Due to unhealthy lifestyle and dietary patterns, blood thinners or anticoagulants have become an integral part of heart health management across the globe. These medications prevent the formation of blood clots that could restrict blood supply to vital organs by thinning out the blood and ensuring smooth circulation through arteries. However, some natural herbs and spices commonly used in our daily diet have blood thinning properties and could be used as complementary interventions to prevent blood clot formation.
Blood clots formed due to arterial blockage is one of the main reasons for heart attacks and even brain strokes. Anticoagulant medications are of two types, anti-coagulants and anti-platelet drugs, the latter prevents platelets from sticking together and forming clots while the former reduces the thickness of blood and improves circulation. These prescription blood thinners are to be strictly taken as per doctor’s advice and could have side effects. However, experts point out that natural alternatives will have limited effect compared to that of the medication and their inclusion in daily meals could prove beneficial to improve blood circulation and heart health.
Dr Nikesh Jain, consultant cardiologist, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre, Mumbai, says, “A few studies have proven that turmeric, ginger and cinnamon have blood thinning properties, but this cannot be a substitute for medicines because we require higher doses of blood thinner tablets”. However, if made a regular part of the daily food cycle, these (turmeric, ginger, cinnamon) can be helpful, he adds.
Dr Pradeep Kumar D, senior consultant, Interventional Cardiology, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru, says that including spices like turmeric, cumin and cinnamon in our diet might be beneficial for health.
“Numerous studies on animals have shown that natural blood thinners such as turmeric, cumin, cayenne pepper and cinnamon may have anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective and antiplatelet properties,” he adds.
Happiest Health lists down five natural blood thinners for a healthy heart:
Turmeric contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant properties. Turmeric also helps to improve vascular health as it reduces triglycerides and increases good cholesterol. Bengaluru based clinical nutritionist Nidhi Nigam says that people do rely on a lot of supplements these days and are therefore taking curcumin supplements. However, it’s better to use it the natural way so that there are no side effects.
Ginger has been widely used to prevent nausea or common cold due to its medicinal properties. It also helps to prevent blood clotting. “Ginger contains salicylates that work as an anticoagulant,” says Nigam. Ginger can be taken by adding it in tea or making a concoction with turmeric and ginger together, she adds.
- Cayenne pepper
A study published in 2019 in Ascendens Asia Journal of Multidisciplinary Research shows that high amount of cayenne pepper extract is more effective as an anticoagulant agent in type O+ human blood sample. The research shows that cayenne pepper extract has anti-thrombotic properties and is effective in preventing blood clotting.
- Foods rich in vitamin E
Vitamin E has anticoagulant properties that prevent blood clotting. “Adding vitamin E-rich nuts and seeds like hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, whole grains and some amount of meat in your diet can help in preventing blood clot formation,” says Nigam. Foods high in vitamin K should not be consumed in excess as they have coagulant properties, she adds. Vitamin K could reduce the effects of blood thinners.
Delhi based nutritionist Kavita Devgan says that the presence of allicin, which is a compound formed out of enzymatic reaction when a garlic clove gets crushed, is responsible for its blood thinning ability. For this reason, nutritionists recommend to always crush or chop garlic into small pieces before using it in cooking.
Consume in moderation
According to Nidhi Nigam, some natural foods do not suit your body and can cause allergies or rashes. So, the key is to consume it (natural blood thinners) in moderation. People should not discontinue their medication without doctor consultation just because they’re taking the natural blood thinner, she adds.
Natural blood thinners reduce the risk of blood clotting. However, experts believe that more research is needed to study the efficacy of these natural blood thinners. Additionally, one should consult with a doctor before using any natural remedies as they may not be as effective as medications and might conflict with some prescription medications.