Blood clots occur when your blood platelets stick together to form clumps. Although this is a natural process that prevents you from bleeding excessively, people with cardiovascular disease or atherosclerosis could suffer from a heart attack or stroke when a blood clot forms in their vessels. Many blood-thinning medications are available today, but you might alternatively take a dietary or herbal supplement to help thin your blood. Consult your doctor to discuss the possible risks and drug interactions before taking any supplement.
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Common dietary supplements with blood-thinning effects include omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil, flaxseed oil and mesoglycan, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Selenium, vitamin C, folic acid, vitamins B-6 and B-12; and betaine could also help to thin your blood, notes the University of Michigan Health System. In fact, a combination of folic acid with vitamins B-6 and B-12 may help to lower the homocysteine levels in your body, which can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease and blood-clot formation. Policosanol and coenzyme Q10 supplements may help to thin your blood as well, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. Talk with your physician before taking any dietary supplement to thin your blood.
Some herbal supplements can also help to thin your blood. You can take herbal supplements like hawthorn and garlic for their blood-thinning effects to prevent blood clots, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Bilberry, ginger and ginkgo could thin your blood as well. Additionally, the University of Michigan Health System reports that turmeric and peony can reduce excessive clotting or clumping together of blood platelets. No widely-accepted, conclusive scientific research supports the use of any herbal supplements to prevent blood clots or to thin the blood, however.
Aside from dietary and herbal supplements, many anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs are used in conventional medicine to thin the blood and prevent clots. Common blood-thinning medications include aspirin, warfarin, ticlodipine, dipyridamole, clopidogrel and heparin.
Things to Consider
In addition to blood-thinning supplements, you can make certain lifestyle changes that can reduce your risks for blood clots. Quitting smoking, reducing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet can all help to prevent blood clots and cardiovascular disease, says the University of Michigan Health System. Controlling your cholesterol levels is also essential to cardiovascular health and for preventing arterial plaque buildup.
Before you begin taking any blood-thinning supplements, talk with your healthcare provider about all possible treatment options. Your doctor may recommend that you take a blood-thinning prescription medication or make certain lifestyle changes instead of or in addition to taking certain supplements. Also, beware that many natural supplements can produce side effects and drug interactions, just like conventional medications. For example, most blood-thinning dietary and herbal supplements are unsafe to take along with conventional anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications, warns the University of Maryland Medical Center. Excess use of blood thinning herbs or medications increases your risk of internal bleeding, especially in the intestines or brain, according to a 2009 issue of "Circulation." Long-term supplementation with selenium could potentially increase your risks for type 2 diabetes, and hawthorn can interact negatively with many medications used to treat heart disease and hypertension.