Preventing Hardening of the Arteries with Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Preventing Hardening of the Arteries with Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is the leading cause of death in the United States. About 1 million Americans die from this condition each year—twice as many as from cancer. In atherosclerosis, the walls of certain arteries grow thicker and less flexible. This is caused by cholesterol (and similar substances) attaching to artery walls. As the condition worsens, blood flow is increasingly restricted, depriving the body of the oxygen it needs. Often this condition involves the arteries leading to the heart and head, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Atherosclerosis develops slowly with few or no symptoms. Because of this, it is essential to focus on prevention. By the time any symptoms do appear, the arteries have most likely been considerably damaged and your health seriously compromised. Complementary and alternative therapies can be important tools for preventing atherosclerosis. The following lifestyle and diet changes top the list:

  • Stop smoking
  • Lose any excess weight
  • Eat a healthy diet, one that's low in both fat and sugar
  • Use stress management strategies
  • Exercise regularly

It is also a good idea to visit your doctor regularly to check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Several other complementary therapies you may wish to consider are:

Nutritional Supplements

The following supplements can be very effective for treating atherosclerosis:

  • Vitamin C (1,000 mg three times a day)
  • Vitamin E (400 IU a day)
  • Coenzyme Q10 (30 to 50 mg three times a day)
  • Selenium (200 mcg a day)
  • Lipoic acid (50 mg twice a day)
  • Folic acid (800 mcg a day)
  • Vitamin B6 (50 mg a day)
  • Vitamin B12 (400 mg a day)
  • Chromium (200 mcg a day)
  • Bromelain (150 to 250 mg four times a day, not taken with meals)
  • Carnitine (750 to 1,500 mg twice a day)

Other nutritional changes that may help include having a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish rather than red meat, replacing saturated fats and trans fatty acids with essential fatty acids (look for products with poly- and mono-unsaturated fats), increasing fiber intake (especially fiber that is water-soluble), and increasing intake of garlic, ginger, and onions.

Herbal Medicines

Both hawthorn (Crataegus oxycantha) and ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) have been shown to be effective for preventing atherosclerosis. The recommended dose for hawthorn is 3 to 5 grams once a day (in capsule form); for ginkgo, 250 mg three times a day (in capsule form). Other herbal medicines include linden (Tilia cordata), rosemary (Rosemariana officinalis), and gentian (Gentiana lutea). A tincture (30 to 60 drops three times a day) or tea (1 cup three times a day) of any combination of any of these herbs, taken before meals, may be helpful.

Be sure to talk with your physician or pharmacist to best determine which herbal or nutritional supplements are for you. Some supplements should not be taken if you have certain medical conditions or are taking particular prescription medications.

Other Therapies

You are at greater risk for atherosclerosis if you are under stress or experiencing strong negative emotions, such as hostility, depression, anger, or anxiety. Mind/body techniques may be helpful because they both reduce stress as well as increase overall cardiovascular health. Examples of mind/body techniques are yoga, meditation, relaxation, and biofeedback. Professional counseling may also help you to manage stress and release negative attitudes. Homeopathy, acupuncture, and massage appear to be helpful therapies for atherosclerosis as well.


Herbal teas: Using 1 tsp. dried herb per cup of hot water, steep 5 to 10 minutes for dried leaves or flowers, 10 to 20 minutes for dried roots.

Tincture: A preparation made from alcohol (or water and alcohol), containing an herb strength of 1 part herb to 5 parts solvent or 1 part herb to 10 parts solvent.


Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs & Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Review Date: May 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

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