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Natural vs. Synthetic Blood Thinners: The Difference, Plus 11 Natural Blood-Thinning Foods

Have you ever taken blood thinners?

 

If you haven’t, someone you know almost certainly has.

 

These incredibly common medications—and the natural foods you’ll find the same ingredients in—help prevent your blood from clotting.

 

They don’t actually “thin” your blood, but they help it move more freely and safely through your blood vessels. And that means a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and other clot-related issues.

 

Most people take synthetic blood thinners in the form of medication, but what about natural blood thinners? Is there a better way to protect yourself from clots?

 

Let’s take a look…

The Difference between Natural & Synthetic Blood Thinners

First things first: Let’s break down the two different kinds of blood thinners…

 

  1. Anticoagulants slow the clotting of blood.
  2. Antiplatelets prevent a type of blood cell in the body, called platelets, from creating a clot.

 

Blood thinners, in general, help lower your chances of new clots forming while also keeping clots you already have from getting larger.

 

Why is this important?

 

Blood clots that are too big can stop blood from flowing to your heart and can result in a stroke or heart attack—so a blood thinner’s role is, in fact, a life or death matter.

 

Most people who take blood thinners are at a higher risk of health issues like heart disease, blood vessel diseases, abnormal heart rhythms, heart valve issues, heart defects, or post-surgery blood clots.

 

So, what’s the difference between natural and synthetic blood thinners?

 

  • Natural blood thinners are found in certain foods and spices.
  • Synthetic blood thinners are medications that you can get through a prescription.

 

While synthetic blood thinners are important for especially serious clotting situations, if you have a lower clotting risk, it’s worth examining whether natural or synthetic is a better option for you.

 

Synthetic blood thinners are known for a pretty big side effect: Excess bleeding.

 

If you cut yourself while taking a synthetic blood thinner, you might bleed more than normal for a minor injury. You may also find yourself bleeding more often in other ways, like through nosebleeds, bleeding gums, heavier periods, and increased bruising.

 

This can put you at a higher risk of internal bleeding after bumping your head or experiencing what would normally be a minor fall or injury. Doctors will usually warn you to avoid contact sports and to be extra careful around sharp objects.

Make no mistake: In the right situation, and when used as instructed, synthetic blood thinners can save your life. But they become a problem if they’re used incorrectly, paired with other supplements or drugs that contradict them, or when the side effects become overwhelming.

Make no mistake: In the right situation, and when used as instructed, synthetic blood thinners can save your life. But they become a problem if they’re used incorrectly, paired with other supplements or drugs that contradict them, or when the side effects become overwhelming.

Natural blood thinners, on the other hand, are a series of ingredients found in nature that provide similar clot-preventing properties. With natural blood thinners, you’re usually taking a milder dose than with synthetic counterparts, so while the side effects may still be part of your life, their impact is likely to be smaller.

 

Because preventing clots is so essential to your health, it’s key to talk to your doctor before switching between natural vs. synthetic blood thinners—and make sure not to take both synthetic and natural thinners at the same time.

 

If your care team gives the go-ahead, however, natural blood thinners are a great alternative to synthetics. Here are a few natural blood thinners we stand behind…

11 Natural Blood Thinners to Improve Heart Health

Blood-thinning effects occur naturally in these pantry-friendly ingredients…

1. Ginger

Ginger is more than just a tasty cold remedy.

 

This spice contains a natural ingredient called salicylate, which is an acid linked to anticoagulant properties. In fact, a synthetic version of salicylate is used to create aspirin!

 

More research is needed to fully understand ginger’s potential role in circulatory health, but so far, its future looks bright (1). And luckily, it’s pretty easy to add more ginger to your diet. Stock up on fresh ginger root on your next shopping run, and bring it to life in tea, juice, soup, or tasty dinner recipes.

2. Turmeric

As if the taste of this golden spice wasn’t rewarding enough, research suggests that turmeric has blood-thinning properties, too (2).

 

That’s thanks to turmeric’s high quantities of curcumin, the natural compound responsible for creating the spice’s bright orange color. Curcumin plays a role in anticoagulation and fibrinolysis, two processes that help prevent or slow down clotting, and a 2012 study found that taking turmeric daily could help maintain its anticoagulant effects in the body (3, 4).

 

When it comes to turmeric recipes, the possibilities are endless. You can use turmeric in soups, chicken recipes, elevated golden milk lattes, or with NativePath Daily Turmeric, which we formulated for easy daily access to the spice’s benefits.

3. Vitamin E

Certain forms of vitamin E have been shown to have anti-clotting properties (4, 5).

 

Vitamin E exists both in supplement form and naturally in certain foods. If you can, opt for natural vitamin E by eating almonds, pine nuts, avocado, fatty fish, or red bell peppers.

4. Cassia Cinnamon

There are two main types of cinnamon that you’ll encounter at the store or in your kitchen: Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon. Each has its own unique properties.

 

While Ceylon cinnamon is more coveted in the culinary world, Cassia cinnamon has a high concentration of a blood-thinning ingredient called coumarin. (One of the most popular synthetic blood thinners, Warfarin, is derived from this ingredient!)

 

Cassia cinnamon is powerful, so it’s important to tread lightly with dosage and savor its epic capabilities in small bits. Excessive amounts of coumarin on a long-term basis can damage your liver. Sprinkle some cinnamon into your coffee or desserts every now and then, but choose other natural blood thinners as the central part of your routine (6).

5. Grape Seed Extract

This grape derivative may boost your heart health and help manage certain blood conditions. It may also offer naturally blood-thinning properties (7, 8).

 

While grape seed extract does come from grapes, eating grapes on their own won’t provide you with a source of it. Instead, you can stock up on grape seed oil in supplement form.

6. Dong Quai

Based on animal studies, this traditional Chinese herb was found to potentially reduce the risk of clotting and bleeding. Dong Quai does this by increasing how long it takes for your blood to clot (9, 10).

 

These effects are suspected to be due to dong quai’s high levels of coumarin, the same ingredient that makes Cassia cinnamon a natural anticoagulant.

7. Cayenne Peppers

Among their many health benefits, cayenne peppers are high in clot-preventing salicylates, just like ginger (11). They’re also packed with capsaicin, an ingredient known to promote vascular health (12).

 

Of course, cayenne pepper has a pretty hefty kick. (There’s a reason some people start their morning with it!)

 

If cayenne’s kick is too strong for your taste, enjoy it in small pinches here in there, or as part of a juice or wellness shot.

 

You can find cayenne pepper in capsule form, but you can also get it fresh or in powdered spice form.

8. Garlic

Garlic is one of the world’s most loved cooking ingredients, and it’s garnering even more attention as a supplement. Among its many health benefits, garlic powder has been shown to have antithrombotic tendencies, which means that it reduces the formation of blood clots (13).

 

Studies indicate that garlic’s blood-thinning effects may be mild and short-acting, but it may provide a very temporary boost (14) to your circulatory health.

9. Feverfew

This medicinal herb comes from a flower in the same plant family as a daisy, but it’s for more than just a pretty bouquet. Feverfew is sometimes taken for ailments like migraines, fevers, or digestive issues.

 

According to research, feverfew may also act as a blood thinner by blocking platelet activity and preventing clotting (15, 16). You can get feverfew in capsule form.

10. Ginkgo Biloba

Chances are you’ve had ginkgo biloba, also called maidenhair, plenty of times before—it’s a staple in the world of natural remedies.

 

In fact, the leaves from this iconic Chinese tree have been found to potentially help with cognition and fatigue, among other issues (17, 18).

 

Ginkgo biloba may also work as a blood thinner and has similar traits to streptokinase, a synthetic blood thinner. The research that determined this was conducted in a lab—not on animals or people—so more research is needed, but ginkgo's impact appears to be promising.

11. Bromelain

This enzyme is extracted from pineapples, and may help manage heart issues and high blood pressure (19).

 

Eating a pineapple on its own or drinking pineapple juice won’t offer the direct benefits of bromelain—though it will taste amazing and offer plenty of antioxidants (20)!

 

If you’re looking for blood-thinning benefits, supplement with bromelain in capsule form between those juicy pineapple snacks.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, kicking clots to the curb is priority number one.

 

When you’re deciding between natural vs. synthetic blood thinners, keep in mind that with natural blood thinners, you can decrease your risk of clots with fresh, healthy food—and often with fewer side effects. It can be as simple as taking a daily NativePath Turmeric capsule.

 

Blood clots are serious business. If you’re currently taking a synthetic blood thinner and intrigued by the natural approach, talk to a health professional to help you manage the transition.

 

Natural blood thinners are easier to access than ever, and because most natural blood thinners have additional health perks, they’re a great way to boost your overall well-being. Simply incorporate a natural ingredient into your regular recipes or grab a turmeric capsule once per day for no-fuss heart health.

As a writer, editor, and wellness seeker, Claire has written for Self, Health, Prevention, CNN, Mic, Livestrong, and Greatist, just to name a few. When she's not writing, she specializes in traveling, getting lost in health-related research rabbit holes, and finding new ways to spoil her cat.

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Medical Disclaimer
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.