Conventional medicine relies on the use of drugs to treat high blood pressure. While certain medications can relieve symptoms of high blood pressure, they do not address its underlying causes, and can also result in potentially dangerous side effects. By contrast, practitioners of natural healing methods are usually able to prevent and reverse high blood pressure safely by dealing directly with the cause, while avoiding any negative side effects. What follows are overviews of some of the primary therapies used to achieve their results.
Aromatherapy: The essential oils lavender, marjoram, and ylang ylang, applied topically can help soothe away stress related to high blood pressure.
Ayurvedic Medicine: Ayurvedic physicians devise treatment plans for high blood pressure based on their patients` metabolic type or dosha. There are three primary doshas: vatta, pitta, and kapha. Pitta and kapha body types are most prone to high blood pressure due to their genetic traits and lifestyle. Ayurvedic treatment generally involves dietary changes, along with various Ayurvedic herbs and yoga breathing exercises.
Typically, the diet prescribed by Ayurvedic physicians emphasizes lots of fresh vegetables, whole grains, and small amounts of fish and/or poultry, with patients advised to minimize their intake of salt and to avoid fatty foods, milk and dairy products, and all commercial food products.
Among the most commonly prescribed Ayurvedic herbs are ashwagandha, which promotes calm and relieves stress; coral added to rose water, which acts as a heart tonic and is a good source of the minerals calcium and magnesium, both of which are usually deficient in people with high blood pressure; rauwolfia and its extract, reserpine, which help to directly regulate blood pressure levels; and sankhapuspi, which helps to relieve emotions such as anger and anxiety and reduces bad (LDL) cholesterol while increasing good (HDL) cholesterol, thus enhancing circulation.
Note: Rauwolfia and reserpine, should only be used under the supervision of a trained Ayurvedic physician or herbalist because, if used indiscriminately, they can cause biochemical and neurological imbalances, as well as depression. In addition, patients suffering from these conditions should not use these particular herbs.
Yogic breathing exercises are advised because of their ability to both improve overall cardiovascular health and to promote relaxation. A simple yogic breathing exercise that you can use for this purpose is alternate nostril breathing. To perform this exercise, close your right nostril with your thumb or finger while you inhale and exhale through your left nostril. As you complete your exhalation, close your left nostril and repeat the process through your right nostril. Continue breathing through alternating nostrils for 10 to 15 minutes and repeat the exercise two or three times a day. In many cases, blood pressure levels can drop significantly after only ten minutes of performing this exercise, and continue to drop until they become stabilized at healthier levels so long as the exercise continues to be performed on a daily basis.
Detoxification Therapy: Detoxifying your body periodically is an excellent way to keep your blood pressure levels in balance. During the process of detoxification, your body becomes better able to eliminate stored toxins, including heavy metals, from your cells, tissues, and organs, helping to reduce high blood pressure.
Eating a light diet of fresh organic foods, drinking pure filtered water and organic, fresh-squeezed juice throughout the day, is an easy way to help your body detoxify. For added benefit, add fresh squeezed lemon juice and a dash of cayenne pepper to the water you drink, and take hot baths or saunas each day. Caution: If your condition is serious, do not attempt saunas without medical supervision.
Among the many benefits from such a detoxification regimen are the improvements that occur in the liver function and the lymphatic system, both of which can make a significant positive difference in blood pressure levels. To further cleanse your lymphatic system, spend ten minutes each day scrubbing your body with a dry brush and jump on a rebounder (mini-trampoline) for five to ten minutes twice a day.
Other detoxification methods that can help improve high blood pressure include colon cleansing, colonics, enemas, juice fasts, and dry, far-infrared saunas.
Diet: Adopting a healthy diet is perhaps the most important step you can take to prevent and reverse high blood pressure. Ideally, your diet should consist of 20-25 percent protein, 30 percent healthy fats, and 45 to 50 percent carbohydrates. Fish such as blue fish, cod, Greenland halibut, mackerel, and wild caught salmon are excellent sources of both protein and healthy fats. Avoid farm-raised salmon, because of the antibiotics and food dyes they contain; tuna, which is high in mercury; and shellfish, which contain a high degree of contaminants. Your intake of red meat should also be minimized, and if eating red meat, bison or lamb are preferred. Choose free range, organic poultry, preferably turkey. Keep portions small, between 4-8 oz. Excellent vegetarian options include tempeh, tofu, eggs, and soaked and cooked or soaked, sprouted and steamed beans or legumes.
Also include lots of organic, fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as non-wheat complex carbohydrates, and drink plenty of pure, filtered water throughout the day. For additional benefit, also include garlic and onions and use raw virgin coconut butter/oil or extra virgin olive oil for all of your cooking needs. For salads, olive and flaxseed oils are recommended. Raw, unpasteurized dairy products in moderation are acceptable. During the cooler months a good breakfast choice is organic oatmeal, which has been shown to reduce cholesterol, blood pressure levels and to reduce the overall risk of heart disease. Optionally, cream of brown rice cereal or quinoa flakes make a delicious warm breakfast cereal. In the summer months consider smoothies, fresh fruit salad or unsweetened granola and fruit.
Excellent choices for fruits and vegetables are organic avocados, bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew melons, grapefruit, nectarines, oranges, asparagus, broccoli, brown rice, cabbage, cauliflower, green peas, kidney and lima beans, leafy green vegetables, nuts such as almonds, cashews, walnuts and pecans, potatoes, squash, and yams. Wheat germ, ground flax seed and oat bran can also be used to ensure adequate levels of fiber in your diet.
In addition, avoid all sugars and simple, refined carbohydrates, as well as alcohol and coffee and other caffeine products, and minimize your salt intake, using sea salt instead of commercial or refined table salt for seasoning.
Herbal Medicine: The following herbs can all help prevent and reverse high blood pressure and its associated symptoms: garlic, hawthorn berry, olive leaf extract, and the medicinal mushrooms maitake and reishi.
Garlic - Over 2,000 medical studies have validated the many health properties of garlic. Research has shown that eating a clove of raw garlic once a day can not only lower blood pressure levels, but also reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, both of which are associated with heart disease. Garlic has also been shown to reduce fats in the bloodstream and to help minimize the risk of blood platelet adhesion and harmful blood clots. For people who wish to avoid the odor associated with eating raw garlic, garlic extracts can be used instead, or you can roast the garlic cloves before eating them.
Hawthorn Berry - Hawthorn berry has a long history among European and Asian herbalists as a natural remedy for heart problems. Research has shown that hawthorn berry improves overall cardiovascular function while also reducing high blood pressure. It also acts as a safe and natural sedative, helping to soothe symptoms of stress. Among the benefits afforded by hawthorn berry are reducing and stabilizing elevated blood pressure levels caused by physical activity, enhancing the heart muscles ability to contract, increasing the rate of blood flowing into the heart during exertion, and lowering overall heart rate. Hawthorn berry is available in capsules, tea, or as an infusion.
Olive Leaf Extract - In addition to being a potent immune booster, olive leaf extract has been shown by researchers to be capable of significantly reducing high blood pressure levels, as well as increasing blood flow to the heart.
Maitake and Reishi Mushrooms - Both maitake and reishi mushrooms act as overall tonics for the body and are capable of significantly strengthening the heart while simultaneously lowering blood pressure levels.
Hydrotherapy: Hydrotherapy is the application of water, ice, steam and hot and cold temperatures to maintain and restore health. Treatments include full body immersion, steam baths, saunas, sitz baths, colonic irrigation and the application of hot and/or cold compresses. Hydrotherapy is effective for treating a wide range of conditions and can easily be used in the home as part of a self-care program. Many Naturopathic Physicians, Physical Therapists and Day Spas use Hydrotherapy as part of treatment. We suggest several at-home hydrotherapy treatments. Please seek the advice of your alternative health care practitioner before undergoing these procedures to make sure they are appropriate for you.
*Purified water is essential for any hydrotherapy treatment. Remedies for Treating Chlorinated Bath Water, offers clear instructions and recommendations.
Juice Therapy: The following juice combinations can help prevent and reverse high blood pressure because of the vitamins and minerals they contain: beet, carrot, and celery; and carrot or cucumber, spinach, and parsley. To enhance results, add a clove of garlic to your juices.
Lifestyle Changes: The primary lifestyle change required by many people with high blood pressure is to shift from a sedentary lifestyle to one that is more active and that provides regular exercise at least three times a week. Two excellent exercise choices that are safe and enjoyable are brisk walking and swimming. Other options include hiking, bicycling, jogging, or exercising on a rebounder (mini-trampoline). Research has shown that all such activities can lower blood pressure because of the aerobic (oxygenating) benefits they provide.
Note: If you are not use to exercising, do not begin an exercise program without first consulting with your physician.
Other lifestyle changes that can benefit your overall health and reduce high blood pressure include avoiding or minimizing alcohol intake and, if necessary, quitting smoking and losing excess weight.
Nutritional Supplements: The following nutritional supplements can all help to prevent and reverse high blood pressure: vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6, vitamin C, bioflavonoids (especially rutin), vitamin E, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), evening primrose oil, fish oil, calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and zinc. The amino acids cysteine, taurine, and tryptophan can also be helpful.
Note: Dosages of vitamin E above 400 IU/day are not recommended for people who suffer from high blood pressure, rheumatic heart disease, or ischemic heart disease. For best results, start with a low dose (100 IU) and gradually increase to 400 IU while having your condition monitored by a physician.
Stress Management: Learning how to reduce and properly manage stress is essential for anyone who is suffering from high blood pressure. Holistic health practitioners help their patients accomplish this through the use of various mind/body medicine techniques, such as biofeedback, hypnotherapy, and relaxation exercises.
Meditation is another form of stress management that can be highly effective in reducing high blood pressure levels. So much so, in fact, that since 1984 it has been recommended by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over conventional blood pressure medications for cases of mild high blood pressure.
There are many ways to meditate. One of the easiest is simply to sit comfortably in a chair with your eyes closed and begin to focus on your breathing. Do this for five to ten minutes twice a day and gradually extend each session to 20 to 30 minutes. To enhance your efforts, concentrate on mentally repeating a peaceful phrase each time that you inhale and exhale, allowing all other thoughts to arise and pass without becoming involved in them. At first, this may seem difficult, but with committed practice you will eventually find yourself able to meditate while experiencing greater degrees of calm and peace.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM): According to practitioners of TCM, high blood pressure is caused by blockages in the flow of vital energy (Qi) as it moves through the body`s energy centers (meridians). Therefore, practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine focus on bringing the flow of Qi back into balance. They do this through the use of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and diet, and by instructing their patients in the practice of meditation, Qigong, and Tai Chi.
Alternative Professional Care
The following therapies can also help to prevent and reverse high blood pressure: Acupuncture, Bodywork (acupressure, Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais Method, massage therapy, reflexology, Rolfing, ****su, Therapeutic Touch),Chelation Therapy, Detoxification Therapy, Energy Medicine, Environmental Medicine, Hypnotherapy, Magnet Therapy, Orthomolecular Medicine, and Yoga. (See Glossary for descriptions of these Alternative Therapies.)
Quick Action Plan for High Blood Pressure
Make any necessary lifestyle changes. If you are overweight, commit to a weight loss plan. If you smoke, stop, and avoid all sources of secondhand smoke. Also exercise at least thirty minutes a day at least three to four times a week. Safe and effective exercise choices include brisk walking, bicycling, hiking, rebounding, and swimming. Additionally try a restorative yoga class, tai chi or chi gong; all can provide great stress relief and can be pleasurable ways to add movement to your life.
Adopt a healthy diet. In place of red meats, choose fish such as blue fish, cod, Greenland halibut, mackerel, and wild caught salmon, as well as free-range, organic poultry. If you want red meat choose bison, for a low fat option.
Emphasize fresh, organic fruits and vegetables that are rich in vital nutrients, such as avocados, bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew melons, grapefruit, nectarines, oranges, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, green peas, kidney and lima beans, leafy green vegetables, nuts such as almonds, cashews, walnuts and pecans, potatoes, squash, and yams, raw dairy, and whole grains like brown rice, buckwheat and quinoa.
Use raw virgin coconut butter or organic butter for cooking, and flaxseed and extra virgin olive oil for dressings.
Avoid alcohol, coffee, caffeine, and refined salt.
Supplement with vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6, vitamin C, bioflavonoids (especially rutin), vitamin E, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), evening primrose oil, fish oil, calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and zinc, as well as the amino acids cysteine, taurine, and tryptophan.
Useful herbs for high blood pressure include garlic, hawthorn berry, olive leaf extract, and the medicinal mushrooms maitake and reishi.
Drink at least one 8-ounce glass of fresh squeezed, organic vegetable juice each day. Excellent juice combinations include beet, carrot, and celery; and carrot or cucumber, spinach, and parsley. For added benefit, add one clove of juiced garlic.
Adopt a stress management program of daily meditation and/or relaxation exercises.
Detoxify your body to eliminate toxins and heavy metals that can dramatically increase the risk of high blood pressure.