About 75 million American adults have high blood pressure, or hypertension – that’s 1 in 3 adults.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. When the blood pressure remains high over an extended period of time, it is considered hypertension. See here to learn about blood pressure levels categories.
Having chronically high blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard in the long run and contributes to the hardening of arteries. When left untreated, it is likely to damage every one of your organs. So don’t ignore it and check your blood pressure regularly as part of a physical examination. You can also purchase a home blood pressure monitor(or sphygmomanometer).
Many factors are thought to cause hypertension, such as sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise, poor diet, excess intake of salt, alcohol, tobacco, coffee, vitamin D deficiency, stress and anxiety, chronic lack of sleep, insomnia, vascular health, insulin resistance. Hypertension could also result from another preexisting condition, such as hyperthyroidism, overproduction of cortisol hormone (Cushing’s syndrome), kidney disease, metabolic disorder, pre-eclampsia during pregnancy and certain prescription drugs.
In other words, you could be having high blood pressure for a host of different reasons, which should all be treated in their appropriate way.
Here are some natural tips to lower your blood pressure:
In order to determine the optimal approach to lower your blood pressure, it is best to figure out if there are any underlying causes or factors for it.
In most cases, making lifestyle adjustments is the safest and most impactful way to regulate your blood pressure, such as:
- Diet:the quality of what we ingest will impact the quality and vitality of our digestive system and the rest of our organs. Therefore, it is best to increase whole foods, grains, roots, green vegetables (rich in dietary fibers), linolenic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium – the Mediterranean diet is the perfect example.
- Decrease dietary sodium, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and tobacco consumption, which in excess weaken the entire cardiovascular system.
- Exercise: the benefits of exercise have been largely proven and widely covered.
- Reducing stress: With our fast paced lifestyles, it is important to take a minute to slow down. Regular practices of meditation or yoga are ideal. Or even finding a fulfilling hobby such as painting, writing a herbalism blog or joining a kickball league helps breaking from anxiety. I have also found that lemon balm is a very gentle and helpful herb to relieve anxiety and enliven the mood.
- Get adequate amount of sleep: Whether you are experiencing trouble falling asleep, insomnia or you burn the candle at both ends, try to make it a regular habit to dedicate enough time to sleep. Maybe try a strong chamomile infusion or tincture, or passionflower (I find it rather radical).
In addition, adverse pharmaceutical drugs side effects call attention to the benefits of more natural alternatives which are better tolerated by the body. Some herbs can be effective to lower blood pressure over a period of a couple of months, and stabilize it at a healthy level. In other words, herbs help us bring into balance what is out of balance.
Some of my favorite herbs to help balancing blood pressure include:
Hawthorn is the heart tonic of choice, the jack of all trades for your heart: it normalizes blood pressure, tones and strengthens the heart and vascular system, improves circulation, lowers cholesterol and helps soften deposits and remove blood cloths. Rich in antioxidants, it protects the heart muscle, reduces inflammation in the blood vessels and strengthens connective tissues. It also has a diuretic action (helping drain excess fluids). Hawthorn can be used preventively to maintain cardiovascular health and a normal blood pressure. Or it can also be used for more serious cardiovascular issues, such as recovering from a heart attack, hypertension, etc. Beyond its physical action on the heart, Hawthorn’s benefits can be felt on the emotional health as well, during times of grief or to heal a broken heart. It helps us feel calmer, more open and uplifted, and is also really helpful to soothe anxiety. Although pretty subtle, this herb is very effective. And while it can take some time for it to fully take effect (give it a few weeks), its action is permanent and curative. It is most commonly taken in tincture or teas or even in jams. This gentle, yet effective herb is usually safe enough to be combined with other medication. However consult your healthcare professional in case of doubt.
Motherwort is also an excellent heart tonic, working to strengthen the heart without straining it. It supports the elasticity of the vasculature, and helps keep the vessels clean and clear of debris. Relaxant to the nervous system, motherwort is helpful to alleviate all heart conditions that are marked by stress, anxiety or tension, such as heart palpitations, tachycardia or high blood pressure. As a bitter tonic, motherwort supports the liver and gallbladder in production and secretion of bile, which is critical in the digestion and absorption of fats and oils, and lowering cholesterol levels. Its cooling properties work to reduce inflammation and oxidation within the blood vessels. Motherwort is generally safe for long-term use, however check with your healthcare professional beforehand particularly if you take blood pressure lowering medications. Motherwort is quite bitter so it is most commonly taken as a tincture (a few tincture drops are easier to ingest than a whole cup of very bitter tea).
Garlic isn’t just to keep the vampires at bay! It has also been shown to lower blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol (the bad one), and soften up hardened arteries. All that thanks to its key constituent, Allicin. To get enough allicin to lower your blood pressure you would have to eat 1 to 4 cloves of fresh garlic a day. Now, bear in mind that raw fresh garlic contains the most medicinal properties, so keep it simple in a salad (and stay clear of the odorless supplements – if it can’t repeal a vampire, it won’t help lower your blood pressure!).
Saving the best for last! The cacao bean contains flavanols, antioxidant bioactive constituents, which have been shown to dilate and improve the elasticity of the blood vessels, thin out blood and lower blood pressure. Cocoa is also rich in calcium and magnesium, also contributing to lowering blood pressure. For highest cocoa flavanol content, it is best to take it as the raw cocoa powder or as a dark chocolate bar (milk chocolate and other cacao derivatives mostly include sugar and not enough flavanols). A small bar of dark chocolate (40g) or 100g of cocoa powder daily is recommended to observe a positive impact on the heart health.
Drinking Hibiscus tea (2 cups per day) has been proven in recent studies to lower high blood pressure in people affected with high blood pressure. The effects may be noticeable after just two weeks; but to maintain positive result one has to keep using it. In addition to lowering blood pressure, Hibiscus tea is said to help lower LDL cholesterol (blood fat) levels, promote weight loss and is packed with antioxidants. In my experience, Hibiscus tea is also radical to help fight urinary tract infections. Hibiscus is usually well tolerated; however it is best to consult your healthcare professional before starting Hibiscus treatment. The safety of Hibiscus has not been evaluated in children and pregnant or lactating women.