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Why Your Heart Is Not A Pump (& What Most Doctors Don’t Know About The True Cause Of Heart Disease).

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

I first introduced you to Dr. Thomas Cowan in the podcast episode released a few weeks ago entitled “How (& Why) To Eat More Vegetables, Why A Plant Is Like An Upside-Down Human, Little-Known Superfood Plants & More!

In that episode, you learn how when Dr. Cowan was a 20-year-old Duke grad-student, bright, skeptical, and already disillusioned with industrial capitalism – he joined the Peace Corps in the mid-1970s for a two-year tour in Swaziland. There, he encountered the work of Rudolf Steiner and Weston A. Price – two men whose ideas would fascinate and challenge him for decades to come.

Both drawn to the art of healing and repelled by the way medicine was―and continues to be―practiced in the United States, Cowan returned from Swaziland, went to medical school, and established a practice in New Hampshire and, later, San Francisco. For years, as he raised his three children, suffered the setback of divorce, and struggled with what we didn't really talk much about in that previous podcast: a heart condition.

He was intrigued by the work of Price and Steiner and, in particular, with Steiner’s provocative claim that the heart is not a pump. Determined to practice medicine in a way that promoted healing rather than compounded ailments, Cowan dedicated himself to understanding whether Steiner’s claim could possibly be true. And if Steiner was correct, what, then, is the heart? What is its true role in the human body?

In his new book “Human Heart, Cosmic Heart: A Doctor's Quest to Understand, Treat, and Prevent Cardiovascular Disease“, which is a deeply personal, rigorous, and riveting account of his own struggle with heart disease, Dr. Cowan offers up a daring claim…

…not only was Steiner correct that the heart is not a pump, but our understanding of heart disease – with its origins in the blood vessels – is completely wrong. And this gross misunderstanding, with its attendant medications and risky surgeries, is the reason heart disease remains the most common cause of death worldwide.

In today's episode, Dr. Cowan presents a new way of understanding the body’s most central organ. He offers a new look at what it means to be human and how we can best care for ourselves―and one another. During our discussion, you'll discover: 

-The strange root vegetable (which you probably haven't heard of) that Dr. Cowan had for breakfast before our interview…[7:56]

-Dr. Cowan's own heart struggles that caused him to have a heartbeat of over 200 beats per minute while playing basketball…[9:20]

-Why it is physically impossible for the heart to be able to pump blood through the body in the way that you (and your doctor) have learned…[13:25 & 15:25]

-How the way that blood flows through your body is actually quite similar to the way that water flows through a giant, tall tree…[28:45]

-What a “chestahedron” shape is, why is the exact shape of your heart, and how it creates a very unique vortex inside your chest….[40:35]

-How I personally structure my family's water in a way extremely similar to the way that the heart structures and “spirals” your blood…[42:30]

-Why most doctors don't know about this concept of the heart not being a pump…[45:50]

-Why coronary angiograms, bypass surgery and stents don't work…[54:00]

-A strange Brazilian plant molecule called “Gstrophanthin” and why Dr. Cowan talks about it in the book…[66:50]

-How to use fats, oils, vitamin K, parasympathetic nervous system activators and compression therapy to drastically lower your risk of a heart attack…[70:15]

-The single biggest key to preventing heart disease…[76:20]

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

Human Heart, Cosmic Heart: A Doctor's Quest to Understand, Treat, and Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

My interview on structured water “Is All Water The Same” with Dr. Gerald Pollack

The whole house structured water filter Ben uses to create a “vortex” for his drinking water

The NatureBeat heart rate variability system Ben uses every morning to measure his nervous system

The Strophansus extract / ouabain Dr. Cowan mentions

Organic emu oil

Vitamin D/K2 blend

The Normatec recovery compression boots that Ben wears

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Dr. Cowan or I? Leave your thoughts below and one of us will reply!


Also published on Medium.

54 thoughts on “Why Your Heart Is Not A Pump (& What Most Doctors Don’t Know About The True Cause Of Heart Disease).

  1. Ben,

    Seriously? No doctor or any student in the medical field thinks that the heart does it all. We all know that capillary movement depends on nerve and hormone signals and that there are pre capillary sphincters and that no vein blood movement is due to the heart. It moves by rhythmic movement of smooth muscle in the vein walls as well as the action of skeletal muscle with movement. Blood is also prevented from going “backward” by one way valves allowing it to go up against gravity.

    For Tom Cowan to claim that doctors think that the heart does all the blood pumping and that for the heart to not be functioning properly isn’t important is to AT BEST MAKES HIM A LIAR!

  2. Hi there,

    Are there cases when you shouldn’t/don’t need to use “Gstrophanthin”? I am 42 yrs, generally healthy and active but with consistent low parasympathetic on HRV.

    I have a supplier near me in Germany – http://www.strophantin-shop.com/shop

    Is this what I’m lookin for?

    Interesting stuff. My wife and her family all went through a Steiner education and he’s still well known here in Switzerland.

  3. Hi, I didn’t have time to read all of the comments…forgive me if this is redundant. I thought I heard said that statin drugs, which my mother recently was prescribed(lipitor), for high cholesterol, were ineffective, and could, from the little research I’ve done, cause more harm than good. What alternatives are available? Another question is that I’ve heard that pickle juice cures cramps, if I’m afraid that I’m having a heart attack, can i drink some pickle juice to stave it off in an emergency?

  4. Great podcast. I am on board with this thinking and have had a hydro energizer in my house for 6 months.

    So when running for example, I know where I need to keep my heart rate at in order to perform well and last longer. If my heart is not pumping the blood what can I do to reduce heart rate while running faster? There must be so many different things to look at? General thoughts? Thanks again to the Dr. and Ben.

  5. Hi

    I have got a question about the charge thing. First, Dr. Cowan said the 4th phase of water was negatively charged. But then he states that the lining of the tubes is negatively charged (which makes sense because theres 4th phase water in it) but then he sais the blood is positively charged. Why is that? I mean theres also 4th water in the blood, shouldnt that be negatively charged as well…?

    Thx.

  6. Could the spiking of the adrenals through sleep apnea be related to the need of the parasympathetic nervous system to “tone” and a correlating factor between apnea and heart attack?

  7. Ben or anyone, i am looking for a sweat proof bluetooth head set for outside work and play/ workout but only want 1 ear, call me cookoo but i have to keep one ear open to my surroundings. Any recommendations?

  8. Hi Dr. Cowan, Great job on the Ben Greenfield Podcast. I recently read your book The Fourfold Path to Healing: Working with the Laws of Nutrition, Therapeutics, Movement, and Meditation in the Art of Medicine, which mentions several supplements including hawthorne, rauwolfia, chamomile, and horsetail along with using castor oil packs to help lower high blood pressure. Are there any scientific and/or clinical studies indicating these supplements/methods are effective in lowering high blood pressure? Besides losing weight and more exercise, are there any other methods to lower high blood pressure backed with scientific/clinical studies. BTW, I just received a copy of your Human Heart, Cosmic Heart: A Doctor’s Quest to Understand, Treat, and Prevent Cardiovascular Disease, and look forward to reading it. Thanks! John R.

  9. Great podcast! I’ve heard Dr. Cowan interviewed several times on this book now, and every time some interesting new angle comes out.

    The comments on “heart” as a term in ordinary language were interesting, as was the anecdote about the man who received a heart transplant and began to like music. I think it was said that this doesn’t happen with other organs.

    However that may be, I suspect there are common forms of speech connected with some other organs. I can think of one: traditionally, the liver has been associated with bravery; hence the expression lily-livered. I believe that there’s also been a belief in some societies that eating the heart of a fierce beast, or a brave human enemy, would allow one to take on his courage. I don’t know that anthropologists are agreed on this, and some seem to think that cannibal tribes that have concentrated on particular organs do so merely as a form of revenge. Maybe some, at any rate, do. I did, however, manage to find a reference for the former interpretation at the University of Queensland, Australia:

    “Cannibalism was believed by many groups to be able to transfer traits or power from the consumed to the consumer. These abilities could be physical or metaphysical. An enemy who had fought bravely before being vanquished was partly consumed so that the eater would absorb those positive qualities.”

    The same reference also has:

    “… the Wabondei from East Africa believed eating human liver would give them energy and strength.”

    http://www.uq.edu.au/crossroads/Archives/Vol%206/…

    Maybe the association of courage with the liver is merely some kind of magical thinking. It would be interesting, though, if it turned out that a liver-transplant patient became either very much bolder or very much more timid after after the transplant, wouldn’t it?

      1. Yes, quite. I wasn’t thinking they’d be the same. I was merely thinking that these customs were an additional indication of a widespread belief that the liver also is connected with courage. (But I can’t imagine that merely consuming it would have the effects that some primitive people have supposed.)

        By the way, the Iroquois, mentioned in the podcast, practised ritual cannibalism (and ritualised torture) – which, however they may have nurtured ecosystems, gives me mixed feelings as regards them.

        Looking around online I find that a (very well-qualified) academic called Gary Schwartz has claimed that the taking on of a donor’s traits can occur from a heart, lung, kidney or liver transplant;

        http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/426766/one_in…

        He’s also apparently said that it doesn’t occur with a corneal transplant:

        http://www.effective-mind-control.com/cellular-me…

        Schwartz, however, seems to be “controversial”. He’s been a recipient of the attentions of the Amazing Randi. But then again so has a brilliant French scientist that Gerald Pollack tells a story about. So do we get any further forward?

        I don’t know what to think.

  10. Super podcast Ben. Very interesting. It brings together a lot of what you educate us about from water to diet and just good living.
    I do appreciate your good work.
    Blessings man!

  11. Wondering if his suggestions would be the same for people with Pericarditis? been trying to get off my medicine and go a more natural route. Anyone have any knowledge on this?

  12. I have a couple of questions. Ben, I need to replace my current rust remover and am interested in learning what you are doing for that as you mentioned it in the podcast, make/model would be helpful. Dr. Cowan, my brother recently had a heart attack and they are pushing for a angioplasty. I sent him the link to listen to this very timely podcast but I’m wondering if you have other suggestions?

    Ben Great podcast as usual!

    1. hi, not really i would suggest getting a copy of the human heart cosmic heart book and looking into the various suggestions, ie diet, exercise, water, strophantus, EECP detailed in the book.

  13. Wow…another good one Ben. Man…lots to think about. I want to change the water I’m currently drinking and looking into the many ways to structure it. What’s your opinion on Hydrogen Water and the various “hydrogen water machines” available? I’ve been reading quite a lot about it lately. While it’s not technically “structured water” I’m wondering if adding the hydrogen element to the mix might jazz things up a notch.

    1. hi, yes it is possible that adding hydrogen improves the quality of the water as well as getting whatever toxic “stuff” out and using a vortex machine to “energize” the water.

      1. hi yes i agree totally with Ben not liking the hydrolysis type of machines that use metal plates. However, if you go to dancingwithwater.com you will see some good ways of adding hydrogen to the water with the metal plate thing. If you structure it you shouldn’t need to use these in any case.

  14. Hey Guys

    Great podcast and very interesting. My father died of Congestive Heart Failure. How can you explain CHF if the heart is NOT a pump. My understanding is that CHF is a weaker heart that can’t pump. Please explain and is there anything I can do to reduce my risk of getting CHF like my father? Thank YOU!!

    1. hi, in CHF the momentum of the blood is not able to go forward as robustly as it should. Generally the causes are a weak flow in the way that i describe flow originating in the capillaries and the deterioration of the momentum that does come from the heart, ie in its capacity of a hydraulic ram and ability to form a vortex. When these are weak the flow weakens in the whole system.

  15. leonard Cohen – famous song writer. Dr. Thomas Cowan – mind blowing guest on your show. All good buddy -home schooling is cool- keep bringing us the awesome content. We love that mind of yours. I could barely read in high school and didn’t even feel confident reading until I was about 28. A little word here and there . . . You know what, it just adds to the character of the show!!

  16. Wow, that was super interesting. The Eat More Vegetables was great, but this one was a little more mind blowing. I was trying to grasp the concept of how the blood actually flows and kept picturing a Mag-lift Train -those ones that are propelled by electromaganeics and hover above the tracks. Makes me also wonder about blood pressure and and the stress upon the vessel walls. If the charge of all the cells are in check, then pressure may not be stressing the walls of the vessels as cells move through. Then, when the charge of the cells and system are awry, it’s a game of bumper-cars smashing into everything along the way, causing inflammation and stress to the vessel walls.

    1. hi, yes very good analogy, the exclusion zone layer on the inside of the vessels protects the vessel walls by providing a protective gel layer and excluding any usual toxins from contact with the walls.

  17. Isn’t the combine volume of the capillary beds greater than that of the arteries or the veins? If so, that’s probably why blood slows in the capillary beds and speeds back up, the pressure drops.

    1. yes that is correct the volume of blood in the capillary beds at any one time is hugely greater than in the arteries or veins. As i explained this is why the blood slows down as it passes through this area. Its like a wetland vs a river.

  18. Hey Ben!

    I tend to get what seems like too much adrenaline and stimulation from normal exercise. Even just a basic run seems to get my system into overdrive. I also, for some reason, keep waking up two-three times a night to hit the bathroom (#1). For a while, I was struggling with histamine intolerance and it was driving me up a wall in terms of constant anxiety, adrenaline overload, and just overall a state of fight or flight within my body. Could I be experiencing adrenal fatigue?

    This podcast made me think of it because I get tension and slight angina, and we now know that we have neurons within our heart that respond to neurotransmitters and our overall mood/hormone balance within the body.

    Any help would be much appreciated, thanks!

    1. hi, you might want to start by checking your HRV and seeing how the balance of your autonomic nervous system looks and then do the heartmath exercises to help correct this if its off.

    1. hi, i generally use emu oil for its high vitamin K2 content although grass fed ghee works as does eating brie cheese, aged gouda, and natto if you like the taste of those foods.

  19. Fascinating. Dr Cowan, if you are checking this page, would you recommend Ouabain for people with HPA axis dysfunction aka adrenal fatigue i.e those people that are “stuck” in sympathetic overdrive?

    Thanks

    Josh

    1. hi, not really i generally stick with the use of strophanthus/ouabain for heart disease and stroke prevention. It is a thought to use it in the situation you mention but generally i haven’t done that thusfar.

  20. Using my Ben Greenfield HRV App of course, I have been measuring such for many, many months and my Parasympathentic (HF) numbers are constantly low compared to LF so this new plant might save my life.

    You linked to Strophansus on Amazon but it looks like something for a baby. Is that the product? The doctor says he will have it on his site so maybe I will wait. Hope I don’t have the BIG ONE in the meantime.

    I have to say that my sleep has been helped a great deal by CBD, Parsley’s Sleep Remedy (Cocktail) and the Delta Sleeper. Those combined are real game changers. My HRV is improving.

    1. hi, no the product linked is not the one i use. I use an herbal strophanthus extract that we have tested for its ouabain content. We hope to have it available soon at our website humanheartcosmicheart.com.

  21. And by the way, moon is pretty good at moving water around the Earth. So probably in our bodies too. And supermoon is coming soon.

  22. This is very interesting I am just wondering when they to a by pass they put the patient on a by pass machine which allows the blood to continue but Im wondering is the pump itself putting life force into the blood. If it is not and the heart function is to do this then why does the patient stay alive?

    1. hi, clearly you can bypass the heart’s influence on the circulation for a short period of time and the patient can survive. I doubt whether the machines are adding any life forces to the patient. Without the heart, the circulation relies on the movement through the mechanism i described in the podcast which clearly can maintain life more or less on its own for at least some period of time.

  23. Hi

    I haven’t commented before but, to be honest I was so frustrated listening to this podcast that I felt compelled to. Normally I feel Ben is very good at challenging assertions and applying scientific rigour to everything he does, but on this occasion the entire podcast was based on a couple of “because I said so” statements from Dr Cowan which Ben made not effort to challenge.

    1. Such a thin walled organ can’t pump blood around vessels 3x round the world. The number of problems with this statement from a scientific basis are astounding.

    a) the 3x round the world premise is flawed, the heart isn’t trying to pump every ml of blood through each blood vessel sequentially, as Dr Cowan rightly describes with his river to marsh land analogy, most of these blood vessels run in parallel so its either route a) or route b) not both. Modern science at no point professes the heart pumps each ml of blood sequentially through each blood vessel per circulation;

    b) the length is all well and good but, as Dr Cowan also points out later in the podcast, most of these blood vessels are incredibly narrow – length is not everything p.s. its actually only 2.5 anyway.

    c) capillaries are normally 3-4 micro meters in diameter, that’s 3-4 millionths of a meter where the average adult has a heart wall that is 1.1cm thick, i.e. 1.1 hundredths of a meter, the heart walls are VERY THICK compared to the blood vessels they are pumping blood through.

    2. Next up on the list is the “blood has to stop and can’t be being pumped, its inelegant to say it is” assertion. This was the moment where I decided to write this post. There was no scientific basis, no thought given to this assertion. I accept that blood goes very slowly and potentially even stops in capillaries however, so say that this “proves” that the heart can’t be a pump seems to ignore one pretty abundantly obvious fact. The prevailing theory is that the heart contracts, expelling blood at high speed and pressure, the muscles in the heart then relax, blood pressure drops and the heart refills, the heart then contracts again. It is actually a very elegant and clear explanation that, when the heart muscle relaxes and blood pressure drops the blood in capillaries reaches a near standstill and when the heart contracts and blood pressure increases the blood in the capillaries begins to move again. As mentioned above, the capillaries are very narrow and therefore it does not require a large amount of fluid to be pushed through a capillary for it to move be accelerated back to a reasonably higher speed – this is simple physics (something Dr Cowan appears to know little about).

    3. Dr Cowan gives no explanation as to why, if the heart is not a pump, blood pressure coincidentally happens to increase when the heart contracts and decreases when the heart relaxes – if the heart is not applying mechanical pressure to the blood (i.e. isn’t pumping it) we would not have systolic and diasystolic blood pressures coinciding with the heart’s contractions.

    4. Dr Cowan’s reliance of the capillary effect and comparisons with a large tree has limited merit. Yes in narrow tubes the electrostatic interactions between water molecules can allow for water molecules to drag each other along but this only applies where there is a driving force. In a large tree this force is provided by water evaporating from the leaves, as this water is drawn out of the leaves into the atmosphere the electrostatic interactions of water molecules drag water up through the plant – fortunately, last time I checked blood wasn’t evaporating out of my body (indeed, I suspect if it was I wouldn’t have lasted as long as I have). I don’t deny that there is a capillary effect, but were the capillary effect the driving force behind circulation you would expect to see the greater circulatory force (and therefore spike in blood pressure) when the heart relaxes, as this is what allows blood to move into the vacuum in the heart and drag water molecules around the circulation – but we don’t see this, this is the point of lowest blood pressure, when there is the smallest amount of force driving circulation.

    Even basic science shows a number of flaws which can be identified with simple (High School level) scientific logic in Dr Cowan’s theories which I would have expected Ben to have challenged… perhaps Dr Cowan would have had sensible scientific answers to these, perhaps not, unfortunately rigorous scientific questioning was not applied.

    1. hi, the first comment is the above poster should read the article on my website by Marinelli about the heart and the article by the anesthesiologist Dr Branko Furst, MD called The Heart: Pressure-propulsion pump or Organ of impedance, this will help you understand the issues here. Whether the entire capillary system is considered sequentially or parellel there are no pumps this size that have the ability to generate enough pressure to force viscous fluid through narrow tubes with stuff (ie red and white blood cells) floating in them for this amount of volume. This combined with the obvious anamoly of the bending in of the aortic arch in systole makes the pressure-propulsion model implausible at best. At some points the heart is about 1-2 muscle layers thick again arguing against your second point and against the pressure propulsion model. As for the changes in blood pressure this is accounted for at least partially by the hydraulic ram model which does increase the momentum of the blood as i described. The evaporation (actually transpiration) is said to account for an additional 10-20 feet of upward movement in trees not the 300 + feet of movement that actually happens in some trees.

    2. I have a concern regarding the flow of blood by these electrostatic interactions. When exercising, heart rate increases, and if thinking traditionally that the heart is the pump, “cardiac output” increases, so how is it explained that the circulatory speed of the blood increases when you exercise, or need more oxygen to the cells, with your model talked about in the podcast? I can wrap my head around most of your examples/statements on how the blood flows, but I do not understand how the cardiac output can increase if the heart is not the pump. Wouldn’t the electrostatic interactions compared to how water moves up a tree not allow for such change in flow rate? I loved this episode and being a pre-med student, I very much enjoy everything you brought to the table to expand my knowledge so that when I go through med school, I will not be so one minded. I love your homeopathic approach, and I love this podcast Ben, thanks!

      1. hi, so lets think about this for a minute, we know that the heart can’t “pump” harder so with exercise the cardiac output can only increase by increasing the rate. This can be accomplished via two mechanisms, the first is increased sympathetic nervous system activity which increases heart rate, the second by increasing venous return, ie the flow. In the pump model there is no mechanism for increasing venous flow, but in my model the more metabolism there is in the muscles, the more energy is used and crucially the more water that is generated by the cells (through oxidative phosphorylation which takes glucose and generates CO2 and water). The water goes into the capillaries and increases the venous/capillary flow which combined with increased sympathetic activity is the ONLY explanation of how the flow/output is increased during exercise – study Bernoulli’s principle if you want to learn more about this.

  24. Ben – One consideration that is missing: this doctor has provided no objective information on halting or reversing heart disease. There are MDs that have actually demonstrated this and published their findings in peer-reviewed publications, including Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. K. Lance Gould and several others.

    I’d suggest if you’re worried about heart health, go with what has truly saved lives.

    1. hi, as for studies on the effectiveness of strophanthus/ouabain go to our website humanheartcosmicheart.com and read the articles about ouabain. Also go to heartattacknew.com and read the FAQ called ouabain the wasted opportunity. The bulk of my approach is the use of traditional diets, varied natural movements, and exposure to natural sunlight, earth energy, human touch and water. These approaches have been proven for millenium to work as evidenced by the well documented complete absence on heart disease in traditional peoples, none of whom used the approaches advocated by the authors you mention. As for the evidence of the effectiveness of EECP read the book by Dr Braverman of go to pubmed for the original studies.

      1. The problem is, “traditional” diets–depending on the regino, society, etc.–varies significantly. Also, the MDs previously identified recommend “diets” that resemble those successfully practiced by groups that would be considered “Blue Zones”, aka, regions of the longest living/healthiest societies.

        I’d be interested in seeing feedback from a cardiologist such as Dr. Joel Kahn, MD, regarding this approach.

        Also, there is not a complete a complete absense of heart disease in traditional peoples. The Masi–long held up as validation of traditional diets–actually have heart disease and it is very well documented. The Eskimo suffer strokes and heart disease.

        Finally, a true traditional diet of our ancestors isn’t accessible–at least in most US grocery stores. Foods like bugs, lean rodents and rabbits, root vegetables, low-sugar berries, etc., are only found in the wild. Foods like eggs were a rare part of the traditional–pre-agricultural–human diet.

    2. I was a younger, female heart patient who wholeheartedly embraced Dr. Esselstyn’s no fat, vegan, higher carb approach to heart disease in hopes of avoiding future heart issues. I did not get the results his study participants did – instead my results after several years were decreased brain function and a totally crashed hormone system. It took years for me to pull myself from that crashed place and begin to feel good again. I am not the only person who has experienced that result. It was also very socially ostracizing for years for me to eat that way. I now eat a higher fat, plant based diet with moderate animal products and supplement appropriately including 1,000 mg of Kyolic garlic which studies at UCLA show stops, and even reverses, heart disease. My genetics and real life experience just can’t support those no fat, carbohydrate based, vegan programs. My running partner of 40 years has faithfully followed a Dean Ornish type program during that time and was recently diagnosed with a stomach tumor that is larger than her stomach. We all need to find what works best for our body without buying into all this dietary dogma we get stuck on. Our bodies are telling us what they want and need, are we listening?

  25. Really interesting show! Brings together some concepts from Pollock and Becker. It would have been really interesting to hear his thoughts regarding EMF exposure. Anyway, thanks Ben. Off for a fresh-weeds-and-greens smoothie…

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