The market for herbal supplements are awash with claims, some of which do not stand up to scrutiny. Although increasing evidence suggests mother nature has come up with solutions to problems that plague our health, it is still important to be vigilant. This disclaimer is particularly important for people seeking ways to lower high blood pressure.
“Remember to tell your doctor about any herbal supplements you take or are thinking about taking, to find out if the supplement could raise your blood pressure or interact with blood pressure medications,” advises Mayo Clinic.
According to the health body, examples of herbal supplements that can affect your blood pressure or blood pressure medications include:
- Arnica (Arnica montana)
- Ephedra (ma-huang)
- Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius and Panax ginseng)
- Guarana (Paullinia cupana)
- Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra).
“Herbal supplements aren’t necessarily safe just because they’re natural,” it warns.
“Check with your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.”
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Mayo Clinic adds: “You may need to avoid supplements that raise your blood pressure or interfere with your blood pressure medications.”
Evidence to the contrary
It is important to note that growing evidence does support taking specific herbal remedies if you’re looking to lower your blood pressure.
“Garlic supplements have shown effectiveness in reducing blood pressure in hypertensive patients, similarly to first-line standard anti-hypertensive medications,” notes a literature review published in the Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine Journal.
The meta-analysis of 12 trials and 553 hypertensive participants confirmed that garlic supplements lower systolic blood pressure almost as effectively as standard anti-hypertensive medications.
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Systolic blood pressure is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body. It is one of the main numbers used to record blood pressure.
In fact, reduction in blood pressure in people supplementing with garlic was associated with a 16 to 40 percent reduction in the risk of suffering from cardiovascular events.
General dietary tips
It is important to not rely on a single item to lower high blood pressure, however.
High blood pressure can often be prevented or reduced by eating a healthy, balanced diet.
“Cut down on the amount of salt in your food and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables,” advises the NHS.
The Eatwell Guide highlights the different types of food that make up our diet, and shows the proportions we should eat them in to have a well-balanced and healthy diet.
According to the public health guidelines, fruit and veg should make up over a third of the food we eat each day.
It is doubly important to cut down on salt.
“Salt raises your blood pressure. The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure,” warns the NHS.
According to the health body, you should aim to eat less than 6g (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful.
“Eating a low-fat diet that includes lots of fibre, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables also helps lower blood pressure,” it adds.
“Aim to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.”