9 NATURAL REMEDIES FOR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
By Cathy Wong, ND
According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, and many aren’t aware of it. Normal blood pressure is considered to be under 120/80 mm Hg, and high blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart conditions and if it’s uncontrolled, it can damage your body and lead to complications.
If you’re interested in natural solutions for better blood pressure, there’s some evidence that certain remedies may be helpful.
(It’s important to note that supplements shouldn’t be used as a substitute for standard care.) Here’s a look at nine ways to use natural remedies for high blood pressure:
Garlic may help to lower blood pressure, according to recent research. A review of nine previously published trials, for instance, found that systolic blood pressure (the top number in a reading) and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a reading) were reduced more effectively by treatment with an aged garlic extract than a placebo.
Some research suggests that compounds in garlic extract, such as S-allyl cysteine, may improve elasticity in arteries and relax muscle cells in blood vessels, possibly by stimulating the production of hydrogen sulfide and increasing nitric oxide production (a molecule that can help to widen blood vessels and lower blood pressure) in blood vessels.
Garlic extract may cause digestive upset and other side effects, and it can interact with medications, so it’s important to talk with your doctor if you’re considering taking it.
- Fish Oil and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Oily fish like salmon and sardines are high in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DHA), omega-3 fatty acids that play a role in blood pressure. In a report published in the American Journal of Hypertension, for example, researchers analysed 70 previously published trials and found that the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids for four to 26 weeks reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure very slightly.
Although many studies have used high doses of omega-3 fatty acids, a preliminary study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2016 explored smaller amounts of EPA and DHA (typical of what could be achieved through dietary intake) and found that daily doses showed reductions in systolic blood pressure. Further research is needed.
Flavanols, a type of antioxidant found in cocoa and dark chocolate, may help with high blood pressure. Some research suggests that cocoa flavanols may increase the formation of nitric oxide in blood vessels, resulting in the dilation of the blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
A report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews analyzed previously published clinical trials on chocolate and cocoa products and blood pressure in healthy adults and found that consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa products for two to 18 weeks resulted in a small (2 mm Hg) reduction in blood pressure. The blood-pressure-reducing effect appeared to be greater in those with prehypertension.
Hibiscus tea, also known as sour tea, is a tea made from the leaves of the Hibiscus sabdariffa plant. An analysis of five previously published trials found that hibiscus was associated with a significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
While there have been few reported side effects, hibiscus tea may lower blood sugar levels, and side effects could include digestive upset, excessive or painful urination, headache, ringing in the ears, or shakiness. Hibiscus contains minerals such as iron and copper, so excessive amounts should be avoided.
- Beet Juice
Sipping beet juice may help to lower high blood pressure, according to recent research. Beets contain inorganic nitrates, components that increase nitric oxide.
A review of trials on beetroot juice for high blood pressure found that daily beetroot consumption was associated with a reduction in systolic blood pressure.
Magnesium, a mineral found in leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, whole grains, avocados, bananas, and other foods, may modestly lower blood pressure, particularly in people with magnesium deficiency. In a report published in Hypertension, for instance, researchers analysed previously published clinical trials and found a small association between magnesium intake and lower blood pressure.
Specifically, people taking a median of 368mg of magnesium a day (an amount that can be obtained through diet) for an average of three months had reductions in systolic blood pressure of 2 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure of 1.78 mm Hg.
Ensuring that you’re getting enough magnesium in your diet is your best bet, but if you’re considering taking a supplement, be sure to consult your healthcare provider. High doses in supplement form may trigger diarrhea and other side effects.
- Diet and Low Sodium Intake
Sticking to a balanced diet that’s low in sodium but loaded with antioxidant-rich plant foods can lower your blood pressure. With an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean protein, nuts, and legumes, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, red meat, and sugar and is considered to be a key dietary approach to keeping your heart healthy.
In a report published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the DASH diet combined with low-salt intake for 12 weeks significantly lowered systolic blood pressure in people with prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension. Those with higher systolic blood pressure readings (150 or greater) had an average reduction of 21 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure on the low sodium/DASH diet compared to a high-sodium diet.
When selecting fruits and vegetables, choose potassium-rich fruits and vegetables, which help to balance out the effects of salt. Top sources include bananas, beets, sweet potatoes, tomato sauce (without added salt), watermelon, potatoes, beans, orange juice, and spinach. (If you have kidney disease or are taking certain blood pressure medications, avoid large increases in your potassium intake and check with your healthcare provider.)
If you’re overweight, losing weight can help to reduce your blood pressure. A review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that weight loss diets followed for six months to three years reduced body weight and lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 4.5 mm Hg and 3.2 mm Hg, respectively.
Consumption of green tea or black tea for four to 24 weeks was associated with a reduction in blood pressure, according to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Although both types of tea had a mild effect on blood pressure, the effect of green tea was slightly greater (possibly due to the higher antioxidant content).
Mind-body therapies such as yoga and meditation may help to reduce your stress and lower blood pressure. In a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, for instance, researchers analyzed studies on meditation and yoga and found that both practices appeared to reduce blood pressure.
Another study found that qi gong lowered blood pressure in adults with hypertension, but found no differences between meditation and other mind-body practices on systolic blood pressure.
Most mind-body therapies involve breathing deeply, inhaling, and allowing the belly to expand and fill with air, and then exhaling and releasing the air.
A Word From Very well
When it comes to controlling your blood pressure, some remedies have been found to have a very small (but still clinically significant) effect on blood pressure. They are likely not enough to bring high blood pressure down to a normal reading on its own. They are best used as part of a comprehensive approach that combines exercise, a balanced diet, lifestyle modifications, and any treatments that your doctor recommends for you.
There are many ways you can change up your routine to better manage your blood pressure. If you’re considering making changes to your regimen or taking a supplement, be sure to speak with your doctor first to be sure it’s the right approach for you.
Juraschek SP, Miller ER 3rd, Weaver CM, Appel LJ. Effects of Sodium Reduction and the DASH Diet in Relation to Baseline Blood Pressure. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017 Dec 12;70(23):2841-2848.
Kass L, Weekes J, Carpenter L. Effect of Magnesium Supplementation on Blood Pressure: A Meta-Analysis. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012;66(4):411-418.Miller PE, Van Elswyk M, Alexander DD. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid and blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Hypertens. 2014 Jul;27(7):885-96.
Ried K, Fakler P, Stocks NP. Effect of cocoa on blood pressure. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Apr 25;4: CD008893.
Rohner A, Ried K, Sobenin IA, Bucher HC, Nordmann AJ. A systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of garlic preparations on blood pressure in individuals with hypertension. Am J Hypertens. 2015 Mar;28(3):414-23.
Zhang X, Li Y, Del Gobbo LC, et al. Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Blood Pressure: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trials. Hypertension. 2016 Aug;68(2):324-33.
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