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Palpitations

General characteristics

General characteristics

'Palpitation' (or arrhythmia) is the word used to describe random irregularities in the heartbeat such as skipped beats, acceleration, slow pumping beats or fluttering sensations of the heart that are noticeable by the person. Usually they are harmless and are relatively common in healthy people, usually as a result of stress or excitement when adrenaline release or over-stimulation (such as from over-exertion, panic attacks or caffeine) is the cause. Hormonal changes in pregnancy can also cause palpitations. The person experiencing the palpitations may have other symptoms such as breathlessness, sweating, feel lightheaded, fluttering sensations in the throat, tiredness, weakness or (when palpitations are caused by more serious heart or health conditions) fainting and loss of consciousness. When palpitations occur regularly or interfere with everyday life then they should be taken more seriously.

Sometimes they are a symptom that point to other causes that may require further investigation and treatment. These include an over active thyroid, dehydration, low or high blood pressure, some medications (steroid inhalers, some antihistamines for example), low blood sugar, anaemia, infection and fevers, heart abnormalities (such as electrical impulse disturbance), underlying heart disease, heart attack, smoking, recreational drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines, nutritional deficiencies and poor diet, obesity, hiatus hernia, after overeating or eating a carbohydrate rich meal (due to rapid blood sugar changes), rapid weight loss and crash dieting, blood electrolyte imbalance (such as potassium, sodium, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium) which may be caused by diarrhoea, vomiting etc, heavy metal poisoning (mercury etc.), hyperventilation, kidney dysfunction and adrenal gland dysfunction.

Healing objectives are to reduce stress factors and support the adrenal glands with herbs and relaxation techniques, improve diet by reducing processed foods and increasing fresh whole foods, strengthening the heart with herbs and foods and identifying any other underlying causes.


Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Eat a diet rich in a wide variety of fresh organic vegetables, whole grains, fruits, oily fish, seeds and nuts.

Avoid carbohydrate rich meals and refined sugars.

Drink several glasses of fresh water daily.

If palpitations happen after meals or eating keep a detailed food diary of what and when you eat, taking careful note of ingredients in any processed or packaged foods. Common additives such as mono-sodium glutamate (MSG), colourings and preservatives have all been implicated with palpitations in those susceptible.

Some people find that eliminating artificial sweeteners from their diet helps to reduce their palpitations.

Be aware that coffee and other products containing caffeine such as cola, energy drinks, black tea and chocolate may cause palpitations. Avoid also herbal products containing ginseng or guarana as these are very stimulating to the heart.

Co-enzyme Q10 and selenium rich foods may help to prevent palpitations. Food sources include Brazil nuts, peanuts, wheat germ oil, organ meats, spinach and oily fish.


Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Cayenne to balance blood pressure and restore normal heartbeat. Dose is 1/4 teaspoon of powder in a glass of warm water and sip. You may need to build up the dose slowly.

Motherwort (its Latin name Leonorus cardiaca means 'lion heart') has both a strengthening and calming action on the heart muscle and is a specific herb for easing palpitations. Take a teaspoon of tincture up to 3 times daily.

Hawthorn berries and flowers provide nutrients that feed the heart muscle and can be used safely for many years. It provides protection against many heart problemsincluding blood pressure imbalance and angina by promoting good blood flow to the cardiac muscle. Take a teaspoon of both tinctures or use in tea form daily.

Passionflower can ease palpitations arising from stress and tension.

Drinking a daily tea of nettle, raspberry leaves and oatstraw will provide your body with a wealth of minerals and other nutrients which may be contributing to the cause of palpitations (such as a lack of calcium or iron).

Valerian root is a heart tonic and also releases bodily tension, inducing feelings of peace and calm. Use in tincture or tea form. A very small proportion of people react differently to valerian, they become hyper stimulated. Avoid the herb if that happens to be you.

Crampbark is an antispasmodic herb that may help to calm the heart.

Vervain tea or tincture is a deep acting nervous restorative when used consistently over a period of time. Mix with other herbs like chamomile or lime blossom and lemon balm to enhance taste and relaxing effects of the tea.

Lemon balm is a calming yet uplifting herb that makes a pleasant tasting evening time tea. It is particularly useful for palpitations that arise during times of hormonal change for women such as menopause. Add limeflowers for their calming influence on the heart. Use a teaspoon of herb per cup.

Liqourice root has a unique effect of lowering levels of potassium in the blood by stimulating the kidneys to excrete more. This can help with palpitations if excess potassium is the cause. Do not use with high blood pressure or for more than 10 days in any month.

Siberian ginseng and other adaptogens (such as Rhodiola root) for adrenal fatigue/failure due to long term stress and anxiety. Take a capsule of powdered root up to 3 times daily or a teaspoon of tincture 3 times daily.


Natural healing

Natural healing

Do not take mineral supplements unless you know you are severely deficient in something. If you suspect the palpitations are due to nutritional inadequacies or electrolyte imbalance you will need to have a blood test to determine which, if any, extra nutrients to take.

Some people find that a little forced coughing can help to get the heart beat back to normal.

Try splashing the face with cold water or have a quick cold shower to regulate the heart beat.

Whilst vigorous exercise may well bring on a palpitation episode, regular moderate exercise will (over time) help to regulate the heartbeat and also help to reduce blood pressure, relieve stress and help you lose any excess weight.

Lavender essential oil can be added to baths or dabbed onto the chest to help relax and calm the heart.

Pure rose essential oil (though expensive) can help to soothe and heal the emotions connected to the heart such as grief, betrayal or hopelessness. More affordable forms of rose oil are diluted in a carrier oil. Rose flower essence has the same effects, working on a deep emotional layers.


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