy by eating lots of fresh fruits, whole grains and vegetables, dressing your veggies with fresh lime juice and by using heart-friendly spices such as fresh-ground black pepper and the antioxidant power-spice turmeric. Choose fresh foods over processed foods or leftovers, light foods over rich foods. Western nutritionists recommend the same diet, for instance a raw food diet, for everyone. Ayurveda, on the other hand, recommends different foods for different constitutions. Consult with a certified Ayurvedic practitioner to find out which foods are detrimental to your health and which foods could actually aid the natural cleansing and healing processes within the body based on your individual constitution.

When was the last time you had a vacation? In Europe six weeks of paid vacation time are the norm, in the US you are lucky when you get two weeks. We need time for ourselves, time for simply doing nothing, time for day-dreaming. We need to be far away from computers and cell phones on a regular basis. Our bodies can only heal and rejuvenate when we give them time to rest.

New research shows that people who practice yoga and meditation at least three times a week may reduce their blood pressure, pulse and -- most importantly -- their risk of heart disease.

Aroma Therapy
Roses have been the ideal gift to express love and forgiveness for thousands of years. They literally soothe the heart and emotions.
Rose oil regulates heart palpitations, reduces blood pressure and enhances blood circulation. On the emotional level rose oil has a calming effect for grief, anger, depression, stress and resentment. Massaging a few drops of high quality rose oil into the center of the palms, soles of the feet and the center of the sternum reduces sadness, confusion, or frustration, and will help promote sleep.

A traditional preparation using the rose is rose petal jam, made by cooking rose petals and sugar (or you can buy it online from Eaten straight from the jar, or made into a drink with milk or fresh yogurt and water, rose petal jam has a cooling, soothing effect on mind and body.

Meditation is one of the best ways to relax, dissolve stress and allow the body to heal. By meditating for 10 to 20 minutes twice a day, a person’s heart may be healed.

Arterial plaque is toxic matter (ama) that builds up in the blood vessels because the body cannot get rid of it efficiently. Ayurveda recommends a program of internal cleansing (Panchakarma) with every change of season to help your body flush out ama.

Panchakarma cleanses and nourishes the body, mind and soul on many levels. It is also good for the heart: A study researched the effects of a three-to-five-day panchakarma cleanse with the following results: Three months later, the total cholesterol had dropped acutely, HDL (the good cholesterol) rose 7.5 %, free radical damage fell significantly, blood pressure dropped, and problems with anxiety improved. Vasoactive intestinal peptide, which is a coronary vasodilator, increased substantially. These findings confirm the efficacy of panchakarma for cardiovascular health.

Copper Water
Ayurvedic practitioners believe that drinking water purified by keeping it over night in a copper vessel will help prevent arteriosclerosis.

Ayurvedic Herbs

According to Ayurvedic texts this herb was created by the gods to help the famous warrior Arjuna make a difficult decision. A great restorative, Arjuna soothes both physical and emotional heart. Take ½ teaspoon 3 times a day with honey and warm water. Arjuna is a coronary vasodilator, it protects the heart, strengthens circulation, and helps maintain tone and health of the heart muscle.

Ashwagandha is another powerful rasayana (rejuvenative tonic) that sweeps away stress and ensures good sleep, thereby healing an overworked heart. Ashwagandha slows down the circulation of adrenaline, the stress hormone that can literally cause wear and tear on the heart muscle. Ashwagandha reduces blood cortisol, which impairs heart health.

Make fresh ginger tea by boiling a little grated or sliced ginger in a cup or two of water. Or grate a little ginger and add it to your rice or soup. Eating a little bit of ginger every day will help to prevent heart disease.

Tulsi or Holy Basil has many medicinal properties. The leaves are a nerve tonic and also sharpen memory. Drink a cup of tulsi tea every day.
Tulsi is thought to open the heart and mind, and bestow love, compassion, and faith.

Ayurveda believes in prevention, as well as a holistic approach to healing. Spend time everyday doing things that give you contentment and happiness. Listen to soothing or uplifting music, enjoy serene natural beauty, practice uplifting aromatherapy, sip relaxing herbal teas, enjoy the company of good friends. Never rush, take your time, don’t gossip or criticize others, maintain a positive attitude, and walk away from stressful situations.

About the Author

Santa Barbara Acupuncturist and Ayurvedic Specialist - Claudia Ward, L.Ac, Dipl. C.H., CASClaudia Ward, L.Ac, Dipl. C.H., CAS
is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist in Santa Barbara, CA.

She specializes in nutrition based on the principles of Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine and Western medical research. Her treatments focus on Ayurvedic therapies, detox cleanses, acupuncture, autoimmune diseases, women's health, and chronic pain management.

Claudia combines acupuncture, therapeutic massage, cupping, Ayurvedic therapies, reflexology, essential oils, and herbal recommendations in her work.

Claudia's Acupuncture page in The Wellness Directory


Read the article "Oh Baby! Prenatal and Postpartum the Ayurvedic Way"
- by Gina Tolleson, Santa Barbara News-Press, July 31, 2006

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