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13 August 2012

Dancing with Atrial Fibrillation: Herbs That Help

Anyone who has ever experienced Atrial Fibrillation knows well this condition is certain to get your full attention. Everything stops for you when your heart moves into that strange rhythm while doing its best to keep pumping blood and keep you alive. All the stress that may have led you to this place suddenly slips into the background and you stop quite literally whatever you're doing.

With this dance, you can't fool around, and a trip to the emergency room is likely and probably a very good idea! If the condition is not chronic, your heart may revert back to normal rhythm on it's own, or the emergency room staff may use strong drugs or other means if the conversion doesn't happen quickly enough for them (and probably you) to get your heart back to what is considered safe or normal.

The reasons for the onset of symptoms are many and varied, but the experience is a message from your heart that you can't ignore. You're dancing with a rather strong partner here who is definitely leading. I was asking myself, why this dance? Have I approached this partner or did the partner choose me? Assuming there's music playing, does the music have a certain melody or even lyrics? Is there something I can learn from this strange step? Something I need to learn?

I thought I was so strong before this happened. I thought I was immune to any such occurrences. Going on two months now since my short but expensive hospital stay, and I'm only now starting to feel my strength and vitality returning. I haven't yet returned to the gym, and when I do I will be rethinking my workouts and the objectives for which I'm striving. I can't even think about running or jogging right now. I still feel "off" and "not myself." My whole body took a hit from this experience. My cardiologist whom I greatly admire and really like has stated a virus may have caused my bout with Atrial Fibrillation; he assures me my exhaustion following my hospitalization was normal, and I will be feeling better. Whatever it was, my body in terms of my strength felt like it was undercut from my heart outwards, like you cut the head off of a snake or something.  I feel like somebody got behind me and crouched down and someone else got in front of me and pushed me backwards, and over the falls I went. I didn't say the dance was all that much fun! All this seemed to come out of the blue, and that left me with a great deal of anxiety, feeling unsafe and vulnerable.

So what herbs can help us if we are dancing with Atrial Fibrillation? 

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) is one of the best heart helpers. If I suspected my heart was moving into an unhealthy rhythm, I would take a large dose of Motherwort, perhaps 25-50 drops (1 to 2 droppers full) in a small glass of water, to see if any improvement occurs. In case of extreme situations, put the herbal tincture right under the tongue; you don't normally do this with herbal tinctures. Motherwort might help instantly! If not, I can take it again in a half hour or so. Aside from critical situations, Motherwort is also used as a tonic for the heart. Taken several times a day at regular intervals, she can strengthen your heart and help keep a healthy rhythm going strong. Again, I think Motherwort is best at regular intervals. At first, you may need it three or four times a day, or even more on bad days, but then you might be fine with using it twice a day or even once a day when you feel added stress or just want some protection. In the weeks and months following my initial episode, I had been taking Motherwort twice a day at 10:00 am and 10:00 pm. I weigh about 200 lbs so I'm taking a fairly large dose, about 20 drops. You may want to adjust that dose slightly according to your weight. I prefer Motherwort tincture made from the fresh flowering tops of the plant. Now many months after the incident, I take Motherwort only when I feel a bit stressed or weak or if I'm getting some heart palpitations, usually one or two doses of about 20 drops during the day.

Stinging Nettle early in the springtime.
Herbal infusions of Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) and Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)  and Oatstraw (Avena sativa) are also great for the heart. A quart of Nettle a few times a week helps ground you and take the fear away, and Red Clover keeps your blood thin, so you don't have to worry about clots, which is a big concern to those with A-Fib. Doctors will often prescribe blood thinners to those who've had an episode of A-Fib, but it is great to thin your blood with natural means if you can, and a quart of Red Clover infusion a few times a week will really help with that. Oatstraw is well known as a heart and nervous system tonic. great to help restore your energy so you can become active again.

St. Johns Wort in bloom.
St. Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum) tincture, again made from the fresh flowing tops of the plant, can be very helpful with any anxiety that may arise as well as fighting viruses that can cause the condition in the first place. You can take fairly large doses at regular intervals as needed. If I suspect a virus, I would take St. Johns Wort at fairly large doses (perhaps 75-150 drops in water) continuously for a few weeks at regular intervals through the day.

I have also found Light Gray Celtic Sea Salt to have a beneficial effect on heart health. I realize this goes contrary to popular opinion, namely that salt is bad for your heart, but that notion should be restricted to processed table salt. Sea salt is an entirely different matter, and this is the best I have ever found as it contains other important trace minerals as well.

Speaking of minerals, magnesium is crucial to heart health, especially regarding heart rhythm. I love magnesium rich Red Swiss Chard boiled in a huge pot with dried herbs, garlic and oregano, and sea salt (drink the dark water, too or use it in soups). There are some good magnesium supplements out there as well, one called Calm which I have used without any problems. But remember, we like to get our nutrients from food whenever possible; however, occasionally I will take a dose or two of Calm. If you were having an episode of a rapid heart-rate or felt particularly stressed or couldn't sleep, a magnesium supplement might be very helpful indeed.

Give yourself time to rest and be very kind to yourself during this process. Your heart is sending you a message. It would be best to listen to it!

ADDITIONAL NOTES: (November 2013) I have found Hawthorn tincture made from Hawthorn berries to be an extremely gentle yet powerful heart ally. I take one dose (two droppersfull--about 50 drops) once a day as a preventative and heart tonic.  Hawthorne is a magnificent heart healer and strengthener. I would strongly consider using this herb. Here's a link to a short article by Jessica Godino of Red Moon Herbs.

I have also come across a useful supplement COQ10 with NADH put out by Invite Health. Again, I'm not big on supplements but this one seems to have some usefulness, especially in the weakest times when you are just recovering from some event and need some extra help.


  1. Excellent content. Thanks for posting.

  2. This is such an accurate description my own experience. I have had 2 ER trips in the past 6 months, the most recent being last week. I feel like I'm recovering from a marathon. I haven't a lot of faith in pills, so this information is just what I was looking for. Thanks and good luck!

    1. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me. If I can help you, don't hesitate to ask.

  3. I just had a bout of AF. 2 years since last one and I thought I had beat it :( I had my first episode when a stupid holistic dr overdosed my thyroid meds (for my low thyroid). Ended up in ER but luckily they took blood and realized what the problem was so I was spared drugs other than beta blockers. I weaned off them after a few months (I did have a second episode a month or so after first). Then nothing for over a year and a brief episode that I converted at home (took cayenne/motherwort and did a million other things). last one happened last week. I have been under excessive stress (and still am) and it occurred as I was drinking my carrot/veggie juice which I do every single day with no problem. I had eaten some dark chocolate a few hours prior but had been doing that on a regular basis (have now cut it out). I tried all sorts of things to convert myself but as I had just been to the cardiologist and got a great report ironically, he had given me a script for Metrolopol "just in case". So I went ahead and took one and within a short time my heart beat was normal altho fluttering took another hour to stop. I am not taking the Metropolol but just keeping for emergencies. Now I have been feeling down and depressed and frankly scared but am pulling myself together. I have upped the magnesium and hawthorn and other supplements and praying for healing. ann

  4. I would avoid the carrot/veggie juice as sugar can trigger this condition, and juices like that are loaded with sugar; it is pretty much all they have--most of the nutrients are left behind in what gets thrown out. Better to cook your veggies well and use the broth. Dark Chocolate is actually good for your heart; as long as it is organic, not with a ton of sugar, it is fine, even helpful. I know A-Fib is scary as hell, but don't be scared. Nettle infusion would be particularly helpful to ground your fears---drink it with dark chocolate in the afternoon, and have your Hawthorne tincture then as well. Can you get some good, heart to heart, long hugs? Do you have pets around that love you that you can spend time with just petting? Feel the love and warm and contentment that is available to you in whatever form it is available. Try to leave the fear aside. Breathe deeply and focus on the exhale. Can you find ways to rest more and nourish yourself more?

  5. thanks for response, I do have my beloved dog and will try not to feel scared and will do my qi gong exercises. I had read that chocolate can trigger so may avoid it. Have been juicing for years but will cut out the afternoon juice, usually mostly greens btw. I am making my nettle infusion :) ann

  6. Marc just checking to see how you are doing - any more afib? I was doing well until last summer and then boom - lots of afib episodes in spite of all the good things I was doing. Must admit I got really scared and went on the Metoprolol and hate to admit it but also Eliquis as the fear of a stroke was so strong and I kept reading of people having strokes because of afib :( hugs ann

    1. Healing is not a straight line; a spiral is more accurate. We go through similar yet not exactly the same paths until we wind up in a completely different place.

  7. Hi. I have chronic afib. I've had my heart shocked, got a pacemaker, and last year i had a cryo-ablation (where they freeze the parts of your heart that are not working right) do far nothing has helped. I agreed to the pacemaker on promises i wouldn't have to take any more pills. It was the biggest lie from my (old) doctors. I have honestly given up on doctors trying to help me. I've been dealing with this since I was 20 years old. I am about to turn 32 in feb. My memory is getting worse i wake up with major blurred vision and the migraines are horrible. My blood pressure is always too low. My anxiety is getting out of control as well. Thank you for posting this im going to try these hope they help.

    1. Perhaps you could find a cardiologist who isn't opposed to natural healing and will work with you as you investigate/experiment with some of the herbs mentioned above. At the very least you can try gentle, safe, nourishment obtained through drinking nourishing herbal infusions while introducing some heart-strengthening herbs into your day like Hawthorne tincture, for example. If I were you, I would also investigate narrative medicine; I would examine my stories to look for trends and clues as to why I am not healing. Susun S. Weed has something called
      The Seven Rivers of Healing, which I strongly suggest. Sounds like a very difficult road you are traveling. Feel free to e-mail me or message me, and I will help you in any way I can.


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