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Alternative Treatments for Hardening of the Arteries

Alternative Treatments for Hardening of the Arteries Alternative Treatments for Hardening of the Arteries

Hardening of the arteries, also known as arteriosclerosis, is a stiffening of the blood vessels that transport blood and nutrients throughout the body. Atherosclerosis is a type of arteriosclerosis that results from fat accumulating and hardening on the artery walls. Two major causes of hardening of the arteries are high cholesterol and high blood pressure, according to Conventional treatments may include cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins, blood pressure medication and anti-platelet drugs like aspirin. Herbs may be an alternative treatment for some patients with this chronic condition. It is important to consult a health care provider before starting herbal treatment for arteriosclerosis or atherosclerosis.


Seabuckthorn, or Hippophae rhamnoides, is a deciduous shrub native to Europe and Asia. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners use the herb to treat pain, coughing, upper respiratory infection, indigestion and stagnant blood. The seed oil makes a soothing balm for inflammatory skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis. Seabuckthorn berries and leaves are rich in vitamins, fatty acids and plant sterols that have potent antioxidant actions. Antioxidants may inhibit cholesterol deposits on artery walls.

An animal study conducted by M. Basu, et al, published in the November 2007 issue of Phytomedicine, tested the seed oil for its ability to protect against plaque formation in the arteries. The study found that animals treated with seed oil had a significant reduction in LDL, or "bad," cholesterol and an increase in HDL, or "good," cholesterol compared to the control group. The treated animals also had lower vascular pressure, which is important in preventing hardening of the arteries. This study shows that the antioxidant action of the seed oil may be effective in treating arteriosclerosis, but further studies on humans are needed to confirm these findings.


Holly, or Ilex spp., is a plant genus found throughout the world. The berries may be toxic, but the leaves of several species are used in teas and for medicine. In traditional Chinese medicine, a species of holly called kuding, or Ilex kudingcha, is used to disperse wind-heat and remove toxins. Healers use it to treat colds, headaches, rhinitis, bronchitis, hypertension and high cholesterol. A study by P.F. Tu, et al, published in the 2009 issue of Planta Medica, tested Ilex kudingcha and three other species of Ilex to see if they contained any anti-atherosclerosis active ingredients. The researchers found three important triterpenoids---kudinoside A, kudinoside C and IPB-20---and further testing showed that they had a strong inhibitory effect on the absorption of LDL, or bad cholesterol, one of the main causes of artery wall hardening. The inhibition rates were 81, 92 and 85 percent, respectively. This research demonstrates the anti-atherosclerosis action of holly. Further studies are needed to confirm these findings and to see if the plant is effective on humans.


Notoginseng, or Panax notoginseng, is a perennial with red berries native to Asia. In traditional Chinese medicine, stagnant blood causes hyperlipidemia, or high blood cholesterol and triglycerides, so healers use notoginseng root to treat stagnant blood disorders like atherosclerosis and atherosclerotic heart disease. The active ingredients in the root are triterpene saponins called notoginsenosides, and the plant has anti-inflammatory actions. A study by G. Liu, published in the November 2009 issue of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, tested an extract made of total panax notoginsenosides on atherosclerotic animals. The study found that, after 12 weeks, levels of fat, plaque and bad cholesterol were lower in treated animals compared to the control group. Treated animals also had lower levels of the protein CD40, which is involved in inflammation, and MMP-9, an enzyme that contributes to the degradation of artery walls. This study supports the traditional use of notoginseng to treat atherosclerosis. Further studies may validate these findings.

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