Thursday, September 13, 2012

Natural Alternatives to Blood Thinners

As my post stated on Monday, I want to speak about some of the common pharmaceutical that are taken today and provide alternative things you can do to avoid having to take them for the rest of your life. I wanted to start with blood thinners. A friend of mine asked about natural alternatives to warfarin. His dad takes it and does not like the side effects. This is the information I have on the subject.
 Before I go any further, I would like to stress that the suggestions listed below are steps that can be taken prior to going on pharmaceutical. Many of these drugs can have dangerous interactions if you combine natural alternatives with the pharmaceuticals. Also, if you are currently on blood thinners and wish to come off of them you should contact your doctor. Coming off of long term pharmaceuticals is not something that you should do on your own. It requires a doctor’s supervision and often blood tests to monitor your levels.
What’s the Purpose of Blood Thinners?
The term “blood thinners” is a little misleading. They don’t technically thin the blood. Instead, they decrease the blood ability to clot which, theoretically, allows the blood to flow more freely leaving the blood vessels unblocked. A more accurate term is “anticoagulants”. They are given to people at risk for heart attacks, strokes and aneurisms and, as the population ages, more and more people will be advised to take blood thinners.
Commonly Used Blood Thinners
Warfarin (brand name Coumadin) was originally developed as a rat poison and, disturbingly, it is still used this way. It works by blocking the action of vitamin K which interferes with the production of 4 essential blood clotting factors. This causes the blood not to clot properly. What makes it so dangerous is that it has a very small therapeutic window, which means that if you take a little more than the suggested dose there can be serious consequences. This can be fatal when prescribed to older individuals, which it often is, who have problems remembering. Take your pills, forget you took them and take them again, spells disaster and can lead to serious internal bleeding and even death. Warfarin is so effective at preventing clots that any minor fall needs attention because of the risk of bleeding. Even if you don’t fall, one of the main side effects is severe bleeding, internal and external. It also has a whole list of other side effects, along with a long list of drug, herb and food interactions.
My friend asked specifically about warfarin, so I wanted to focus on that, but I did want to give a little information about other blood thinners that are used. Aspirin is the most commonly prescribed blood thinner. It works by decreasing prostaglandin G/H synthase which suppresses platelets ability to make thromboxanes therefore inhibiting blood clots. Long term use of aspirin can cause stomach irritation, stomach bleeding, ulcers and liver toxicity. Plavix (brand name clopidogrel) is another common blood thinner, last year bringing in 9.2 billion dollars in sales. It works by inhibiting ADP-induced platelet aggregation and has similar side effects as other prescription blood thinners.
Alternatives to Blood Thinners
Rather than addressing the symptom of an unhealthy lifestyle (blood clots), we should be striving to address the problem. A healthy diet, exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight, getting adequate sleep and making healthy lifestyle choices are all necessary to maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and keeping our blood vessels clot-free. If we do this then we won’t need to worry about blood thinners. For added insurance, below is a list of other ways to make sure your blood remains a safe and healthy viscosity.
Eat foods high in salicylates: Salicylates block vitamin K, which helps to coagulate the blood. Prunes, cherries, cranberries, blueberries, grapes and strawberries are all foods that are high in salicylates.
Increase your intake of Omega-3s:  Omega-3 fatty acids help to thin the blood by decreasing cholesterol, making it less likely to clot. Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, lake trout, mackerel, flax seeds, avocados and sesame seeds. Supplements are also available.
Drink more water: 55% of blood is made of plasma and 90% of plasma is water. Dehydration effects all areas of the body, including your blood, so to keep your blood flowing smoothly, make sure to drink plenty of water.
Exercise: Exercise helps to increase blood flow and decrease clotting, so get up and get moving.
More B6: Vitamin B6 has been shown to decrease excessive clotting. You can take a supplement or just increase your intake of food containing B6 such as whole grains, sweet potatoes and legumes.
Supplement with Vitamin E: Vitamin E has been shown to be as effective at thinning the blood as prescription medications.
Hawthorn: Hawthorn is an amazing tonic that helps to normalize the function of the cardiovascular system. It decreases the risk of developing coronary disease by dilating the coronary arteries so that blood can flow more freely and it protects the blood vessels from oxidative damage.
Ginkgo: Ginkgo helps to improve blood flow in many ways. First, ginkgolides, especially ginkgolide B, decreases platelet activating factor (PAF) and therefore reduces blood viscosity allowing blood to flow smoothly. It also acts as a vasodilator, improving circulation.  
Garlic: Garlic helps to decrease serum cholesterol and prevent peroxidation of fats which, in turn, decreases the buildup of arterial plaque. 9 different substance in garlic effectively inhibits platelet activating factor and thin the blood.
Ginger: Ginger decreases platelet aggregation and its antioxidants keep cholesterol and blood fats from forming plaque in the blood vessels.
Turmeric: Turmeric can decrease the buildup of arterial plaque that can cause stroke and heart attacks.
Overall, there are many ways to thin the blood; however if the main goal is to prevent a heart attack or a stroke, the best way is by strengthening and tonifying the entire cardiovascular system, not just by thinning the blood. I hope you have found this helpful and my next post will be about blood pressure medications.

Duke, J. A. (2000). The green pharmacy herbal handbook: your comprehensive reference to the best herbs for healing. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale Reach.

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine.
Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press.
Rybacki, J. J. (2004). The Essential guide to prescription drugs 2004 (Pbk. ed.). New
York, NY: HarperResource.


  1. I can see that you are putting a lot of efforts into your blog. Keep posting the good work. Some really helpful information in there. Nice to see your site.
    Herbal Incense

  2. I found very informative blog when I was reading this. I was searching this kind of information since a long time. Thank you for sharing it.
    Herbal Incense

  3. Which of the blood thinning alternatives can be monitored with the same system as Warfarin?