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Last updated May 2, 2017, originally published August 20, 2010

By Louise Carr, Contributing Columnist and Susan Callahan,
Health Editor

Herbs may not just be the spice of life --- they may
save your
life, according to new research on high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a chronic disease that affects more
than 74.5 million people in the United States, according to the
American Heart Association.

But now, several new studies have discovered that the most
powerful allies in your fight against high blood pressure may
be hiding in the unlikeliest of places --- your spice rack. Yes,
herbs can help to lower your blood pressure. But what kinds
of herbs can help to lower blood pressure? How much of
these herbs should you use? And when can you expect the
blood pressure benefits to show?

Herbs - An Ancient Medicine

Herbs have been used as medicine throughout history by all
cultures and for numerous illnesses. Archaeologists,
examining remains of a Neanderthal burial site called Shanidar
IV in Iraq, have found evidence that humans used herbs
some 60,000 years B.C.

Over 5000 years B.C., the ancient Sumerians in Mesopotamia
started keeping written records of herbs and their medicinal
purposes. The Chinese began using herbal medicines in their
traditional medicine some 5000 years B.C, followed by the
ancient Egyptians 1500 years B.C, who expanded the use of
herbs and spices such as garlic. In Europe, herbs were used
extensively by the Greeks starting in 300 A.D. In America,
native Americans such as the Cherokee, Catawba and Hopi
tribes  have used herbs and teas such blue cohosh,
Partridgeberry and licorice for thousands of years to treat

Flowers, leaves, berries, roots and stems – they all go into
the herbal mix to prevent and treat health conditions like high
blood pressure. Did you know that many ancient herbal
properties have been captured so they can be used
synthetically today in large amounts? Much of the
conventional medicine you take today was developed from

The World Health Organization estimates that
4 billion people
use herbal medicine for some aspect of their primary health
care. That's 60% of everyone on the planet. Herbs are an
important part of health and wellbeing but how do they help
lower your blood pressure?

But, first things first, just what is blood pressure?

What Is Blood Pressure?

Your body needs a regular supply of oxygen flowing
throughout the body in order to survive.

The body uses pressure to transport oxygen through the
blood to the vital organs. This is your blood pressure, the
force your heart exerts as it pumps blood out of the heart
through the arteries and veins, and as it rests between beats.
Your blood pressure is measured by two readings. The top
number is the systolic blood pressure, the pressure in the
blood vessels when the heart contracts. The bottom number
diastolic blood pressure, the resting blood pressure.

How High is Too High?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is defined as 140/90
mmHg or above. Your physician will take a reading and let
you know the figures.

However, it’s not enough to take it your blood pressure
reading once. A single high blood pressure reading doesn’t
mean you have hypertension. You may be abnormally
stressed at the appointment -- the so-called "white coat
syndrome"---, or have just run to catch the bus. Your doctor
will take readings over time if there is cause for concern, or
you can monitor your own blood pressure at home.

If your blood pressure stays at 140/90mmHg or above over
time, you are at risk of damaging your arteries and putting a
strain on your heart. And when you’re travelling down this
road, you’re increasingly likely to encounter heart attack and

How Many People Have High Blood Pressure?

One in three adults, including many celebrities, has high blood
pressure. Singer Toni Braxton had dangerously high blood
pressure readings and is taking medication to control it.
Monica, R&B singer and actress, also had to bring hers down.
Talk show host Larry King suffered from hypertension for
many years and former President Bill Clinton has had a few
major heart scares, including high blood pressure.

How Do Herbs Help Your Blood Pressure?

You don’t need expensive celebrity-style solutions to lower
your own blood pressure. Herbs can help your circulation and
heart by widening and relaxing blood vessels to prevent
damage. Herbs can also help prevent clots and blockages
forming in the blood vessels.

Try the following 10 herbs to lower your blood pressure and
to benefit your heart in general:

Stevia Can Lower Blood Pressure By 10%

The herb stevia is a sweetener. It contains a substance
known as "stevioside" that is said to be 100 to 300 times
sweeter than sugar, but provides no calories. Stevia has also
been hailed as a blood pressure-buster.

Stevia is commonly used in Japanese soft drinks, chewing
gum and desserts but it hasn’t become as popular here.

A 2000 study from the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine,
Taipei Medical College and affiliated Taipei Wan Fang Hospital,
Taiwan, looked at 106 people with moderate hypertension
and found that steviosides given at a dose of 250mg, three
times daily, reduced blood pressure by around 10 percent.

Similar results were found in a later study in 2003 from the
Department of Medicine, Taipei Medical University, Taiwan.
This two-year, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 174
people with mild hypertension used double the dose and
found reduction in blood pressure of around six to seven
percent. Only 11.5 percent of the study group who had taken
stevia showed heart damage from high blood pressure,
compared with 34 percent of the placebo group.


Garlic is one of the most commonly-used herbs in our store
cupboards and is often cited as a good choice for heart-
conscious people.
Garlic helps widen blood vessels and
encourages a brisk and healthy circulation. Garlic has been
reported to lower blood pressure as well as reduce
cholesterol and prevent blood clots from forming.

Garlic makes your blood vessels relax. A 2007 study from the
University of Alabama, Birmingham, discovered that fresh
garlic, equivalent to two cloves, caused blood vessels to relax
up to 72% more strongly than a placebo. You can take garlic
as a supplement if you don’t like the distinctive taste, or the
smell. (Read more about
garlic's ability to lower blood

The active ingredient in garlic which relaxes your arteries is
called "allicin". Allicin can only be released by crushing garlic
cloves. If you are using processed garlic, either as garlic
powder, be aware that such aged garlic may have lower
amounts of allicin than fresh, crushed garlic cloves.

Achillea Wilhelmsii

The trickily-named herb "Achillea wilhelmsii C. Koch
(Asteraceae)" may not be so common in the U.S. but is widely
found in Iran. The plant is full of flavonoids and
sesquiterpene lactones, substances that have been shown to
be effective in lowering blood pressure. A 2000 study from
the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Iran, found that
60 men and women with mild hypertension who were treated
with the herb experienced significantly lower blood pressure
after two and six months on the trial.

Green Coffee Bean Extract

How about the beans in your coffee can? Studies looking at
green coffee bean extract discovered a link between the
substance and lower blood pressure.

A 2006 study from the Health Care Products Laboratories,
Kao Corporation, Tokyo, found the chlorogenic acids in water-
soluble green coffee bean extract reduced blood pressure in
spontaneously hypertensive rats and humans. The findings
were also reported in a 2006 study from the same laboratory,
which looked at the blood pressure effects on 117 male
volunteers with mild hypertension.

The effect of regular coffee on blood pressure is largely
Coffee increases your heart rate and speeds up
your metabolism.  But regular coffee is not generally believed
to have a positive effect on your heart so knocking back the
java isn’t the way to solve your high blood pressure problems.

Eclipta Alba Can Lower Blood Pressure by 15%

The Ayurvedic herb Eclipta alba (also known as Bhringraja or
Keshraja) was shown to have blood pressure-lowering
effects in one 2007 study from the Acharya NG Ranga
Agricultural University, Hyderabad, India.

The study looked at the effect of dried Eclipta alba leaf
powder on 60 mildly hypertensive men who were divided into
a control group and an Eclipta group which was given 500mg
of the herb a day. Those that took Eclipta reduced their mean
arterial blood pressure by 15 percent.


The herb hawthorn improves circulation and benefits the
heart by relaxing blood vessels and protecting them from
damage. Hawthorn is also said to help normalize blood

A 2006 study from the University of Reading, England,
investigated the effects of hawthorn for hypertension in
patients with
Type 2 diabetes who were taking prescribed
drugs. Patients taking 1200mg of hawthorn extract daily over
16 weeks showed greater reductions in blood pressure than
the control group. Hawthorn extract comes in capsule form
and is generally thought to be safe to consume over a
number of months.

Hibiscus Can Drop Blood Pressure by 11%

An extract from the hibiscus flower has played an important
role in traditional Eastern remedies and could have similar
benefits for the heart as red wine and tea. The flower is said
to contain antioxidants. Hibiscus is commonly made into a
bitter-tasting tea.

A 1999 study from the Shaheed Beheshti University of
Medical Sciences and Health Services, Iran, found sour tea
(Hibiscus sabdariffa) lowered high blood pressure. Patients
with moderate hypertension were assigned to a control and
experimental group. Those in the experimental group showed
an 11.2 percent decrease in blood pressure.


Barberry, like the herbs goldenseal and Oregon grape,
contains a chemical called berberine. Berberine has been
reported to treat high cholesterol and high blood pressure,
making it of real benefit to a healthy heart. Studies relating to
berberine may also relate to barberry but further research is
needed to decide what levels of barberry herb could be most
effective in reducing your high blood pressure.

Chinese Skullcap

Chinese skullcap, otherwise known as Scutellaria baicalensis,
is a member of the mint family and has historically been used
in traditional Chinese herbal medicine to treat a variety of
conditions including allergies, skin conditions, cancer, liver
disease and epilepsy.

A 2005 study from the Chinese University of Hong Kong
found baicalein was useful in preventing and treating
cardiovascular diseases due to its ability to scavenge for free-
radicals and protect against cell injury. Further research is
needed to check its ability to lower blood pressure but the
signs are good.

Use Herbs Instead of Salt

America is a nation of salt-lovers but the sodium in table salt
increases your blood pressure. Sodium holds excess fluid in
the body, putting a strain on the heart. The American Heart
Association says if your blood pressure is 120/80 Hg or
above, your doctor may recommend a low-salt diet or advise
you to avoid salt altogether.  

[Editor's note:

If your blood pressure is 140/90 or above and you are under
age 80, your doctor may start treatment by advising you to
make lifestyle changes ( diet and exercise) or prescribing
medications, based on current American Heart Association

Even if you are using medications, you may benefit from also
using one or more natural remedies. Certain of these natural
remedies work perfectly well as a complement to any blood
pressure medication you may be taking. Certain others act as
blood-thinners and, if you are also taking medication that
thins your blood, using these natural remedies may cause
internal hemorrhaging. The best approach is to discuss any
natural remedies you may want to use with your doctor.
Together, you can them map out a plan to phase natural
remedies and/or medications in or out, depending on your

In any case, the American Heart Association recommends
consuming less than 1,500mg of sodium a day. For a
guideline, that’s the amount in just over half a teaspoon. Here
is a list of the
salt content of common foods.

Doctors are clear that we need to cut down on salt to help
our blood pressure. But that doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor.
Add herbs and spices to your dishes instead of salt and
increase the punch while keeping your blood pressure at a
healthy level.

Try using basil for salads and soups and chives in meat
dishes. Use rosemary or
cardamon for chicken, potatoes and
stuffing. Bay leaves and paprika are good in stews, dill is
excellent for fish and parsley is tasty in cream sauces.

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Reduce Blood Pressure




















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Garlic relaxes your blood vessels. You have to crush the cloves to
release the compound that relaxes your arteries and lowers blood