Blood thinning foods and herbs

There are two herbal terms in herbal medicine that I associate with blood thinning: anti-platelet aggregation, and anti-thrombotic (anti-blood clot). The gingerols have anti-platelet action. These chemicals are found in ginger. They stop platelets in our blood from gathering together (aggregating), which creates an aspirin-like blood thinning action.
I’ve done a bit of research and can firmly say that although aspirin has blood thinning action, natural salicylate-containing herbs and foods do not. So when you come across articles written by people saying grapes, raisins and prunes have blood thinning action because they contain salicylates just like aspirin, this is incorrect. Chemists modify the extracted salicylates slightly to create aspirin, and this modification turns the original salicylate into a blood thinning chemical.
Grapes do actually have blood thinning action, but not because of their salicylate content. Their blood thinning action comes from a chemical called resveratrol, which inhibits (reduces) platelet aggregation. Aside from grapes, resveratrol is found in many blue/red/purple berries. Smaller amounts are found in peanuts and red wine.
As stated previously in another post, sometimes you will comes across information that suggests coumarin-containing herbs and foods are blood thinning, but they are not. This assumption is based on the fact that the creation of Warfarin (one of the main blood-thinning drugs prescribed by doctors) was originally inspired by a chemical that occurs naturally when coumarin-containing herbs get mouldy! This chemical is called dicoumarol, and it is structurally different from coumarin. While courmarins tone and strengthen venous and lymphatic circulation, dicoumarol is a deadly poison. Warfarin (based on dicoumarol) was originally used as rat poison, long before anyone had the grand idea that it would work brilliantly in humans as a blood thinner!
The main anti-thrombotic herb that comes to mind is garlic, which belongs to a group of herbs in plant biochemistry called the ‘sulphides’. Plants in this sulphide group include garlic, onions, and leeks.
As a herbalist, it can be tricky prescribing herbs when someone is taking aspirin or warfarin, because many herbs have a blood thinning action. Obviously, I have to be careful with ginger, the berries (bilberry, hawthorn berries, saw palmetto), and the sulphide herbs like garlic. Other herbs with anti-platelet action include coleus, dong quai, dan shen and turmeric.
Mind you, when I think about improving health blood and cardiovascular function as a naturopath, I don’t just think about keeping the blood thin. I think about blood pressure, blood circulation (e.g. peripheral circulation, circulatory stimulants), the health of the heart and the blood vessels themselves and whatever the broader picture might be in terms of under or over-functioning organs and systems that may be impacting on the cardiovascular system.

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