Identifying the Effectiveness of Anticoagulants and Food Supplements in Treating DVT

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How Effective are Anticoagulants and Traditional Remedial Foods in Treating Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Up to 10,000 Americans die of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) rooted diseases each year (“Data & Statistics”). Thrombus or what is better known as thrombosis is the clotting of blood in a vessel, which eventually leads to obstruction of blood flow (Smith What Is Thrombosis?). It is the leading cause of a fatal disease called pulmonary embolism or blockage of the blood flow to the lungs (“Know Thrombosis”). DVT also arises potential for aching, swelling, bruising and color changing as a result to extensive hemostasis activity (“Know Thrombosis”). This condition is also relatively common and global, with an outstanding number of 10 million cases worldwide per year (“Know Thrombosis”). In Europe, VTE (DVT + PE) takes more lives than prostate cancer, breast cancer, AIDs and motor vehicle crashes as a whole (“Know Thrombosis”). The current most conventional treatment is through the prescribed consumption of anticoagulants (DeNoon “Cure for Deep Vein Thrombosis?”); however some traditional individuals often turn too less conventional remedial herbs.

Anticoagulants usually come in the form of injections such as heparin and low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) or warfarin, a tablet (RL "Heparin and Warfarin: Use of Anticoagulants in the Prevention and Treatment of Venous Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism."). Common heparin is a stronger form of the medicine as compared to its lower molecular weight version (“Heparine (Porcine) Injection”). The regular use of Heparin has to be accompanied by prolonged hospital stays as well as intravenous therapy while LMWH may be self injected in the comfort of a patient’s own home (“Heparine (Porcine) Injection”). The way heparin works is that it increases cellular component, or upregulates the anticoagulant molecules the body naturally produces (Jeremy "How Does Heparin Work?"). These molecules are called antithrombin III or AT-III for short (Jeremy) The Heparin substance fastens itself onto the AT-III, which increases its efficacy and activity up to 2000 times more than standard (Jeremy "How Does Heparin Work?"), alleviating coagulation in the blood vessels. LMWH is simply when the molecule size of the heparins are reduced, thus its name. This is done to avoid the risk of excessive bleeding, which is why it is safe to be consumed without constant hospital supervision (BS "Heparin: What Is It? How Does It Work?"). Warfarin on the other hand, decreases the production of blood clotting proteins by weakening the liver’s capacity to use Vitamin K to make them (Bussey “FAQs About Warfarin (brand Name Coumadin)."). This means that the prescribed warfarin dosage will have to depend or be stabilized with the amount of vitamin K a patient takes (Bussey).

The traditional remedial foods people turn to for a less conventional alternative include natural herbs with blood thinning properties. Some of which include: cayenne pepper, rosemary and ginger (Chirantana "7 Amazing Herbal Remedies For Deep Vein Thrombosis."). Cayenne pepper is renown in households as a blood-thinning herb. Capsaicin is an active agent found in the pepper that can decrease triglyceride levels and cholesterol, which has potential in impeding blood circulation if plaque builds up (Chirantana). However, this is still a debatable statement. The pepper also supposedly controls blood pressure and improves circulation in the body as it prevents plasma aggregation, which helps dissolve fibrin (Chirantana). According to the University of Nottingham, Fibrin is a form of protein and product of the body’s natural blood clotting, it forms a mesh out of fibers that block the blood flow. Rosemary is a host to a flavonoid (plant pigment) called diosmin (Chirantana). Diosmin strengthens capillaries in the human system thus enhancing blood circulation (Chirantana). Rosemary also contains large amounts of pyridoxine or vitamin-B6, which metabolizes and aids the process of oxygen transfer of proteins such as hemoglobin (Chirantana). As for ginger, it is simply the earth’s natural salicylate ("How to Deal with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)."). Ginger can thin blood, boost blood flow in the blood vessels as well as obstruct vitamin K ("How to Deal with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)."). Vitamin-K is a prerequisite component in the body’s natural coagulation cycle and is to be avoided by individuals suffering DVT or PE. Similar to cayenne pepper, ginger also decreases the chances of high cholesterol levels ("How to Deal with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)").

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Anticoagulants are arguably the solution that individuals who suffer VTE turn to the most as they are directly aimed towards curing thrombus. The precursor for heparin, for example, is made up of a mixture of components that are specially selected to react with the AT-III in a certain way. Mucopolysaccharides, amino acids and sugars are the three distinct chemicals that make up heparin and contribute to its effectiveness (BS). Besides that, the wide range of anticoagulant therapy options allows an equally as wide range of lifestyle to go along with it. For instance, those who are not as economically capable to subsidize the interventions that come with heparin intake can reach out to warfarin instead, which is more cost effective ("Warfarin Prices, Coupons & Patient Assistance Programs."). On the other hand, those with higher chances of atrial fibrillation, a condition where in an atria or atrium of the heart quiver instead of beat, meaning blood is not regularly pumped in the heart ("Anti-Clotting Agents Explained."). This allows blood to collect within the chambers of the heart and create clotting thus needing immediate medical attention. In cases like this, patients can reach out to hospital supervised heparin consumption instead of waiting on less aggressive drugs that can take up to six months to show maximal results such as warfarin ("Anticoagulants.”). However according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, because these drugs are so concentrated, side effects may be more severe including chances of osteoporosis, excessive bleeding as well as gangrene.

As for the use of remedial cayenne pepper, rosemary and ginger, the reason most people turn to this is its cost. These mentioned herbs are common household spices usually used as an ingredient in Indian, South East Asian or Japanese cuisine. Individuals who don’t ‘believe’ in the concept of conventional medicine- perhaps as a result of wanting to stay indigenous or religious beliefs- turn to these alternative solutions. Although the effectiveness of these remedial herbs is backed up with scientific reasoning, researches fail to account the fact that these spices were not intended to cure a large-scale radical disease that may lead to fatality. As a result, the dosage of blood thinning, vitamin-K antagonists or anticoagulation molecules are diluted and it would take abnormally large intakes of herbs to significantly impact the thrombus, let alone cure it. Another limitation of this alternative solution is that they are technically not always accessible. Jill Corleone mentions in an article for Live Strong that the American Pregnancy Association does not recommend the consumption of cayenne pepper as a supplement during pregnancy.

Although both solutions render a similarity in terms of lack of controversy with cultural, ethical, political and environmental factors, they show drastic dissimilarities when it comes to economical factors.

Lovenox, a LMWH injection producer and supplier sells LMWH at 890 US Dollars for a 30-day package with a 40mg shot per day. Rite Aid Pharmacy, a retail company offers a 30-day package with 5mg/day of warfarin for a small price of 10 US Dollars and 90-day supply with the same dosage for approximately 16 US Dollars ("Warfarin Prices, Coupons & Patient Assistance Programs."). On the other hand, cayenne pepper can be purchased at 6 US Dollars for 250g of product, rosemary at 9 US Dollars for 170g of product and ginger at 1 US Dollar for every 28g of product (“Food”). The cost of the two possible solutions clearly contrast with warfarin costing approximately 1 US Dollar for 0.015g (10 : {30 x 0.005}) and at the same price, a buyer could obtain 2800 times (42.000 : 0.015) more product with approximately 42.000g of cayenne pepper. Despite weighing out the economic factors and seeing too it that traditional remedial foods are the more cost effective, the outcome to cost ratio is what truly matters. Although heparin, LMWH and warfarin harbor a relatively more expensive price, they guarantee a higher chance of treatment because as previously mentioned; these solutions were crafted especially to treat the disease. In fact, these conventional solutions date back to as far as the late 1940s (Wadrop 1) as a common treatment to Deep Vein Thrombosis and have prevailed until today as a result of its success in alleviating DVT. Prior to the discovery and common use of heparin, patients would be resorted to bed rest and elevating parts of their bodies affected by deep vein thrombosis, which proved to be ineffective and instead lead to the severe case of pulmonary embolism (Galanaud 2).

This goes to show that to avoid aggravation of deep vein thrombosis, something chemically rapid has to be done to repress the excessive hemostasis activity. So instead of giving minimal medical attention and no scientific backup to a case of DVT, patience should use the proper prescribed drugs that have been clinically tested and scientifically supported to treat their disease.

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