In 1920, a mysterious epidemic broke out in the cattle populations of the United States and Canada. It was a severe disease of internal hemorrhaging that struck quickly and inexplicably; ranchers were soon distraught at the losses to their herds. Two years later, Frank Schofield connected the disease to sweet clover hay, which had been widely used as cattle fodder since the beginning of the century. But the agent behind hemorrhagic sweet clover disease remained elusive.
The turning point came in 1933, when a farmer drove to the University of Wisconsin with a truckload of spoiled hay and blood from a cow that had died after eating some of it. The farmer’s plight caught the interest of Karl Link, an associate professor of agricultural chemistry. Seven years later, Link and his colleagues announced the purification and synthesis of dicumarol, the hemorrhagic agent in spoiled sweet clover hay. It seems that a series of wet summers had led to the infection of sweet clover fields by mold. In response, the sweet clover plants produced coumarin, a natural compound that defends against fungal infection. With the support of the Wisconsin Alumi Research Foundation (WARF), Link and his colleagues synthesized over 100 analogues based on dicumarol’s structure. In 1946 they developed the highly potent form that was patented by the WARF organization. It was a compound that smelled, appropriately, like freshly mown hay. It was a toxin deadly enough to be used as a rat poison. They named it warfarin.
Blood Thinner or Rat Poison?
At first, warfarin was considered too toxic for human use. It was marketed as a rodenticide, and became a popular rat poison. In the 1951, a navy recruit took a large dose of warfarin to attempt suicide. Surprisingly, he lived, and clinical trials soon thereafter showed that warfarin could be administered safely to humans. The idea of warfarin therapy became widely known in 1955, when it was given to President Eisenhower after a heart attack. Today, warfarin is most frequently prescribed oral blood thinner, and the eleventh most-prescribed drug overall. It’s given to patients where unwanted clotting is a risk — after surgery, stroke, pulmonary embolism, or deep-vein thrombosis (DVT). Unfortunately, warfarin has a narrow therapeutic range. Too little, and it has no effect on clotting. Too much, and the patient could suffer internal hemorrhaging. To further complicate things, the correct warfarin dose is influenced by a number of factors – clinical ones (weight, age, INR), diet, heritage, etc.
Natural Blood Thinners/Coumadin Replacements
Garlic: A favorite spice for many people — and a popular healing agent around the world — garlic is not only a potent anti-inflammatory herb, but has proven antimicrobial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Eating garlic raw or lightly cooked, or making garlic tea are several of the most effective methods for its medicinal use. Odorless, freeze-dried supplements are available for those who prefer to avoid the strong scent on their breath.
Water: Simple, plain and life’s staple, water is perhaps one of the best blood thinners available. Allowing yourself to become dehydrated thickens the blood, causing it to clump together and form clots. Drinking enough clear, clean water each day helps keep the blood running smoothly through your circulatory and cardiovascular system, maintaining good health. The ideal daily intake for each individual is 1/2 ounce of water for each pound of body weight; in other words, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should ideally drink 75 ounces of water daily.
All of these substances have the power to thin the blood. There are other foods as well, such as vitamins B-6, D and E, omega-3 fatty acids, apple cider vinegar and strawberries that act as blood-thinning agents; and when used judiciously under the supervision of your health practitioner, may keep you healthy longer, prevent strokes and blood clots and help keep you off drugs and out of the hospital.