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Yoga or Tai Chi to relieve heart problems!

By Ann C Wooledge
on December 12, 2013
1 comment



Atrial fibrillation - afib for short, an irregular heart beat. A problem we saw often when I worked in the Critical Care Unit. It wasn't one of those issues that caused your adrenaline to spike when you saw it on your patient's EKG, but it was nonetheless concerning and required a call to their doctor and medical - pharmaceutical - intervention. Usually chronic administration of a medication -or two. Afib can cause symptoms that reduce a person's quality of life and it can sometimes progress to something more acute.

Surprisingly for the doctors I think, but not really so surprising to me and possibly you, is a recent article in MedPageToday.com. They found evidence (enough to convince them to review the research and write about it) that yoga actually improves the burden on the heart caused by afib, and also improved heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety and depression! Now think about it - how many different medications would one have to take to do all of that!? Exactly! Not to mention all of the side effects from EACH of those medications. It took only three months of yoga training to improve "quality of life parameters, including physical functioning, general health, vitality, social function and mental health" - and this is not the first study to evaluate the effects of yoga for improvement in cardiac problems. Not to be taken lightly, atrial fibrillation can still cause disabling and bothersome symptoms that adversely affect a patient’s quality of life. These doctors agreed that: "One way to help manage the disease and improve quality of life may be to add adjunctive complementary and alternative therapies, such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, therapeutic hypnosis, or tai chi into routine care." That in and of itself is pretty amazing!

If you or a family member, friend or co-worker suffer from ANY cardiac disease, please show them this article for more information including the impressive benefits of practicing Tai Chi. Do I do either of these? Well, actually I don't. I've often considered it, but after reading this and the research studies they provided - and many other articles I've read confirming the benefits, I am going to check out yoga. Well, maybe an at-home video first. At one time I actually thought yoga was a sort of religion and therefore not something a good conservative Christian girl would do. I was so totally wrong about that and I wish I had considered this sooner. And - you don't have to be fit, slender and young as depicted in almost every picture I searched to find something to post here! Do you practice yoga or tai chi? I'd love to know what you think. I'm having coffee with a couple of very dear friends of mine tomorrow morning - both of their husbands have undergone cardiac catheterizations and are on medications. I am copying the article and will take a couple copies with me tomorrow. Maybe we can all start a yoga or tai chi class together - that would be a good way to start the new year!

Below are direct quotes from the article in MedPageToday.com's article. Take a few minutes to read it in more detail here.

  • The regular practice of yoga improves symptoms, arrhythmia burden, heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety and depression scores, and several domains of quality of life among patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.
  • Twelve weeks of tai chi training can significantly improve heart failure-related quality of life and exercise tolerance, as well as reduce blood levels of B-type natriuretic protein.

Tell me this isn't so much better than taking a lot of pills!! Seriously, I'm just very excited that this totally allopathic website has chosen to publish this article and giving credence to what most of you probably already knew. Show it to your doctor and as with any new exercise program start out slow and do keep in touch with your physician. Hopefully, you can regulate those medications downward and to the point of not taking them at all.

Thanks for listening!



Ann's mission statement truly is to provide health and wellness information to you and your family that you may not find in your every-day newspapers or Prevention magazines. Her college studies, certifications and passionate self-study have provided her with a huge spectrum of understanding of the intricate issues and debates concerning health and nutrition. Ann is a Critical Care Registered Nurse, a Certified Clinical Aromatherapy Professional, and has been studying nutrition, aromatherapy, skin care health and medicinal herbalism for at least 13 years. Not so surprisingly, all of these interact for health and wellness at a level we all want to achieve. She is an ardent pursuer of verified research and information and spends huge amounts of time searching for information that is relevant and evidence based. We sincerely hope you benefit from her efforts.

References provided by MedPageToday.com:

  1. Lakkireddy D, Atkins D, Pillarisetti J, et al. Effect of yoga on arrhythmia burden, anxiety, depression, and quality of life in paroxysmal atrial fibrillation: The YOGA My Heart Study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013 Jan 25. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Schneider RH, Grim CE, Rainforth MV, et al. Stress reduction in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: randomized, controlled trial of transcendental meditation and health education in blacks. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2012;5:750-758.
  3. Lombardi F, Belletti S, Battezzati PM, et al. Acupuncture for paroxysmal and persistent atrial fibrillation: an effective non-pharmacological tool? World J Cardiol. 2012;4:60-65.
  4. Novoa R, Hammonds T. Clinical hypnosis for reduction of atrial fibrillation after coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Cleve Clin J Med. 2008;75(suppl 2):S44-S47.
  5. Yeh GY, Wood MJ, Lorell BH, et al. Effects of tai chi mind-body movement therapy on functional status and exercise capacity in patients with chronic heart failure: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Med. 2004;117:541-548.
  6. Caminiti G, Volterrani M, Marazzi G, et al. Tai chi enhances the effects of endurance training in the rehabilitation of elderly patients with chronic heart failure. Rehabil Res Pract. 2011;2011:761958.




Why are nuts a healthy snack?

By Healthy Planet Blog Nutritional Niblits
on May 24, 2011

Looking for a healthy snack?


Well, look no more. Following a large study investigating ways to prevent or reduce metabolic syndrome, it was found that adding 30 grams of nuts per day decreased the incidence of this increasingly prevalent syndrome approximately 14% after one year. Whereas adding olive oil and no nuts, the incidence decreased 6.7%. Either way - it's a decrease and the research is showing that the Mediterranean diet is effective for dealing with this problem.

Research now gives us reason to believe that those people with this syndrome characterized by multiple health issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol,  high blood sugar, and with the easiest to diagnose - an expanding waistline due to excess belly fat.  I'll talk more about why belly fat is so dangerous in another blog. But it is helpful that this study shows that these symptoms can be reduced just by adding about one ounce of mixed nuts per day. Now don't overdo it, because although the fat in nuts is "good" fat, too much of any fat is just that - too much. I also would add that the nuts should not be the roasted kind that contain large amounts of salt which is obviously counterproductive. I recommend raw nuts only - soaked overnight if possible and then dehydrated at temperatures below 106 degrees. You can season them easily this way according to your own preferences. I realize not everyone has a dehydrator or the time to do it this way, so please at least eat raw nuts easily found in bulk at your local health food store. Researchers believe the fiber, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids in the nuts helped regulate insulin, blood pressure, and inflammation - all of which can result in metabolic syndrome.

Participants in the study ate about five walnuts, five hazelnuts, and five almonds daily. Kathy McManus, RD, director of the department of nutrition at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, recommends eating the same amount (approximately 1 ounce) when you have a snack attack.

The link below provides the results of a large meta study on this subject.


Thanks for listening!

Why is green tea better with lemon?

By Healthy Planet Blog Nutrition and Natural Health
on May 20, 2011
1 comment

The synergy of using green tea and citrus juice enhances the absorption of the antioxidants!


In a Japanese study with more than 40,500 participants, it was discovered that those with the lowest risk of dying of heart disease or stroke drank at least five cups of green tea every day. Not anything really new, but the authors of the study again found that the catechins, the powerful antioxidants in green tea, are responsible for this health-saving effect. They also found, however, that only 20% of the catechins actually survive the digestive system. 

What to do? Well, if you're like a lot of us, I like lemon with my tea! I look for organic though, but regardless, it was found that the vitamin C in lemons or lemon juice help your body absorb 13 times the antioxidants as you would from drinking the tea without lemon - this according to a Purdue study. I'm thinking then maybe I don't need to drink a full 5 cups a day if I add the lemon. I've also discovered some easier ways to get my green tea into my daily routine with some of the antioxidant flavored teas that you will find in even regular grocery stores. Substitute that glass of iced black tea for green tea this summer with lemon (organic please!)

ADDENDUM ADDED May 24, 2011:

Adding milk actually lessens absorption and use freshly brewed tea as the research shows the catechins in bottled drinks are ineffective.

Thanks for listening!

More detailed information here:

Wingsets check out this link image 

Ylang-ylang for High Blood Pressure

By Ann C Wooledge
on April 28, 2011

Can Ylang-ylang reduce blood pressure?


Interestingly, I received on two consecutive days questions about the use of essential oils and their potential affect on someone's blood pressure. I knew from a post-surgical emergency with my husband several years ago that, yes, they can. After that fairly scary incident (and I don't scare easily after working in the ICU for 10 years), I decided to do more research and see if this was an isolated case or if this was common. First, let me just say that aromatherapy information on the internet has become extremely contradictory and often just plain ridiculous. This blog, of course, is on the internet, but I would urge you to consider the certification and/or education of any author of this information, whether they have an international aromatherapy affiliation such as NAHA or AIA and/or how many years of experience they've had in the use of essential oils. These little miracles of nature are concentrated and powerful and can be very useful when used correctly.

What is a normal blood pressure?

If you're reading this article, you probably already know what your blood pressure readings are and/or what they should be. These proposed ideal numbers have fluctuated somewhat over the years (not as drastically as cholesterol!), but basically the top number (systolic) should be no greater than 120, and the bottom number (diastolic) should be no greater than 80; i.e., 120/80 mmHg. I've provided links below that give good information about hypertension, which is not the subject of this article. 

What causes high blood pressure?

I know - I said this article wasn't about hypertension, but it's very important to understand the causative factor for any blood pressure that falls outside of the normal range - regardless of whether it's hypotension (low blood pressure) or hypertension (high blood pressure.) While doing additional reading concerning the use of essential oils for blood pressure, I continuously found that a lot of practitioners attributed hypertension to anxiety and treated it accordingly. This is not the only reason for high blood pressure, and most certainly is not the reason for chronic hypertension. We had what we called "white coat hypertension" in the hospital on a regular basis - the patient was anxious when seeing the white coat of a physician. In this type of situation, yes, a calming essential oil such as lavender would be very effective. But, blood pressure can also be caused by the fact that heart muscle is damaged, the blood vessels are damaged, there is too much fluid retention - many reasons that are, I believe, outside of the realm of aromatherapy practice. You should have seen your doctor by now and you will probably be on pharmaceutical medication. I'm not a fan of pharmaceuticals, but they are advantageous in many situations. However, a quote from Dr. Allen Roses, a vice president for Glaxo Smith Kline: "The vast majority of drugs - more than 90 % - only work in 30 to 50 % of the people."  Those are not very good odds considering the very high numbers of side effects.  Most cardiologists will tell you that treating hypertension with drugs can involve frequent drug changes, all of which have side-effects, many of which do decrease your quality of life. Again, this is one of those times that any efforts to use essential oils to lower blood pressure, must be done with the approval and cooperation of your physician, in conjunction with an experienced clinical aromatherapist.

That being said, there are case studies showing that the use of certain essential oils have, in fact, resolved high blood pressure. We don't know, however, the causes in most of these cases, but some are obviously due to anxiety or fear. We all know the flight or fight response that causes us to have increased heart rate, but high blood pressure is not so obvious and can be a "silent" killer with no side effects or symptoms. Which is why I am adamant that anyone who is trying to control hypertension or change their medication for any reason should be able to keep a very close track of their blood pressure at home and continue to monitor at least four times a day. Your doctor who gives you a beta blocker to take at home probably won't tell you that or that you should also keep constant track of your heart rate as beta blockers, such as Metoprolol, can also cause your heart rate to decrease, sometimes drastically.

My Case Study:

My husband, Warren, went in for outpatient nasal septum repair for a broken nose from an old injury. Past medical history fairly benign except for back skeletal problems and what I call a "creeping" blood pressure. We went to the hospital where I had worked as a nurse for 12 years and I knew and trusted most of the nurses on staff there. He went through the surgery fine, came back to the outpatient cubicle where I was waiting and it was immediately apparent that his blood pressure was very high. I don't remember the exact number (it's written down somewhere...) but it was over 220/120 - not good. I also knew the anesthesiologist who was covering him that day and trusted him from years of working with him. He began to order a strong IV (intravenous) beta blocker, which was the routine drug of choice in that situation at that time. Normally, we would give 5 to 10  mg doses and check the blood pressure, and repeat maybe 3 times. We reached the maximum dose that could be given fairly quickly (I thought) as I sat and watched what I knew to be a hypertensive crisis and that is was very dangerous. After many doses and what seemed like forever to me (Warren was pretty much sedated at that point), the anesthesiologist wanted to admit Warren to the hospital. I frankly didn't.  He (the anesthesiologist) had worked with me and knew I was a cardiac nurse and could take good care of him at home. He gave us a prescription for an oral beta blocker. Now, in this situation, the blood pressure could probably have been due to pain and anxiety, but Warren has had high blood pressure in the past, but not nearly this high. For this reason, I was concerned about why it was staying so high for so long. Also, by this point, he had been given enough pain killers to knock him out and getting him out the door and into the car was not easy. Point being, pain and anxiety were not the issue causing the hypertensive crisis. Nevertheless, we got him into the car, got the prescription filled and went home. I immediately began to rub his feet and hands with a dilution of jojoba oil (closest at the time) and Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) essential oil. I got out my stethoscope and blood pressure cuff and took his blood pressure about 5 minutes later. It had already come down into the 150/90 range - still not so good though. I didn't try lavender, though I'm pretty sure that would have helped with the pain and anxiety.  I also put the ultrasonic diffuser by his bed and began to diffuse the Ylang-ylang as well. It did finally come down to a normal range within an hour or two. He never did have to start the blood pressure medicine. Why?!

Why Ylang-ylang?

Why did I, in this time of panic and fear, grab immediately for the Ylang-ylang? Most aromatherapists have read that Ylang has been used in other case studies for blood pressure, in what we would call anecdotal cases. It had worked well and I had read that British midwives used it to help reduce hypertension in pregnant women. Just let it be said that we (aromatherapists) don't mess around with hypertension in pregnant women unless we know it works. It's also true that Ylang can be a great oil for reducing anxiety. However, you will also read in many of your aromatherapy books that it is also a stimulant. I'd often wondered about that obvious contradiction, but simply hadn't taken the time to find out why. 

One of the unique things about the distillation of Ylang-ylang is that when it is distilled, it is done in varying distillation times and different "fractions" are produced resulting in different grades and completely different chemical constituent compositions. There is a declining quality of the oil based on the time of the distillation process. Now just skip to the next paragraph if you're not the least bit interested in essential oils, but are interested in hypertension.

The best Ylang-ylang is the first batch produced. I am adding an updated note from a comment from Robert Tisserand, who is one of the foremost experts in all things pertaining to essential oils, where he said in his own blog dated February 2014, "The only essential oil with several grades is ylang-ylang. It is distilled for 18 hours – an unusually long time. Extra is the oil from the first hour of distillation, First is the next 3 hours, Second is the next 5 hours, and Third is the last 9 hours." When I originally wrote this blog in 2011, I referred to information from Sue Clark in her book Essential Chemistry for Aromatherapy, "The most expensive is the first produced, with a time scale of up to 3 hours. This is called Extra Superior and contains the smallest and most volatile molecules." This is followed by Extra grade with a time of an additional hour; Grade 1 is an additional 2 hours, with increasing grades up to grade 3. Confusing!? As you look at different books and experts (and non-experts), you may find even more conflicting information. I usually go to Robert as my final "correct" source and for good reason. 

While resourcing our supply of Ylang, usually I am also presented with the choice of "Ylang Complete", which is the complete distillation of the flower, meaning it contains the 3 grades in one oil. The "Extra" grade is, of course, more expensive and in my opinion smells the best as there is a distinct difference in the quality of the fragrance. The Extra is from the first "minutes" of the distillation and is supposed to be of the finest quality, but quality regarding what? Fragrance? Well, definitely, but there are other considerations besides fragrance. I also discovered that the Extra grades have a higher concentration of benzyl acetate and a higher percentage of linalool, both of which are chemical constituents known for their relaxing qualities. The lower grades have increased sesquiterpenes, specifically caryophyllene, with increasingly higher percentages from Extra to Grade 3. Caryophyllene, it has been suggested, could be what causes the harsher fragrance of Grade 3, and it also may be why there are grades of Ylang that are more stimulating than relaxing.  If you take a look at the oils that have the highest percentage of sesquiterpenes, they include oils such as black pepper, which I've personally discovered on many occasions increases blood flow and decreases inflammation - both of which are contributors to improved blood pressure levels. Is there a correlation here? I don't know, but I think it is an area of aromatherapy that could/should be explored. 

 picture of pills and essential oils 

Ah, but back to my story!

The grade I was using that day was Grade 1. So, that being said, the Grade 1 was obviously enough to bring the blood pressure down in this particular instance. There are other instances. According to Jane Buckle's very comprehensive book, Clinical Aromatherapy, Essential Oils in Practice, Freund (1999) completed a non-published study specifically looking at blood pressure and Ylang-ylang. It was a controlled and well-done study that showed that the group being administered Cananga odorata (I don't know which grade at this point and that would be helpful) experienced a 50% greater drop in systolic and diastolic pressure than did the control group. The Cananga odorata group also had a 50% greater reduction in stress levels. Now I'm impressed with that 50% reduction!

Other oils that have been suggested for reducing blood pressure include most of the oils we already recognize as being relaxing, including Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea), and Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana.)

Now promise me you won't immediately go out and buy yourself some Ylang-ylang. First of all, you will need the assistance of a professional clinical aromatherapist in conjunction and cooperation with your medical doctor. I think it's a valid option, but an aromatherapist would need to take a complete medical history that would include any current medications, pharmaceutical or over-the-counter, including herbs or supplements that you are taking. And, as stated previously, frequent monitoring of your blood pressure is important and, as is usual with pharmaceuticals, you would need to wean off of any current medication. Let me know if you have any questions or comments. So, as the commercials that I hate the most say - "ask your doctor, he'll tell you what's best for you."

Thanks for listening!



Ann's mission statement is to provide health and wellness information to you and your family that you may not find in your every-day newspapers or Prevention magazines. Her college studies, certifications and passionate self-study have provided her with a huge spectrum of understanding of the intricate issues and debates concerning health, nutrition and skin care. Ann was a Critical Care Registered Nurse, is a Certified Clinical Aromatherapy Professional, and has been studying nutrition, aromatherapy, skin care health and medicinal herbalism for at least 13 years. Not so surprisingly, all of these interact for health and wellness at a level we all want to achieve. She is an ardent pursuer of verified research and information and spends huge amounts of time searching for information that is relevant and evidence based. We sincerely hope you benefit from her efforts.

See our disclaimer statements here.


Excellent resources to learn more about hypertension:






Bowles, Joy. The Chemistry of Aromatherapeutic Oils. 3rd ed.  Crows Nest, NSW 2065, Australia: Allen & Unwin; 2003

Buckle,Jane. Clinical Aromatherapy, Essential Oils in Practice. 2nd ed. New York, New York: Churchill Livingston; 2003.

Clark, Sue. Essential Chemistry for Aromatherapy. 2nd ed. New York, New York: Churchill Livingston; 2005

Price Shirley, Price Len. Aromatherapy for Health Professionals. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Health Sciences, 2007

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