Herbal Helpers for High Blood Pressure

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Herbal Helpers for High Blood Pressure

High blood or pressure hypertension, is generally defined as a blood pressure greater than 140/90. The first number, the systolic pressure, is the force that the blood exerts on the artery walls when the heart is pumping. The second number, the diastolic pressure, is the residual force that remains when the heart relaxes between beats. Any blood pressure above 120/80 however, will raise your risk for heart attack and stroke.

High blood pressure or hypertension, affects about 50 million Americans. This creates a $2.5 billion-a-year market for pharmaceutical companies, so don't expect them to encourage other methods of control such as diet and lifestyle. The first step if you have high blood pressure should be to take a close look at your diet and reduce the fat and sugar. Then look at your lifestyle and make sure you have a good exercise program. You should also be taking a good quality supplement program daily. Now that we have all these basics covered, let's look at plants and herbs that can also help.

Garlic is one of our wonder herbs. Its actions throughout the body are numerous. A good deal of evidence shows that garlic has beneficial effects on mild hypertension and high cholesterol.( 1, 2, 3) It also seems to have antimicrobial and immunostimulating properties. It also prevents excess platelet aggregation and adhesion. Use garlic in cooking as well as using standardized preparations that guarantee exact dosing and minimize the problem of the strong odor of raw garlic.

Hawthorn berries (Crataegus laevigata) can widen blood vessels, especially the coronary arteries, and have been used as a heart tonic for centuries. They act in a normalizing way upon the heart by either stimulating or depressing its activity depending upon the need. The berries which are collected in the fall can be made into an infusion (2 teaspoons of berries per cup of boiling water) or a tincture.( 4)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) lowers blood pressure due to a dilation of the peripheral vessels. It is also known as a urinary antiseptic and is used in infections such as cystitis. All aerial parts (shoot, flowers and leaves) are used, and should be collected when the plant is in flower, between early summer and early fall. Make an infusion by pouring a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoons of dried herb. It can also be made into a tincture.( 4)

Lime blossom or Linden (Tilia x vulgaris) has long been associated with the treatment of raised blood pressure. The flowers should be collected immediately after flowering in mid-summer and dried carefully. An infusion of one cup of boiling water to 1 teaspoon of dried blossoms can be used or a tincture can be made.( 4)

Mistletoe (Viscum alba) acts directly on the vagus nerve helping to reduce heart rate and strengthen the wall of peripheral capillaries. The young leafy twigs should be collected in spring and dried. Do not use the berries. An infusion can be made by pouring one cup of boiling water on 1-2 teaspoons of dried herb. A tincture can also be made.( 4) Combining all three of these herbs -- Hawthorn berries, Lime blossom and mistletoe into an infusion is an excellent preventative measure for anyone with a stressful lifestyle, or with a family history of high blood pressure.

The vegetables celery, tomato, broccoli and carrots contain phytochemicals which arc involved in lowering blood pressure. Including these four vegetables in salads or soups everyday is a very good idea for anyone with hypertension.( 5)

If you are taking your daily supplement you should be getting sufficient magnesium in your diet. But magnesium deficiency is strongly implicated in high blood pressure. Leafy green vegetables and string beans are high in magnesium and should become part of your daily diet.

If you have high blood pressure make sure to consult your health care professional, and never change your medication or adopt any of the above measures, without first asking your health care professional.

REFERENCES
(1.) Resch KL, Ernst E. Garlic (Allium sativum) - a potent medicinal plant, Fortschr Med, 1995;113:311-315.

(2.) Pedraza-Chaverri J, et al. Garlic prevents hypertension induced by chronic inhibition of nitric oxide synthesis. Life Sci, 1998;62:71-77.

(3.) Brandle M, et al. Prolongation of life span in hypertensive rats by dietary interventions. Effects of garlic and linseed oil. Basic Res Cardiol, 1997;92:223-232.

(4.) Hoffmann, D. The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal. Rockport MA: Element Books Inc, 1996.

(5.) Duke, JA. The Green Pharmacy. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1997.

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