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It's important to note that supplements and other alternative medicines should not be used as a substitute for standard care in treating high blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure may damage organs in the body and increase your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and vision loss.
Here are some natural remedies commonly used to help treat high blood pressure.
Garlic According to a number of human studies, garlic may lower blood pressure, particularly systolic blood pressure. The reduction is typically small, at less than 10 percent. The active constituents in garlic are thought to be the sulfur-containing compounds including allicin. This may act on the body’s nitric oxide system to relax the arteries and lower systolic blood pressure. Studies on the use of garlic in people with high blood pressure have used 600 to 2400 milligrams of garlic powder or aged garlic extract in single or divided doses, taken for up to 12 weeks. Garlic is not safe for use with many common medications and conditions. It's important to talk to your doctor before using it.
Fish Oil and Omega-3 Fatty Acids Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that are found in fish and some plant foods. The available research in humans suggests that they may help lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. The omega-3 fatty acid DHA may have greater benefits than eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Studies have generally found that the reduction in blood pressure has been small. In order to achieve clinically relevant effects, higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids may be needed. However, this can also cause an increased risk of bleeding in susceptible people. This includes those with bleeding disorders or if you take medications such as Coumadin (warfarin), aspirin, or ginkgo. Further research is needed. Studies have generally used 2 to 4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily for up to one year.
Hibiscus Hibiscus tea (from the plant Hibiscus sabdariffa) has been associated with reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Two studies comparing hibiscus extract to angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (captopril or lisinopril) also showed reductions for hibiscus tea groups. However, the effects were generally less than those of the ACE-inhibitor groups. Additional high-quality studies are needed to confirm these findings. Caution is advised when taking hibiscus as side effects, including diuresis (an excess of urine), may occur. The manganese, iron, and copper content may exceed recommended limits at high intakes.
Chocolate and Cocoa Extract Several studies in humans have found that eating dark chocolate, chocolate, or cocoa products enriched with flavanols may slightly lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure or those who are prehypertensive. Further research is needed because not all human studies have found an effect. Chocolate may affect the nitric oxide system resulting in vasodilation and lower blood pressure. It also may inhibit the angiotensin-converting enzyme. One thing to keep in mind is that chocolate also contains caffeine and sugar, among other ingredients. Large amounts of caffeine (greater than 400 milligrams a day) can increase blood pressure and the sugar content may affect blood sugar levels.
Magnesium The results are mixed on whether the mineral magnesium may help lower blood pressure. A number of studies suggest a small but still significant reduction in blood pressure. Magnesium may be of particular benefit to people with high blood pressure who are also deficient in magnesium. Intravenous magnesium sulfate is commonly administered for preeclampsia and eclampsia in pregnancy. Further research is needed.
Vitamin D Found naturally in fish, eggs, fortified milk, and cod liver oil and produced naturally during exposure to the sun, low levels of vitamin D may have a role in developing high blood pressure. Studies note that blood pressure is often elevated when there is reduced exposure to sunlight or vitamin D.
Green Coffee Extract Green coffee refers to raw coffee beans (from the Coffea fruits) that have not been roasted. Some studies have found that chlorogenic acid, a component in green coffee extract, may lower blood pressure. Chlorogenic acid is also present in roasted coffee, but roasted coffee consumption has been found to increase blood pressure in some studies. Some researchers suggest that the different effects of roasted and green coffee on blood pressure may be due to a compound called hydroxyhydroquinone. This is formed during the roasting process and may block the beneficial effects of chlorogenic acid on blood pressure. Ferulic acid, a metabolite of 5-caffeoylquinic acid, may also be responsible for the hypotensive effects of green coffee extract. Further research is needed particularly with respect to the side effects and drug interactions. For instance, one study found that high doses of chlorogenic acid (2 grams daily) raised plasma homocysteine levels (a cardiovascular risk factor) whereas a lower dose did not. Green coffee extract is also said to promote weight loss, which may help some people with high blood pressure.
Diet and Weight Loss Being overweight puts increased pressure on artery walls. If you're overweight, a weight loss diet to bring it into a healthy range may help reduce your blood pressure. In addition to a diet that emphasizes whole, fresh fruits and vegetables and lean protein, juicing vegetables may help increase your intake of vegetables. Vegetable juice, particularly from green leafy vegetables, can increase folic acid, a B vitamin that may help lower high blood pressure in some people. It's possible that this happens by reducing elevated homocysteine levels. Dark leafy greens are also high in potassium.
Tea and Reducing Caffeine Intake Caffeine intake can result in a temporary but marked increase in blood pressure. It does this to a greater degree in people with high blood pressure compared to those with normal blood pressure. An alternative to high caffeine beverages is green tea. Green tea catechins have been found in some studies to reduce blood pressure.
Reduced Sodium Intake Too much sodium may lead to fluid retention which can raise blood pressure, especially in people who are sensitive to sodium. It is estimated that 60 percent of people with essential hypertension may decrease their blood pressure to some degree by reducing their sodium intake. Low potassium can raise sodium in cells because sodium and potassium balance each other. For this reason, it's just as important to get enough potassium as it is to reduce sodium.
Alcohol in Moderation Some studies suggest that moderate alcohol intake, particularly red wine, is linked with increasing levels of HDL and a slight reduction in blood pressure. However, excessive consumption may raise triglyceride levels and increase blood pressure.
Mind-Body Interventions Mind-body interventions, particularly yoga, meditation, qigong, autogenic training, and biofeedback have been found to modestly lower high blood pressure. These may be helpful as part of a treatment plan. An ancient system of relaxation, exercise, and healing with origins in Indian philosophy, yoga is often practiced to improve the well-being of the mind and body. It is also recommended for medical conditions, with the strongest evidence supporting its use as a treatment for high blood pressure. The regular practice of meditation may also help to reduce stress and lower blood pressure. A form of traditional Chinese medicine, qigong may benefit people with high blood pressure. Some preliminary studies suggest that high blood pressure in pregnancy may be partially controlled with internal qigong. This self-guided technique involves meditation, gentle movement, and sound. Autogenic training is a technique used for stress reduction and relaxation. It involves a series of sessions in which people learn how to control breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. Biofeedback is a technique in which people learn how to gain control over internal body processes that normally occur involuntarily. This includes blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and skin temperature. Of the different types of biofeedback, thermal feedback (which measures skin temperature) and electrodermal activity feedback (which uses a probe that responds to sweat) may be more effective than direct blood pressure feedback or electromyography (EMG), which measures muscle tension. Physical inactivity may raise the risk of high blood pressure by 30 percent. Regular exercise can lower blood pressure and improve your heart health. At least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day is typically recommended.
Traditional Chinese Medicine In traditional Chinese medicine, high blood pressure is often attributed to a problem with the circulation of vital energy (qi) in the body. Chinese medicine practitioners believe that depression, anger, obesity, and high intake of fatty foods are some of the causative factors. A combination of acupuncture and herbs is often recommended. Foods thought to have medicinal properties that may help high blood pressure include water chestnut, turnip, honey, Chinese celery, hawthorn berries, and mung beans.
A Word From Verywell: When it comes to controlling your blood pressure with natural remedies, there are many options available. However, as we've seen in many of these, there are precautions that you should take and the effects may not be dramatic. Because you may be using other treatments and medications, it is imperative that you speak with your doctor before taking any supplements. And yet, practicing some sort of stress relief, such as yoga or meditation, is something you can begin right away.
Sources: American Heart Association. High Blood Pressure: Statistical Fact Sheet. 2013.
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