Author: Patricia Bratianu RN PhD RH-AHG
Herbs work in many different ways upon the circulatory system. In particular, they can be used to avert and reduce high blood pressure.
Hypertension is a common condition. Control of blood pressure is essential in the prevention of several illnesses, including heart failure and stroke.
Blood pressure is the result of several mechanisms. The circulatory system functions best when the heart muscle and blood vessels are strong and flexible. The linings of the heart and vessels need to be smooth; not sticky, uneven or rigid. Kidney and lung health contribute to blood pressure management. Hormonal, electrolyte and other biochemical factors play a role in blood pressure maintenance.
Four herbs used in the treatment of high blood pressure have been extensively researched. In addition, they have a long history of use in traditional medicine to aid circulation. The herbs help to reduce hypertension by various mechanisms.
Hawthorn increases circulation within the heart. It relaxes and dilates coronary arteries. This can reduce the pain of angina caused by poor oxygenation of the heart muscle. The antispasmodic effect reduces hypertension.
Triglycerides and cholesterol can build up in blood vessels. This makes them sticky or hard. The vessels become narrow and stiff resulting in increased pressure. Hawthorn reduces triglyceride and cholesterol levels, thus promoting free passage of the blood and decreased blood pressure.
Hawthorn is generally quite safe. However, is not recommended for use in conjunction with digoxin, without expert advice, as the herb and drug can interact. It can take about two weeks before the blood pressure-reducing effects of hawthorn are seen.
Dandelion is a diuretic. It reduces blood pressure by removing excess fluid from the body. Unlike diuretic drugs, dandelion does not cause a loss of potassium. It is a source of potassium which promotes healthy cellular balance. Dandelion is a safe, effective herb, and provides a rich source of nutrients for the entire body.
Olive leaf helps blood vessels relax and remain pliable. Blood flows easier through pliable vessels resulting in a lowered blood pressure.
Olive leaf also regulates blood sugar levels. Blood sugar must be kept within normal limits in order to prevent hardening of the blood vessels. High blood sugar damages capillaries. The tiny vessels in the kidneys are especially at risk of injury due to hyperglycemia. Proper kidney function is essential for heart and blood pressure health. Olive leaf benefits blood pressure control by acting on the circulation and by keeping the kidneys healthy.
Olive leaf does not interact with other medications or herbs. It is rich in antioxidants which promote general wellness.
Often thought of as an herb to improve memory, gingko has been used for thousands of years to aid circulation. The herb has properties that relieve hypertension and prevent stroke. Ginkgo increases blood flow to the heart and reduces the heart’s demand for oxygen. This can ease shortness of breath and chest pain.
Ginkgo should not be used by people who take blood thinners or if surgery is scheduled. Consult with your health care provider. Ginkgo can be used by people who are aspirin intolerant and want to take an aspirin substitute for circulatory health.
Nature has provided us with many tools to promote healthy blood pressure. Taking the herbs in combination provides a multifaceted approach to reducing blood pressure. In addition to lowering blood pressure, herbal medicine can provide healthy benefits to the whole body.