- If your blood is too prone to clotting, clots can travel throughout your bloodstream and cause damage to major organs.
- Blood thinners can prevent blood clots from forming and reduce the risk of thrombosis.
- There are some ingredients found in nature that can help reduce the risk of blood clotting.
If you have high blood pressure or are at risk for stroke, your doctor may prescribe blood thinners. These treatments fight pulmonary embolism and pulmonary thrombosis, which are both caused when a blood clot in the leg travels to a lung artery (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT). Blood thinners can prevent blood clots from forming and reduce the risk of thrombosis.
Blood thinners should be taken with caution. They can cause heavy bleeding from a cut or wound or heavy menstrual bleeding. You can also experience dizziness, headaches, stomach problems, or jaundice.
To avoid these side effects, a few nonprescription aids can help. However, it’s important to ask your doctor before trying your own solution. A nonprescription approach could interfere with other medicines or conditions, or might not be strong enough to help.
Clotting in the blood is natural and necessary, preventing excessive blood loss. However, if your blood is too prone to clotting, clots can break off and travel through your bloodstream to your lungs, heart, or brain and cause pulmonary embolism, heart attacks, or strokes, all of which can be deadly.
Anticoagulants and antiplatelets are two common prescription blood thinners. Anticoagulants prevent vitamin K (found in dark leafy greens) from forming clots. Antiplatelets prevent the platelets in your blood from releasing thromboxane, which also helps form clots.
Neither medication cures clotting, but they do significantly reduce clotting. Pregnant women and people with bleeding disorders or pernicious anemia shouldn’t use blood thinners.
There are also some ingredients found in nature that may help reduce the risk of clotting. Talk to your doctor about trying the following food-based approaches if you have any of these conditions.
Turmeric is a spice that gives curry dishes a yellow color, and it’s long been used as a folk medicine. According to a study, the main curative ingredient, curcumin, works on platelets to prevent clots from forming.
Ginger is in the same family as turmeric and contains salicylate, an acid found in many plants. Acetyl salicylic acid, derived from salicylate and usually called aspirin, can help prevent stroke. Foods with salicylate, such as avocados, some berries, chilies, and cherries, can also keep blood from clotting. More study is needed to see if they’re as effective as prescription medicines.
Cinnamon and its close cousin, cassia, are both widely available and contain coumarin, a chemical that acts as a powerful anticoagulant. When ingested with cinnamon and cassia, coumarin can also lower blood pressure and relieve inflammation caused by arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
Use caution when using cinnamon as a blood thinner. Some studies have shown that long-term cinnamon consumption in foods, including cinnamon-based breads and teas, can cause liver damage.
Cayenne peppers can have a powerful blood-thinning effect on your body because of the high amount of salicylates in them. Cayenne peppers can be taken in capsules or easily ground up as a spice for food. In addition to thinning your blood, cayenne peppers can lower your blood pressure and increase circulation.
Foods high in vitamin E, which also has anti-clotting properties, can act as blood thinners. Good vitamin E sources include most tree nuts, whole-grain wheat products, and a few dark green vegetables.
If you regularly ingest one or more of these natural blood thinners (like using cinnamon in your breakfast every day), ask your doctor about getting tested for any heart or liver issues. If you’re taking any blood thinners and find that you bleed very heavily from a wound or during menstruation without clotting, stop taking any natural or prescription blood thinners and consult with your doctor about continuing to take blood thinners.
If you’ve just had heart surgery or a valve replacement, your doctor will likely tell you not to consume any of the above natural thinners. Your doctor usually prescribes blood thinners after heart surgery, so ingesting any more than prescribed can have a dangerous effect.
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Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne peppers, and vitamin E have potential as blood thinners and could be good alternatives to medications. These blood-thinning agents have been proven to help prevent dangerous clots, which can lead to strokes and heart attacks. However, side effects of these and other natural blood thinners can be serious, especially when taken in high doses over a long period. Always speak to your doctor before trying anything that could have such an impact on your health, and monitor your intake of these blood thinners to prevent any other conditions from arising.
You asked, we answered
- I add a sprinkle of cinnamon to my coffee every day. Should I be concerned?
The concern with any of these alternative choices is if you consume an excessive amount, which could lead to these side effects. Everything is better when in moderation, so having a sprinkle every day should not prevent you from enjoying it.- Dr. Mark LaFlamme