The Role of Natural Herbs in the Treatment of Hypertension

Nutra-Life Nutrition Team
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and death. Caused by a variety of genetic or lifestyle factors, hypertension sees too much pressure being applied to the walls of your blood vessels. While there are various treatments for hypertension, including medication and increased physical activity, there are also a variety of herbs and whole foods which when consumed as part of a well rounded diet, can help to reduce your blood pressure. Garlic Folk medicine has seen garlic used for centuries to lower blood pressure. Allicin, an antioxidant compound found in garlic is responsible for its cardiovascular strengthening properties and gives garlic its pungent odour. Antioxidants in themselves are great for your overall health, protecting your cells from the negative impacts of free radicals. Not only does allicin have this affect, but it also stimulates nitric oxide production, which relaxes blood vessels, lowering blood pressure. This compound has also been found to inhibit angiotensin II, which causes the contraction of blood vessels and can increase your blood pressure<1>. Celery While celery may seem like a forgettable vegetable, mostly made of water, it has been found to have amazing health benefits. Celery seed contains a compound known as NBP which relaxes the muscles of the artery walls, allowing freer blood flow and therefore, lower blood pressure. While celery juice has become a fad diet staple of late, it is ideal to eat the entire product, this way you are receiving not just the NBP but also fibre, potassium and magnesium which all contribute to your overall health and subsequently lower blood pressure<2>. Green Tea Tea is a great addition to your diet beyond its ability to reduce your blood pressure, from weight loss to glucose control, cholesterol correction and has also been found to have anti-mutagenic, anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory effects<3>. Of all the teas, green tea is the richest in health boosting compounds, specifically containing catechins, which are a flavonoid high in antioxidants. Green tea or oolong tea, has been found to reduce blood pressure when 120ml or more was consumed per day over a five year period, with regular consumption found to improve both systolic and diastolic pressure<4>. Basil It’s no wonder Mediterranean people have one of the lowest rates of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in the world<5>. The “Mediterranean Diet”, a diet characterized by a high consumption of vegetables and olive oil and moderate consumption of protein has been found to reduce hypertension and be fantastic for your overall health<6>. One delicious component of this diet is basil, which while pairing well with tomatoes and mozzarella, also contains eugenol, a compound which inhibits calcium from entering the heart muscle and blood vessels, preventing the clogging of your cardiovascular system<7>. Onion Easy to work into your diet when used as a base for sauces or soups, onions can surprisingly help to lower your blood pressure. Onions contain quercetin which fights hypertension on a variety of fronts; it is a vasodilator (relaxing your blood vessels), antiplatelet (stopping debris building up in your cardiovascular system), and antiproliferative (reducing potential tumor growth), which in turn can decrease blood pressure, boost the levels of oxygen in your blood and limit organ damage. Quercetin has also been found to inhibit angiotensin II, which relaxes blood vessels further.<8> Lavender Lavender is well known for its relaxing effects, commonly used to help induce sleep or to create a calm ambience when burnt as an essential oil. However, lavender extract also contains calcium channel blockers<9> which can slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure, relieve chest pain (angina) and help to control an irregular heartbeat<10>. Eating individual foods will not reduce your blood pressure however, taking a holistic approach and shifting your entire diet in order to improve your health can see you drastically reduce hypertension. It is recommended that you overhaul your diet to do this by ensuring you consume mostly vegetables and fruits, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts in order to give your body the macro and micronutrients it needs while limiting sodium, in order to keep your blood pressure down. Eating in this way (known as the DASH, or Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension diet) and ensuring you include these blood pressure lowering herbs and whole foods can effectively treat hypertension and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease<11>. <1> <2> <3> Effect of cocoa and tea intake on blood pressure: a meta-analysis. Taubert D, et al. Arch Intern Med. 2007. Arch Intern Med. 2007 Apr 9;167(7):626-34. <4> Xiaoliang Tong, Anne W Taylor, <...>, and Zumin Shi Tea consumption is inversely related to 5-year blood pressure change among adults in Jiangsu, China: a cross-sectional study Nutr J. 2014; 13: 98. Published online 2014 Oct 14. <5> Dontas AS, Zerefos NS, Panagiotakos DB, Vlachou C, Valis DA. Mediterranean diet and prevention of coronary heart disease in the elderly [published correction appears in Clin Interv Aging. 2008;3(2):397. Vlachou, Cleo . Clin Interv Aging. 2007;2(1):109–115. <6> Toledo E, Hu FB, Estruch R, et al. Effect of the Mediterranean diet on blood pressure in the PREDIMED trial: results from a randomized controlled trial. BMC Med. 2013;11:207. Published 2013 Sep 19. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-207 <7> Peixoto-Neves D, Leal-Cardoso JH, Jaggar JH. Eugenol dilates rat cerebral arteries by inhibiting smooth muscle cell voltage-dependent calcium channels. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2014;64(5):401–406. doi:10.1097/FJC.0000000000000131 <8> Serban MC, Sahebkar A, Zanchetti A, et al. Effects of Quercetin on Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016;5(7):e002713. Published 2016 Jul 12. doi:10.1161/JAHA.115.002713 <9> Anwar MA, Al Disi SS, Eid AH. Anti-Hypertensive Herbs and Their Mechanisms of Action: Part II. Front Pharmacol. 2016;7:50. Published 2016 Mar 8. doi:10.3389/fphar.2016.00050 <10> <11> this will need a reference, I'm assuming its ^4? :) Correct, the second half of that paragraph was attributed to source 4.