Blood clotting is not a bad thing. It's your body's way of preventing you from bleeding too much, especially when you get wounded.
However, if your blood isn't flowing correctly inside your body, this can lead to very dangerous blood clots. In life-threatening situations, blood clots can cause a heart attack or stroke and are absolutely something you want to avoid.
If you want to keep your blood flowing and support your heart and aren't yet in need of prescription medications, there are specific herbs and spices that could be called "natural blood thinners". Used the right way, they may be able to help you stay healthy for longer.
Thinning Blood Naturally: How it Works
Blood thinners are prescribed by doctors for certain situations where blood clots are suspected or may prove to be fatal. For example, they are used for different cardiovascular conditions, like irregular heart rhythm, and after certain procedures like heart valve surgery.
The most commonly prescribed blood thinners (warfarin, heparin, etc.) are anticoagulants, which means they slow the blood-clotting process to help prevent blood clots or stop existing ones from growing.
However, there's also another type of blood thinner known as an antiplatelet. These work by preventing blood platelets (cells) from sticking together to form a clot. The best example of this type of drug is aspirin, which is sometimes recommended for heart attack and stroke prevention.
Turning to the natural world, we find something similar: specific herbs and spices with anticoagulant or antiplatelet (or both) properties. (1)
This gives them the potential to support healthy blood flow and essentially act as natural blood thinners. But it's very important to note that herbs are not the equivalent of medication. They can't replace prescription blood thinners and may interact with blood thinning medication.
With that in mind, here's a look at the top known herbs for thinning blood naturally.
Herbs & Spices with Blood Thinning Properties
Turmeric is a very familiar spice with its bright orange color. It contains a compound known as curcumin that has become somewhat famous for its anti-inflammatory properties.
The curcumin in turmeric is what gives this spice anticoagulant properties that may help to thin blood. In fact, one study found that it could potentially help to lower stroke risk because it reduces cholesterol and inhibits platelet aggregation, although this is not clinically proven in humans yet. (2)(3)
Cayenne is a warming spice that stimulates circulation and eases inflammation. One of its main active compounds, capsaicin, is what gives cayenne its heat and is also responsible for boosting blood flow.
In addition to capsaicin, cayenne peppers contain salicylates, which have blood-thinning properties. (The synthetic form of salicylate is found in aspirin.)
Cayenne is also simply good for your heart in general with the potential to reduce the risk of a heart event being fatal. (4)
Ginger is the spicy cousin of turmeric and one of the best herbs for relieving nausea and indigestion. Like cayenne, it boosts circulation with its warming nature and also contains salicylates with blood-thinning properties.
In plants, salicylates are natural compounds that help reduce platelet aggregation, which could lessen the chance of a blood clot. As mentioned, aspirin contains the synthetic form of salicylate known as acetylsalicylic acid and works in a similar, though more powerful, way. (1)
Garlic is a very powerful herb with many beneficial properties, including thinning blood naturally. Studies show that it has antiplatelet activity, likely due to the presence of a sulfur derivative known as ajoene. (5)
There's even indication that garlic supplements should be stopped about a week prior to surgery because they have the potential to prevent proper blood clotting. (5)
Raw garlic hasn't been studied yet (only supplements), so its unknown just how potent of a blood thinner it is.
Cinnamon is another warming and stimulating spice that boosts circulation, improves a sluggish digestion, and strengthens immunity. It also contains coumarin, which is a compound with well-known anticoagulant properties. (6)
When it comes to coumarin content, it's helpful to know that there are two main types of cinnamon sold in the store. Cassia cinnamon is the most common and contains the most coumarin. Ceylon cinnamon (also called true cinnamon) contains only trace amounts of coumarin.
While coumarin is beneficial as a blood thinner, there are conflicting reports of whether it may or may not cause liver damage in high amounts. If you've had liver problems in the past, you may want to limit consumption of Cassia cinnamon. (7)
Aloe vera is a plant you might normally associate with skin health, but it can also be used internally and has shown potential for naturally thinning blood.
Basically, lab tests have shown that aloe has an antiplatelet effect similar to aspirin, likely due to the presence of salicylates. However, there isn't much specific research on how potent this effect is when translated to the human body. (8)
To take aloe vera, you can drink the juice or swallow it in capsules. Just be aware that a product containing aloe latex will have a laxative effect, so take it slow!
Dong quai is sometimes called female ginseng because of its unique ability to balance hormones and help with fertility issues. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is used as a blood purifier as well as for hormone-related issues.
Dong quai contains two compounds that give it blood thinning properties: coumarin, the same compound found in cinnamon, and ferulic acid. These two compounds give it both antiplatelet and anticoagulant effects. (1)
Other Salicylate Herbs
Meadowsweet is the plant in which the natural form of salicylic acid was first found, which later led to the development of aspirin. Both meadowsweet and white willow bark have frequently been used for pain and inflammation because of these natural compounds they contain.
While neither of these two herbs have specifically been studied for a blood thinning ability, it likely exists simply because of the presence of salicylates. (1)
Precautions for Naturally Thinning Blood
Herbs can be very powerful in their own way, but you shouldn't use any of the ones on this list as a substitute for prescription blood thinners. If you are at risk for clots and want to try a natural approach, speak to your doctor or a qualified holistic practitioner first.
Also, be aware that some of these herbs/spices are potent enough to interfere with blood thinners and other prescription medications. Some of them should not be taken a week before surgery, so be sure to do your research if you decide to try any of them.
Herbs as Blood Thinners
Just like in many other areas of life, nature has provided us with plants that can help a specific issue. But remember that it's all about balance. While you definitely don't want to deal with blood clots, blood that's too thin could lead to excessive bleeding.
If you need further help, look for a qualified herbalist to help you discover whether any of the herbs on this list are right for you!
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.