Monday, February 25, 2013

Herbs, Spices & foods to Help Lower Blood Pressure

       This evening dad asked me what I recommended for high blood pressure. Interestingly enough, today I met a naturopathic doctor who was schooling me on medicinal herbalism (he has 30+ years on me, I'll get to his level one day!). The naturopathic doctor asked me the exact same thing- what I recommend to reduce hypertension. We got into a sweet little debate. I believe in holistic, integrative approaches. Similarly to my disbelief in solely prescribing a prescription pill, I do not believe in solely recommending an herbal remedy. To me, an herbal remedy is like complimentary medicine. 

First and foremost I think it is important to understand what hyptertension is:

High blood pressure is a common condition in which the force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease. Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. (Mayo Clinic)

There is not one identifiable cause for high blood pressure but a combination of contributing factors such as stress, alcohol, smoking, excess weight, and a sedentary lifestyle (combined with age and family history). The naturopathic doctor I met today recommends an herbal remedy (and that's great)- but I would additionally recommend stress reduction/management (yoga, meditation, etc), less drinking, less smoking, and a dosage of get the fuck off your ass (go for a run/walk/bike ride).

In the words of the boss man Hippocrates, let thy food be thy medicine:

Spice up your food, spice up your health and spice up your life

In a published study featured in the Journal of Medicine, it was revealed that common spices can protect from heart disease and the deterioration brought about by aging. In the said study, researchers discovered a connection between the phenol content of certain herbs and spices and their capacity to prevent glycation and formation of AGE compounds that are responsible for premature aging and heart disease. (Natural News)

1. Garlic - Garlic contains allicin, a substance which has antibacterial, antioxidant, lipid lowering and anti-hypertension properties. In a pilot study made at Clinical Research Center of New Orleans on whether garlic could lower blood pressure, nine patients with severe hypertension were given a garlic preparation containing 1.3 % allicin. Sitting blood pressure fell with a significant decrease in diastolic blood pressure only five to 14 hours after the dose. Moreover, it was proven in a 2009 study that fresh garlic has more potent cardio-protective properties than processed garlic.

2. Cinnamon - Cinnamon not only prevents heart disease, it can also prevent diabetes. The Center for Applied Health Sciences in Ohio conducted a study of 22 subjects, half of which were given a 250mg of water soluble cinnamon daily while the other half were given placebo. It was discovered that those who drank cinnamon had a 13 to 23 percent increase in antioxidants connected with lowering blood sugar levels.

3. Onions - Onions contain quercetin, an antioxidant flavonol found to prevent heart disease and stroke. In a research study published in the Journal of Nutrition, subjects with hypertension experienced a decrease in their blood pressure by 7mmHg systolic and 5 mmHg diastolic as opposed to those who were taking placebo.

4. Olives - This herb is a significant part of the Mediterranean diet, recognized to be one of the healthiest in the world. Oil made from olives has been found to reduce blood pressure. In a study conducted on the importance of olive oil, Dr. L. Aldo Ferrara, Associate Professor at the Frederico II University of Naples in Italy discovered that the daily use of 40 grams of olive oil reduced the dosage of blood pressure medication in hypertensive patients by about 50 percent. Polyphenols in extra-virgin olive oil was credited for the significant reduction of blood pressure.

5. Oregano - This herb contains the compound carvacrol which has been proven to be effective against blood pressure. In a study conducted on animal subjects, by researchers from Eskisehir Osmangazi University in Turkey, carvacrol was found to reduce heart rate, mean arterial pressure as well as the systolic and diastolic blood pressures.

6. Hawthorn - This herb has been traditionally used to treat high blood pressure. In one study conducted in Reading, UK, 79 type-2 diabetic patients were randomized to receive 1200 mg of hawthorn extract while another group received medication for high blood pressure. Results revealed that patients taking hawthorn by the end of the 16th week showed a reduction in their mean diastolic pressure.

7. Cardamom- In one study published in the Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 20 subjects newly diagnosed with primary hypertension were administered 3 g of cardamom powder. After the end of the 3 months, all the subjects experienced feelings of well-being without any side effects. Moreover, the study was able to demonstrate that blood pressure was effectively reduced. It also improved antioxidant status while breaking down blood clots without significantly altering blood lipids and fibrinogen levels.

Taking advantage of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of spices and herbs is an excellent way to boost your body's health. Herbs have low calorie content, increase the medicinal value of your food and allow you to use natural forms of lowering blood pressure. Mix them up with your soups, salads, fish and meat and vegetable dishes. It's a healthier and cheaper alternative to keeping bottles of prescription drugs and synthetic supplements

Learn more:

Eat your way to lower blood pressure (yum)
Berries, whole-grain/high-fiber cereals, baked potatoe, halibut, spinach, bananas, soybeans, kidney beans, (foods with potassium and magnesium), spinach, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, beets, (nitrate rich foods), dark chocolate (yes I said chocolate- it's high in flavonoids..natural compounds that cause dilation of the blood vessels).

Lower that blood pressure- Experiment with spices, throw some blueberries in your cereal (get crazy!). Remember to have fun with it, life is for living. 

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