Family Herbalist: Herbs for High Blood Pressure

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High blood pressure (hypertension), which affects elderly people in particular, is one of the disorders that has almost become "epidemic" in industrial countries. Here, it seems clear that incorrect diet over the course of many years is the major causative factor. Hence, adjustment of eating habits to a whole-food natural diet with plenty of fresh, raw foodstuffs and grains can achieve a great deal.

Patients whose blood pressure is too high are generally mesmerized by their blood pressure readings. They tend to overlook the fact that hypertension is not in itself a disease. It's a symptom. First of all we understand that the raising of the blood pressure is a marvelous self-healing effort of our body, nobody, especially not the medical community, seems to understand this vital and very sensible signal of organism. If the cell walls of the capillaries have become less permeable because of atherosclerosis and thickening of the blood the blood pressure must be increased. By doing so the body strives to keep the material transfer between capillaries and tissues at the levels necessary to maintain the nutrition and function of every single cell.

Preventing or diminishing this regulatory process by reducing the blood pressure symptomatically with antihypertensives is therefore, quite a dangerous intervention. Moreover, the side effects of chemical antihypertensives range from dizziness and confusion, severe liver damage and hematological changes to recurring headaches and cramps.

When hawthorn (crataegus oxyacantha and monogynna) and garlic (allium sativum) have not been used early enough to prevent atherosclerosis, heart irregularities and high blood pressure, there is one remarkable herb that can help: mistletoe (viscum album).

According to both herbal tradition and scientific studies, mistletoe is able to reduce elevated blood pressure and remove symptoms of dizziness and the sensation of blood rushing to the head. But it won't do it overnight. It may take four to six weeks of drinking mistletoe tea until the readings clearly change for the better. Interesting to note here is that this herb is also able to elevate low blood pressure at the same time. In other words, it regulates the blood pressure back to the level it ought to be. This is a phenomenon that an artificial, chemical drug could never imitate, because, by design, its effect would be too limited to a particular reaction mechanism to guide the body back to a natural state, as herbs can.

With a second herb, known as shepherd's purse (capsella bursa-pastoris), the findings are very similar. Pharmacological investigations have revealed that it, like mistletoe, affects the nervous system to reduce blood pressure even when present only in minute quantities. Therefore for persons who need a regulatory and equilibriating medication for high blood pressure and the aging heart we recommend a tea blend of 40g hawthorn leaves and flower (hawthorn may not be available at health food stores), 30g shepherd's purse herb and 30g mistletoe herb. People with too low blood pressure again can use the same tea mixture. I belong to the latter group and the only time I ever had problems with it was when I was pregnant. My blood pressure would go even lower and the gynecologist was nervous about the embryo not getting a sufficient blood and nutrient supply. I used the above-mentioned tea mixture throughout pregnancy and the problem was handled smoothly.

Please note that both mistletoe tea and the blood pressure regulating blend are not prepared like regular herbal teas, but rather as a "cold infusion:"Add four teaspoons of herb to two cups of cold water, allow to soak overnight (about eight to 10 hours), heat to drinking temperature and consume only in the morning on an empty stomach. Some of the mistletoe's active ingredients would be destroyed if the herb is boiled or extracted with boiling water, so it is important to prepare the tea in the right way. Because of a considerable amount of tannins being extracted together with active ingredients, no more than two cups per day should be consumed.

Recommended reading:

The Family Herbal, Barbara and Peter Theiss, ND (sc) 281pp $18.95

Available at your health food store or from alive Books Box 80055 Burnaby BC V5H 3X1. Please enclose $1.50 postage and handling when ordering from alive Books.

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By Barbara Theiss

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