By Tom Cowan, M.D
I’m frequently asked by patients whether I have a natural alternative to the blood thinner they have been prescribed. Blood-thinning medicines (such as Coumadin, Eliquis and Xarelto) are among the most prescribed medicines in the U.S. For patients with synthetic heart valves or pulmonary embolism (blood clots to the lungs), blood-thinning medicine can be life saving. In other cases, such as using aspirin to prevent heart attacks, or to treat rare and intermittent atrial fibrillation, it is not clear that the risks of blood thinners outweigh the benefits.
Clearly, the decision of whether to take a blood thinner needs to be made on a case by case basis and in conjunction with your health-care provider. In this blog, I want to introduce a natural blood-thinning medicine that I think warrants wider use, and one that holds great promise for those with cardiovascular disease. Amazingly, this medicine is well known in many traditions and derives from the humble earthworm, Lumbricus rubellas.
In 1992, for the first time that we know of, a crude extract of ground earthworms was shown to have potent thrombolytic effects. The heat-stable enzymes found in the earthworm were found to have a potent fibrin-dissolving effect, meaning, it was able to dissolve small existing clots. In addition, the enzyme complex, since renamed Lumbrokinase, decreases fibrinogen (a protein produced by the liver that is involved in the clotting cascade), which is often elevated in patients with both heart disease and cancer. It also lowers blood viscosity, meaning the blood will flow more easily, especially through the micro-circulation, and it inhibits platelet aggregation, much as aspirin does.
The unique property of Lumbrokinase, as opposed to other common fibrinolytic medicines or substances, is that it is only active in the presence of fibrin, and unlike other prescription “clot-busting” drugs, such as streptokinase or urokinase, it is not associated with hemorrhages. Essentially, this means that the humble earthworm is able to provide enzymes that thin the blood, dissolve existing clots, reduce the viscosity of the blood, dissolve biofilms around infections — all without causing any negative effects, such as damage to the kidneys, liver or the risk of hemorrhage.* Earthworm powder, the source from which the Lumbrokinase enzymes are derived, is a traditional Chinese medicine for the prevention of heart attacks and strokes. Modern research now tells us why this is so.
As always, when dealing with a serious medical condition, it is important to discuss with your practitioner any changes in your medications. Lumbrokinase is an underused medicine for helping the millions of Americans who suffer from the consequences of blood that tends to clot too readily but who want to avoid the troublesome negative effects of conventional blood-thinning prescriptions and aspirin.
The dose of Lumbrokinase depends on the situation. As a simple aspirin replacement for primary prevention, one twice a day is the usual dose. In situations where small clots need to be actively dissolved, the dose can increase up to six a day. Again, this is something that should be discussed with your health practitioner.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.