Congestive heart failure (CHF) means your heart, for a variety of reasons, including hypertension and heart disease, can no longer meet your body’s oxygen demands. For decades I watched so many people tout the benefits of hawthorn herbal products in conjunction with conventional medicine for CHF.
But when there were finally some larger clinical trials, no benefit was seen. In the HERB CHF (Hawthorn Extract Randomized Blinded Chronic Heart Failure) study, investigators found no symptomatic or functional benefit at dosages of 450 milligrams twice daily versus a placebo. (This was a trial led by several University of Michigan researchers.)
Hawthorn also increased the risk of noncardiac side effects—such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and loose stools—in this study. And in another well-known study (the SPICE trial from Germany), there was also no overall benefit with hawthorn compared to a placebo. What it comes down to is this: I would be scared to use a supplement for this serious condition unless there was some really, really good evidence to recommend it.
What is Congestive Heart Failure?
Congestive heart failure (also called heart failure) is a serious condition in which the heart doesn’t pump blood as efficiently as it should. Despite its name, heart failure doesn’t mean that the heart has literally failed or is about to stop working. Rather, it means that the heart muscle has become less able to contract over time or has a mechanical problem that limits its ability to fill with blood.
As a result, it can’t keep up with the body’s demand, and blood returns to the heart faster than it can be pumped out—it becomes congested, or backed up. This pumping problem means that not enough oxygen-rich blood can get to the body’s other organs.
The body tries to compensate in different ways. The heart beats faster to take less time for refilling after it contracts—but over the long run, less blood circulates, and the extra effort can cause heart palpitations. The heart also enlarges a bit to make room for the blood. The lungs fill with fluid, causing shortness of breath. The kidneys, when they don’t receive enough blood, begin to retain water and sodium, which can lead to kidney failure. With or without treatment, heart failure is often and typically progressive, meaning it gradually gets worse.
More than 5 million people in the United States have congestive heart failure. It’s the most common diagnosis in hospitalized patients over age 65. One in nine deaths has heart failure as a contributing cause.
Congestive Heart Failure Home Remedies
There has been some good preliminary clinical trial data supporting the use of this supplement along with conventional medicine for CHF. It’s found in high concentrations in heart tissue and may help improve heart function.
An analysis of more than 13 placebo-controlled trials suggested a positive effect: CoQ10 increased left ventricular ejection fraction (the amount of blood being pumped to the rest of the body by the left ventricle) by approximately 4 percent (a significant change) and resulted in a small potential benefit in the New York Heart Association (NYHA) functional classification (a gauge of the severity of heart failure), which suggests it may improve prognosis.
Researchers used dosages of 100 to 300 milligrams on average, but higher dosages did not necessarily translate into better benefits. Those with less severe CHF benefited more. The most recent studies have shown less of an impact with CoQ10 compared to older studies, but part of the reason for this is the fact that drug treatments just keep getting better.
The biggest trial yet for CoQ10 is Q-SYMBIO, where more than 400 patients took a daily dose of 2 milligrams of CoQ10 per kilogram of body weight along with conventional treatments. It reduced death from all causes at the 2-year period compared to the placebo. We’re waiting on more details from this study, so stay tuned.