Natural alternatives to warfarin
There are two major differences between a mass produced pharmaceutical and a natural remedy. The first difference is that a mass produced medication has been tested. The risks are known and have been published. It is much more difficult to find risk information for natural remedies. This does not mean that the natural formulation is safer than the man made formulation.
The second major difference between natural formulations and man made formulations is that the production of natural remedies is not controlled. The amounts of active chemicals in a plant can vary from plant to plant. The FDA does not test natural remedies to ensure that one brand has the same amount of a chemical as another brand.
Blood thinners can be very dangerous in a prescription form. Keep in mind that natural formulations are still chemicals and still have risks. The risks are published for warfarin but they will not be published for a natural remedy. Natural remedy amounts vary from pill to pill and treatment to treatment. This could have a significant impact on the bleeding risk of any natural treatment. The FDA requires that warfarin pills all have the same amount of warfarin within a certain measure of error. Natural remedies do not come with that guaruntee.
What Types Of Natural Treatments Will Help With Blood Clots and Pulmonary Embolisms?
In order to know which supplements and alternative treatments will help heal a pulmonary embolism, you must first know a little about blood clotting. Pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis are both types of blood clots that form in the veins of an individual. Veins are the blood vessels that return blood to the heart. Veins have no muscles and rely on the body's movement to assist in moving blood back to the heart. When the body moves, the movement moves the blood. When the body is stationary, the blood pools and sits still.
Thrombin, a glue-like chemical in the blood, begins to set up and form clots when it sits still. Thrombin is what contributes to pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. Some drugs and treatments will work on the thrombin system, these drugs are known as anticoagulants. They prevent the blood from coagulating. Warfarin is an example.
Other "blood thinners" work on platelets. Platelets are the blood cells that help to form the clots. Platelets are responsible for clots that form in high pressure areas like arteries. Anti-platelet medications help these types of clots. An example of this type of medication is aspirin.
Lastly, once blood has formed a clot, thrombolytics are responsible for breaking down the clots and helping the body to reabsorb the materials that made the clot. The body has natural enzymes that do this process. Scientists have created drugs that are able to replicate this mechanism as well. Thrombolytics only work AFTER a clot has formed.
Any alternative or natural remedy that is used to prevent new clots from forming in the veins MUST work on thrombin. When looking at possible natural treatments it is imperative that the treatment works by affecting thrombin's ability to glue the clots together. If it works on platelets or already formed clots, the treatment will not help to prevent a pulmonary embolism or DVT.
Natural Treatments That Are Known To Work
Natural Treatments Without substantiating Research
There are some other natural treatments that are often discussed in support groups an online. These treatments include fish oil, nattokinase, vitamin E, and pycnogenol. Here is a little background on each of these supplement options. Keep in mind that none of these supplements have substantial (if any) in vitro (in human) testing. Much of this research was done using test tube blood samples. Also keep in mind that all of these treatments raise the risk of major bleeding problems. Talk to your doctor before trying any of them. The clotting system is a very important part of your body!
Fish oil really is just fish oil. It is very high in Omega-3 fatty acids. The blood thinning effects of fish oil happen in the arterial system. A tiny amount of research shows that it is possibly effective in preventing strokes due to its ability to decrease platelets. This effect is not seen in patients already on aspirin. The studies have been small and conflicting. More research needs to be done before this can be seen as a large help for stroke prevention. Strokes happen due to arterial clots. No research has been done on pulmonary embolism. Due to its arterial effects, it is unlikely to help in pulmonary embolism or DVT.
Nattokinase is an enzyme that occurs in soybean fermentation. Nattokinase seems to have thrombolytic properties. This means that nattokinase breaks down clots that have already happened. It will not prevent new clots from forming. There have been no well organized human trials using nattokinase. All of the testing on nattokinase has been in animals or in test tubes. One study using a blend of natto and pycnogenol showed that it may prevent clots when taken before a flight. This study had design flaws and has been thrown into question. The safety of natto has not been established. It may raise the risk of bleeding and should be avoided in people who are already taking an anticoagulant or anti-platelet medication. Natto contains high levels of vitamin K and will affect INR.
Pycogenol is a product derived from pine trees. Currently there is insufficient evidence to rate its effectiveness on blood clots. It was used with natto in the one study mentioned above. This study showed promise but had poor methodology. No other research has been done on pycogenol. This means that while it shows promise, we do not know if it is effective or if it has major side effects.
Vitamin E has been shown to have blood thinning effects. In fact, the blood thinning effects make this a dangerous supplement. It increases the risk of bleeding in people who have a vitamin K deficiency, are on warfarin, are using aspirin, or are on other blood thinning medication. Multiple studies have shown that it raises the risk of death.
Please see the references page to read more about these supplements.