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Prev Cardiol. 2000 Winter;3(1):24-32.

Herbs and dietary supplements in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.

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George Washington University School of Medicine, Department of Health Care Sciences, Washington, DC 20037.


Herbs and dietary supplements can have significant physiological effects. Garlic (Allium sativum) has shown beneficial lipid effects in a majority of trials; dried garlic preparations are superior to oil preparations. There is preliminary evidence that indicates that hawthorn (Crataegus species) may provide benefits in congestive heart failure. Coenzyme Q also may be of benefit in congestive heart failure. Although observational studies indicate a protective effect of dietary or supplemental vitamin E, controlled trails have not shown a beneficial effect on angina and have been mixed on whether supplementation decreases major cardiac events. Although several observational studies have noted that fish intake protects against cardiovascular disease, prospective studies are less impressive. Fish oil supplementation may have a mild beneficial effect on hypertension, but there is no effect on total cholesterol levels. Trials are inconsistent on whether fish oil reduces restenosis rates following coronary angioplasty. Carnitine appears to have beneficial effects on congestive heart failure and angina; there is also preliminary evidence that arginine may benefit patients with congestive heart failure or angina. Herbs and supplements have been associated with adverse effects and interactions; for example, garlic inhibits platelet aggregation and can cause significant anticoagulation, and the Chinese herb danshen (Salvia miltiorrhiza) appears to potentiate warfarin. Several herbs and supplements hold promise as adjuncts in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. There is a need for definitive research on the potential risks and benefits of these compounds, including appropriate dosages and formulations, and delineation of adverse events and interactions.

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