The heart works in a steady pattern. Arrhythmia is a break in the pattern. The heart may beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly. It may also skip a beat. Some arrhythmias may not cause health problems. Others can cause fainting, low energy, problems breathing, and chest pain. It can also raise the risk of other problems, such as stroke.
It is treated with drugs, implanted devices to steady the rhythm, or heart surgery.
You should not treat this problem yourself. But some people may use natural therapies along with standard ones.
Unlikely to Be Effective
- Fish Oil B2, B3-B7, B9, B11, B12 when given after cardiac surgery (Note: Fish oil in high doses acts as a blood thinner. It may cause problems in some people.)
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.
Herbs and Supplements to Be Used With Caution
Talk to your doctor about all herbs or pills you are taking. Some may get in the way of your treatment or other health problems you may have. These have known safety issues:
- Caffeine excites the heart and may cause rapid heartbeat. Herbs that contain caffeine, such as guarana and cola nut, may cause the same problems. The herb ephedra also excites the heart. Do not take it if you have an arrhythmia.
- Creatine may cause heart arrhythmias, but more data is needed.
- Fish oil in high doses acts as a blood thinner. It may cause problems in some people.
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A3. Li Y, Barajas-Martinez H, et al. Comparative effectiveness of acupuncture and antiarrythmic drugs for the prevention of cardiac arrhythmias: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Front Physiol. 2017 Jun 8;8:358.
B1. Eslami M, Badkoubeh RS, Mousavi M, et al. Oral ascorbic acid in combination with beta-blockers is more effective than beta-blockers alone in the prevention of atrial fibrillation after coronary artery bypass grafting. Tex Heart Inst J. 2007;34:268-274.
B2. Jenkins DJ, Josse AR, Beyene J, et al. Fish-oil supplementation in patients with implantable cardioverter defibrillators: a meta-analysis. CMAJ. 2008;178:157-164.
B3. Nodari S, Metra M, Milesi G, et al. The role of n-3 PUFAs in preventing the arrhythmic risk in patients with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 2008 Nov 4.
B4. Saravanan P, Bridgewater B, West AL, et al. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation does not reduce risk of atrial fibrillation after coronary artery bypass surgery: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Circ Arrhythm Electrophysiol. 2010 Feb 1;3(1):46.
B5. Kowey PR, Reiffel JA, Ellenbogen KA, Naccarelli GV, Pratt CM. Efficacy and safety of prescription omega-3 fatty acids for the prevention of recurrent symptomatic atrial fibrillation: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2010;304(21):2363-2372.
B6. Liu T, Korantzopoulos P, Shehata M, Li G, Wang X, Kaul S. Prevention of atrial fibrillation with omega-3 fatty acids: a meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials. Heart. 2011;97(13):1034-1040.
B7. Nigam A, Talajic M, et al. Fish oil for the reduction of atrial fibrillation recurrence, inflammation, and oxidative stress. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014 Oct 7;64(14):1441-1448.
B8. Hu X, Yuan L, et al. Efficacy and safety of vitamin C for atrial fibrillation after cardiac surgery: a meta-analysis with trial sequential analysis of randomized controlled trials. Int J Surg. 2017 Jan;37:58-64.
B9. Weisman D, Beinart R, et al. Effect of supplemental intake of omega-3 fatty acids on arrhythmias in patients with ICD: fish oil therapy may reduce ventricular arrhythmia. J Interv Card Electrophysiol. 2017 Sept;49(3):255-261.
B10. Baker WL, Coleman CI. Meta-analysis of ascorbic acid for prevention of postoperative atrial fibrillation after cardiac surgery. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2016 Dec 15;73(24):2056-2066.
B11. Mozaffarian D, Marchioli R, Macchia A, Silletta MG, Ferrazzi P, Gardner TJ, Latini R, Libby P, Lombardi F, O'Gara PT, Page RL, Tavazzi L, Tognoni G; OPERA Investigators. Fish oil and postoperative atrial fibrillation: the Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Prevention of Post-operative Atrial Fibrillation (OPERA) randomized trial. JAMA. 2012 Nov 21;308(19):2001-11.
B12. Costanzo S, di Niro V, Di Castelnuovo A, Gianfagna F, Donati MB, de Gaetano G, Iacoviello L. Prevention of postoperative atrial fibrillation in open heart surgery patients by preoperative supplementation of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: an updated meta-analysis. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2013 Oct;146(4):906-11
Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board
Richard Glickman-Simon, MD
Last Updated: 3/2/2019