Be Still, My Heart: Control Arrhythmia Now

For optimum health, your body requires regularity—and no part of your body needs this life-sustaining quality more than your heart. When your heart loses its ability to beat in a controlled, predictable way, it’s life-altering. Unfortunately, it can also be life-ending. Some 300,000 heart-related deaths are linked to the condition each year.
Any change from your heartbeat’s normal rhythm is technically considered cardiac arrhythmia. It begins without warning, with a disturbance in the electrical impulses that manage the heart’s pumping sequence. The heart reacts like a musician who realizes he’s off beat. He either speeds up, slows down, or stops altogether before comfortably finding his way back to the correct place in the music. Many people with arrhythmia feel their hearts race and thump wildly inside their chests, or slow down and then stop as they literally skip a beat!
The risk of arrhythmia rises as you—and your cardiovascular system—age, and the condition becomes more common as people enter their 50s. The problem is further heightened if you’ve started to develop coronary artery disease or another heart disease process such as heart valve dysfunction. In fact, many of the arrhythmia patients I’ve treated came to me with symptoms that people commonly write off as part of aging. I’ve heard many say, “I can’t do what I used to,” “I get tired and winded easily,” and “I have to rest a lot.”
Do You Have Arrhythmia?
A lot of people confuse occasional heart palpitations with arrhythmia. Heart palpitations are not arrhythmia. It’s true that you may feel fluttering or racing in your chest with both conditions, and it’s true that palpitations fit the technical definition of arrhythmia. However, doctors distinguish palpitations from arrhythmia based on severity and duration. Palpitations are generally momentary and minor in scope. They self-correct and disappear, whereas most arrhythmias do not subside without some type of prescription or natural treatment.
Arrhythmias are more persistent, and they may be brought on by lifestyle factors (such as alcohol, drugs, caffeine, smoking, cold medicines, emotional upsets, menopausal changes, and stress) or more serious conditions (such as heart disease, autoimmune diseases, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, thyroid dysfunction, and drug reactions). Symptoms include rapid thumping, strange chest sensations, frequent fatigue, light-headedness, dizziness, fainting, chest pain, waking up worried, heavy legs, and slower movement.
To know definitively whether you have arrhythmia—as well as what type it is, what risk factors it carries, and what treatments are advised, if any—I urge you to be evaluated by a cardiologist. Your doctor will likely use an EKG (electrocardiogram) to tell you whether you have a regularly irregular beat or an irregularly irregular beat. Regular irregularity has a better prognosis than irregular irregularity. The unpredictability of irregular irregularity is potentially more damaging and warrants immediate attention. Serious irregularities can lead to poor pumping action and reduced blood flow (ischemia), which means less oxygen and nutrients are available to the heart. The result is a greater risk of sudden death.
Treatment options vary widely according to the cause and type of your arrhythmia, its severity, the degree to which it limits normal day-to-day activities, and your age and overall health. The more compromised your cardiovascular system, the more urgently you may need to first use conventional options such as drugs, radiation ablation, or an implantable device. But no single therapy (drugs or otherwise) is guaranteed.
When to Use Natural Therapies
In non–life-threatening arrhythmias, natural therapies make sense for getting more oxygen to the heart, helping it use energy more efficiently, and improving its overall pumping action.
I’ve treated patients, including my father, with familiar nutrients that are well studied for heart health: CoQ10, magnesium, potassium, and taurine. In my father’s case, he grew stronger, but there was no change in his EKG until I added acupuncture and spinal manipulation. Then, instantly, he attained normal cardiac rhythm and felt great! But his heart flipped back into atrial fibrillation, sometimes in hours and sometimes in days. This sequence of events happened more than once and was both disappointing and fraught with risk. Coming in and out of rhythm is dangerous because clots can be released and go to the lungs or cause a stroke. Eventually, an integration of natural and conventional medical approaches resulted in my dad having many more years of a completely normal, enjoyable life.
Heart-Healing Herbs
Many herbs, including horehound, Scotch Broom, and valerian, have anti-arrhythmic properties. However, there are two botanical extracts that are “under the radar” and are stand-out choices for battling arrhythmia.
Cordyceps: The Asian Adapter
A very effective but relatively unknown option from Nature is a rare Tibetan treasure that, in Chinese medicine, is called the “winter worm, summer plant.” It’s also known as caterpillar fungus, or as Cordyceps, a type of medicinal mushroom that was once one of the most legendary healing substances in China.
Cordyceps sinensis is one of your best bets for getting your arrhythmia under control. It has two critical functions. One is its ability to stabilize heart rhythm (demonstrated in both traditional and modern clinical settings). How it works is only partly understood, but it contains a significant quantity of adenosine and related nucleotides and nucleosides—which are known to have broad-spectrum effects on both coronary and cerebral circulation.
In one small clinical trial, elderly patients with chronic arrhythmias from heart disease were treated with cordyceps for three months. The study results confirmed that Cordyceps was an effective treatment for both tachyarrhythmias (fast heartbeat) and bradyarrhythmias (slow heartbeat)—evidence of a strong adaptogenic effect. Plus, the majority of those folks with superventricular arrhythmias and ventricular arrhythmias regained complete or partial control. Secondly, cordyceps promotes enhanced oxygen use, which is no small matter for an oxygen-deprived heart.
Because cordyceps grows high in the Himalayas where there is little atmosphere, it’s a master at using oxygen efficiently—and it apparently helps us do the same thing. It’s been used to treat altitude sickness and respiratory distress disorders such as asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Several animal studies confirm that the herb can help us use oxygen up to three times more efficiently.
When used in conjunction with conventional drugs prescribed for long-standing heart failure, cordyceps improves cardiac functioning and offsets the energy-sapping side effects of some cardiovascular drugs. This is reflected in improved mental health, libido, and physical capacity. Cordyceps also has extremely low toxicity and no known contraindications when used with conventional drugs.
Because cordyceps has always been extremely rare and prohibitively expensive (with many products either contaminated or diluted with fillers), I highly recommend you buy from only one source—Aloha Medicinals. This company continues to research the species of cordyceps in its native habitat in the mountains of Tibet, as well as successfully grow the most potent strain available under strict laboratory and organic standards.
Strike Gold with Berberine
You’ve probably heard about the herb goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) because of its cold-fighting power. Animal studies have shown that one of its active compounds, berberine, is also an effective way to decrease ventricular arrhythmias caused by a lack of oxygen. Berberine has also proven effective for folks with ventricular tachycardia arrhythmias, where more than 60 percent of people had at least a 50 percent suppression of premature ventricular contractions—with almost 40 percent having a suppression rate of 90 percent or higher. For cases of intractable congestive heart failure, berberine supports better blood flow, along with much better heart performance. One study showed that ejection volume was improved more than 50 percent.
Natural Arrhythmia Rescue Plan
The following natural therapies have been effectively used to control arrhythmia. There’s no need to choose just one—in fact, the more of them you take, the more likely it is that you’ll succeed in keeping your heartbeat regular!

Cordyceps. If I had to choose just one supplement for arrhythmia, I would choose cordyceps, hands down. Use Aloha Medicinals organic Cordyceps sinesis capsules, 525 mg each. Take two capsules three times a day between meals for three months, then re-evaluate your needs. The longer you take it, the better the results. Call 831-426-2059 or visit
Berberine. Although this alkaloid is found in many herbs, including phellodendron, Oregon grape root, barberry, and turmeric, you must take the extract. It may help prevent arrhythmias by preventing myocardial damage. Take 200 mg 2–3 times a day. I like the capsules from Vital Nutrients. Call 888-328-9992 or
CoQ10 (ubiquinol). CoQ10 has a natural antiarrhythmic influence and creates stronger heart contraction. Take 50–150 mg three times a day.

Taurine. As the most abundant free amino acid in the heart, taurine influences enzymes involved in heart muscle contractions. It appears to play multiple roles in preventing arrhythmias, controlling tissue excitability, and preserving potassium levels. Take 500–1,000 mg three times a day. Buy it from Jarrow Formulas at 800-726-0886 or Foods high in taurine include meat and fresh fish.
Magnesium. Take 200–400 mg of fully-reacted magnesium glysinate/lysinate two times a day with food. Magnesium-rich foods include legumes (beans), artichokes, almonds, cashews, unmilled grains, seaweeds, spinach, and tomato paste.
Potassium.Take two 99 mg capsules three times per day. (Note: Due to federal regulations, higher amounts of potassium in products are considered drugs. See your doctor for a prescription consult.) Also, cut back on refined salt (use sea salt when you have it) and eat potassium-rich foods such as sweet potatoes, dried apricots, tomato paste, beet greens, potatoes, avocados, soybeans, spinach, squash, bananas, and carrot and prune juice. More fruits and vegetables can make a big electrolyte difference to your heart health.

Your heart is the drumbeat of your life. Keeping it strong and regular is paramount. Get tested and find out what type of arrhythmia you have. Once your arrhythmia has been stabilized, it’s best to continue supporting and strengthening your cardiovascular system with a smart selection of herbs, foods, nutrients, fitness, and a stress-management plan. What you do regularly is your best rhythm insurance.

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