Doctors prescribe blood thinners for numerous reasons. It might be because you suffer from a heart or cardiovascular disease, an abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation or a congenital heart defect. Or perhaps you’ve had a heart valve replacement or you’re at risk of blood clots occurring after having surgery.
Blood thinners are medicines that prevent blood clots from forming and help blood flow smoothly through your veins and arteries.
As the name suggests, these prescribed medicines don’t actually make your blood thinner or break up clots. These medicines help keep your blood from getting thicker and forming new clots. They can also slow the growth of existing ones, thus reducing your risk of dangerous clots.
While blood thinners are helpful in many ways, they can also cause side effects in some people. Excessive bleeding is the most common reaction and can occur in several ways, including heavy periods, bloody or discolored urine or feces, nosebleeds, bleeding gums and prolonged bleeding from a cut.
A 2014 study published in PLOS ONE found that a blood thinner commonly prescribed to prevent blood clots after a hip or knee replacement is associated with an increased risk of post-surgery bleeding or infection (1).
Some other possible side effects include dizziness, muscle weakness, hair loss and skin rashes. Blood thinners should be taken as suggested by your doctor or it can lead to serious consequences.
To be on the safe side and reduce the risk of blood clots, you can always try some foods and herbs that are natural anticoagulants and can help prevent your blood from clotting.
Caution: Anticoagulant foods and herbs should not be used as a substitute for prescription anticoagulant medication.
In addition, some natural blood-thinning foods and herbs could interact with prescription medicines. Consult your doctor to determine what’s best for you.
Here are some of the best natural blood thinners to prevent blood clots.
Ginger is an herb that can effectively help reduce blood clotting. It can also prevent new clots and reduce your risk of a stroke. In addition, it promotes healthy blood circulation throughout the body.
A 2002 study published in Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes & Essential Fatty Acids suggests that ginger could be used as a cholesterol-lowering, antithrombotic and anti-inflammatory agent (2).
Both dry ginger and raw ginger extracts can reduce the formation of blood clots.
- Add ginger to any of your juices, broths or cooked dishes to enjoy its immense health benefits.
- Also, you can drink 2 or 3 cups of ginger tea daily. To prepare the tea, boil a few slices of fresh ginger root in 1 cup of water, then let it steep for 5 minutes. Strain the tea. You can add a little lemon juice and honey for taste.
Turmeric is best known as a natural anti-inflammatory herb, but it also works as a natural blood thinner. This happens mainly due to its curcumin content.
Curcumin can help prevent your platelets from clumping together and forming clots.
A 2012 study published in BMB Reports suggests that curcumin and its derivative (bisdemethoxycurcumin, BDMC) possess antithrombotic activities and daily consumption of the curry spice turmeric might help maintain anticoagulant status (3).
- Add turmeric powder to tea, curry, salads and other meals. Also, you can drink a glass of turmeric milk daily before going to bed.
- If taking a supplement, consult your doctor first for the correct dosage.
Caution: If you are taking warfarin (Coumadin), do not use turmeric remedies.
Garlic is good for your heart health and is even more beneficial if you are at a higher risk of having blood clots.
Sulfur-containing compounds like adenosine, allicin and paraffinic polysulfides in garlic act as blood thinners.
Garlic can also lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which in turn can reduce the risk of plaque formation and heart attacks.
A 1991 study published in the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine found that garlic may be a useful agent in prevention of thromboembolic phenomenon (4).
Later, a 2011 study published in the Iranian Journal of Pediatric Hematology Oncology reported on the fibrinolytic activity of garlic extract at different concentrations and time factors, finding that the minimum concentration and the maximum time showed the best result (5).
- Eat 2 or 3 raw garlic cloves on an empty stomach on a daily basis.
- You can also take garlic supplements, but only after consulting your doctor.
Cinnamon is another effective natural anticoagulant. It contains coumarin, a chemical that acts as a powerful anticoagulant.
This sweet spice is even capable of lowering blood pressure and relieving inflammatory conditions. Cinnamon also reduces the chances of having a stroke.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Plants Research indicates that the blood clotting time significantly decreased in the presence of cinnamon distillate and the essential oil in comparison with the control group (6).
You can add cinnamon powder to enhance the taste and fragrance of numerous dishes and beverages.
Caution: Excess and long-term use of cinnamon may cause liver damage. Therefore, make sure you use this spice sparingly.
5. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper has a powerful blood-thinning effect on your body and also increases circulation.
It contains a chemical called capsaicin that can help clear away artery-narrowing lipid deposits, and might help dilate arteries and blood vessels to clear away clots. It also helps lower the concentration of fibrin, an insoluble protein that plays a key role in clot formation.
Plus, this spice helps lower your blood pressure and improve your overall heart health.
- Add fresh, chopped cayenne peppers to stir-fry dishes, soups and stews.
- Also, you can sprinkle ground cayenne pepper on breakfast dishes, salads and other dishes.
- You can opt to take cayenne supplements, but consult your doctor first.
6. Vitamin E
Vitamin E has a variety of medical benefits, including improving blood circulation and preventing blood clots.
When taken orally, vitamin E can decrease platelet aggregation by improving sensitivity to prostaglandin E1, a platelet-inhibiting fatty acid.
A 1999 study published in Atherosclerosis shows that uptake of vitamin E by the platelets was optimal at 75 IU/day, correlating with the maximal influence on platelet aggregation and platelet responsiveness to inhibition by PGE1, with increased supplemental levels exerting no greater effects (7).
- Vitamin E capsules are a good option to ensure you get your daily dose of vitamin E. Consult your doctor before taking supplements.
- You can also eat foods rich in vitamin E like eggs, meat, cereal and various fresh fruits and vegetables.
Some Other Foods with Blood-Thinning Properties
- Fish that contain the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have been shown to have blood-thinning effects.
- A little red wine on a daily basis can have a protective effect against atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.
- Flavonoids in cocoa found in dark chocolate can help thin the blood.
- Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain that can help reduce excessive adhesiveness of blood platelets.
- Foods rich in vitamin K, such as green, leafy vegetables like broccoli, lettuce and spinach, are also helpful.
- Tree nuts like walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios and Brazil nuts are also effective.
- Green tea is rich in antioxidants that help relax the arteries and improve circulation.
- Drink plenty of water every day to hydrate the cells and encourage a regular supply of minerals flowing through the body.
- Exercise is the best way to promote good blood circulation and prevent blood clots.
- Regular massage helps move blood through congested areas.
- Hydrotherapy is a simple and effective way to improve blood circulation. It also helps dilate the blood vessels, thus promoting blood flow.
- Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol.
- If you smoke, it is important to quit.
- Avoid eating foods that are high in saturated fats.
- Limit your salt consumption.
- Stress can also affect circulation, so take necessary steps to handle stress.
- Commonly Prescribed Blood Thinner Associated with Higher Risk of Post-Surgery Complications. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.niams.nih.gov/newsroom/spotlight-on-research/commonly-prescribed-blood-thinner-associated-higher-risk. Published April 28, 2017.
- The use of ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) as a potential anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic agent. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12468270. Published December 2002.
- Anticoagulant activities of curcumin and its derivative. BMB Reports. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22531131. Published April 2012.
- Effect of ingestion of raw garlic on serum cholesterol level, clotting time and fibrinolytic activity in normal subjects. Journal of Postgraduate Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1784022. Published July 1991.
- Study of garlic effect on fibrinolytic activity of the blood clot in vitro. Iranian Journal of Pediatric Hematology Oncology. http://ijpho.ssu.ac.ir/article-1-32-en.pdf.
- Effect of Cinnamon zeylanicum essence and distillate on the clotting time. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research. http://www.jonnsaromatherapy.com/pdf/Hossein_Effect_of_Cinnamon_zeylanicum_on_Clotting_Time_2013.pdf.
- Moderate supplementation with natural α-tocopherol decreases platelet aggregation and low-density lipoprotein oxidation. Atherosclerosis. https://www.atherosclerosis-journal.com/article/S0021-9150(99)00169-0/abstract.