Hypertension or high blood pressure is a health condition that leads to atherosclerosis or the narrowing of the arteries. Hypertension also increases a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke. While modern medicine prescribes conventional treatments for hypertension in the form of anti-hypertensive drugs, research suggests that natural remedies which could reduce blood pressure can be found in foods.
In a study published in the Journal of Hypertension, researchers from La Trobe University in Australia reviewed randomized controlled trials investigating the effects of herbs and spices on blood pressure. They found that these natural ingredients can effectively lower the blood pressure of hypertensive and pre-hypertensive patients without affecting the blood pressure of healthy ones. This makes herbs and spices wonderful alternatives to anti-hypertensive agents which cannot discriminate between normal and abnormal blood pressure.
High blood pressure, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, affects one billion people worldwide. Studies suggest that some herbs and spices offer cardiovascular benefits, such as decreasing blood pressure. However, the results of these studies are inconsistent.
The Australian researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of these natural medicines on the blood pressure of normotensive (normal blood pressure), pre-hypertensive and hypertensive participants. They searched several databases for studies that matched their criteria.
The researchers found a total of nine articles to use for their meta-analysis. Three of the nine studies reported statistically significant results. One of those three involved hypertensive participants, while the other two involved pre-hypertensive participants. Only one study involved normotensive participants. It reported no changes in their blood pressure after treatment.
The results of those three studies suggested that certain herbs and spices can selectively reduce the blood pressure of people who have high blood pressure or are pre-hypertensive. They, however, exert no influence on people with normal blood pressure.
Herbs and spices that can lower blood pressure
According to a study published in Pharmacognosy Review, about 80 percent of the world’s population rely on herbal medicines for primary health care because the human body can tolerate them much better than conventional medicines, which also cause many unpleasant side effects. Due to the increasing number of people who use them, scientists have devoted a lot of effort and resources into understanding their hypotensive and anti-hypertensive abilities.
Here are 10 herbs and spices whose blood pressure-lowering properties have been proven by science.
- Basil — Fresh basil is a popular herb that goes well with many foods. According to animal studies, basil contains a compound called eugenol which can inhibit molecules that constrict blood vessels. This inhibitory action helps lower blood pressure.
- Cinnamon — A commonly used seasoning, cinnamon extracts could reduce high blood pressure in animal models of hypertension.
- Cardamom — This popular Indian spice from the ginger family offers plenty of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and improving a person’s antioxidant status.
- Flaxseed — Although neither an herb nor a spice, flaxseed is often mixed with various herbs to make delightful seasonings. A recent study also reveals that it is rich in phytonutrients like a-linolenic acid, lignans and fiber, all of which have a positive influence on blood pressure.
- Garlic — Powerful and with plenty of health benefits, garlic helps increase the levels of nitric oxide, a compound that causes blood vessels to relax and dilate. This, in turn, reduces blood pressure.
- Ginger — Animal studies reveal that eating ginger helps relax the muscles that surround blood vessels. It also improves blood circulation, thus helping to regulate blood pressure.
- Hawthorn — While not a spice, hawthorn is a well-known herbal remedy for conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. Besides lowering blood pressure, hawthorn extracts can also reduce blood cholesterol levels and prevent atherosclerosis.
- Celery seed — Commonly used to add flavor to dishes, celery seeds are believed to contain compounds that have blood pressure-lowering properties.
- French lavender — Besides having a relaxing aroma, animal studies also suggest that lavender can reduce heart rate and blood pressure.
- Cat’s claw — A traditional Chinese medicine used to treat hypertension, cat’s claw helps reduce blood pressure by acting on calcium ion channels, which are involved in the contraction of the heart.
Today, various medicinal herbs are not only used for culinary purposes, they are also made into health supplements. While some herbs cause little to no side effects, some can interfere with certain medications. For your safety, always seek professional advice before using herbal remedies or supplements.