Herbs for Altitude Sickness

People in Peru have long used coca tea or coca leaves to prevent altitude sickness, but since coca leaves are the source for cocaine it is not legal to use in most parts of the world. If you happen to be planning a trip to Peru or Bolivia for a mountain climbing adventure, you may want to try coca tea before starting your ascent since its use is legal in those countries.

If you will be mountain climbing or flying in the United States, you may want to try these herbs that aren’t illegal to use.

Higher altitudes contain less oxygen and causes dehydration due to fluids leaving the blood and entering into the body’s tissues. As the blood thickens it impedes the elimination of toxic wastes resulting in headaches, fatigue and extreme thirst.

Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) is rich in eugenol that acts as a potent blood thinner. Other herbs that contain good amounts of eugenol are allspice, bayrum leaf, carrot seed, cinnamon, bayleaf and marjoram. You can use several of these in hot water to make a nice tea; like cloves, cinnamon, allspice. You can also add some of the mint herbs if you like a mint flavor such as basil, savory and thyme.

Garlic (Allium sativum) contains nine blood thinning compounds. It also has an anti-aggregant effect as a heart attack preventative. Other plants that have this quality are tomatoes, dill, fennel, onions, hot peppers, celery, carrots, and parsley. Making a big pot of soup with these ingredients is good for your heart and is also good to eat before heading into higher altitudes to prevent altitude sickness.

Horsebalm (Monarda, various species) is a member of the mint family and is used as an anti-aggregant.

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is believed to increase the body’s oxygen consumption and works much like the coca leaf does for the Peruvians.

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) may be useful for altitude sickness because of its ability to increase blood flow throughout the body.

Before heading into high country you may benefit from these herbs beforehand and if you will be spending a few days climbing, you may want to add these to your backpack as well.

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