Supplements & Natural Herbs for High Blood Pressure
While there are a variety drugs available to lower your blood pressure, mild cases of hypertension (stage 1 hypertension – 140 to 159 systolic, or 90 to 99 diastolic) and prehypertension may benefit from a combination of lifestyle modifications and supplements.
While the efficacy of the following supplements have been supported by the results of some placebo-controlled studies, as always, it is imperative that you consult with your doctor before starting to take these supplements. This is more so the case if you are already on medication for high blood pressure. Some supplements such as glucosamine sulfate (usually taken for joint health) can worsen your hypertension.
Other Effective Supplements
- Calcium & magnesium – For some people, supplementation with calcium and magnesium has shown modest improvements in blood pressure. Class of people who may benefit include: those who are salt sensitive, pregnant women, and those of African decent. Magnesium deficiency is thought to raise blood pressure.
- Potassium - Potassium is an electrolyte (a substance that maintains your body's fluid levels), this mineral helps regulate blood pressure and heart function. Research shows that increasing your potassium intake can lower your blood pressure. Those individuals with existing hypertension, as well as those just looking to keep their blood pressure in check, can benefit from potassium.
- Psyllium Seed Husk Extract - Soluble fiber from foods such as psyllium seed husk extract, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish oils and flaxseed) – In addition to the overall health benefits of omega-2 fatty acids, current evidence also suggests that modest reductions in high blood pressure may occur with high doses of omega-3 fatty acids (particularly EPA and DHA).
- CoQ10 (CoEnzyme Q10) – CoQ10 is a natural substance produced by your body that helps speed up vital metabolic process. It is thought that up to a third of patients with hypertension have a deficiency in this substance. Several studies have shown that patients supplementing with CoQ10 were able to discontinue 1 to 3 of their hypertension medications. CoQ10 appears to reduce high blood pressure via a mechanism that is different than major antihypertensive drugs.
- Certain amino acids (L-arginine, L-taurine) – Several small studies have shown that these two amino acids may lower blood pressure for a short period of time. L-arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide, a gas that relaxes blood vessels and lower blood pressure. L-taurine is thought to lower blood pressure by controlling the ratio of sodium to potassium in your bloodstream. It may also help regulate the autonomous nervous system activity that can controls your blood pressure.
- Garlic – there have been a few studies that suggest garlic supplementation may lower blood pressure anywhere from 5-10%. Garlic can thin the blood (as does vitamin E and ginko).
- Vitamin C – It is thought that this antioxidant lower high blood pressure by enlarging blood vessels. One theory is that free radical damage impairs the dilation ability of blood vessels. Vitamin C helps correct this damage.
- Hawthron (Crataegus species) – Hawthorn may widen arteries by interfering with the action of angiotensin converting enzymes (ACE) in a similar fashion to ACE inhibitor drugs. Hawthorn may also interfere with enzymes that weaken the heart and thus help strengthen the heart’s pumping action.
- Snakeroot ( Rauwolfia serpentine)
- Tetrandrine (Stephania tetrandra)
- Ginseng (Panax notoginseng)
What is complementary and alternative medicine?
Some people use complementary and alternative medicine ( CAM) to treat their high blood pressure. Complementary and alternative medicine ( CAM) is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine.
Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine. Alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. Conventional medicine is medicine as practiced by holders of M.D. (medical doctor) or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy) degrees and by their allied health professionals, such as physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses. Other terms for conventional medicine include allopathy; Western, mainstream, orthodox, and regular medicine; and biomedicine. Some conventional medical practitioners are also practitioners of CAM.
There are a variety of complementary and alternative medicine approaches that are believed to be effective in lowering blood pressure. In addition to lifestyle modification changes, it is believed that regular practice of relaxation techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi, or Qigong should become integral components of a healthy lifestyle aimed at treating hypertension.
Studies suggest that ancient relaxation techniques such as Qigong, yoga, Tai Chi, and meditation can help people with mild hypertension lower their blood pressure. Patients practicing these arts daily for 2-3 months experienced significant decreases in blood pressure and stress hormones, and were generally less anxious.
Recent studies also suggest that simple deep breathing exercises (daily 15 minutes sessions) brought about a substantial reduction in blood pressure. While these findings need to be validated with a larger study, the lower risks coupled with the anecdotal evidence suggest that this and other relaxation techniques are an ideal first step in managing your hypertension. As always, consult with your doctor first before you embark on any physical activity programs.