Herbs and botanicals have the potential to play a beneficial role in the global hypertension crisis. In this article, I introduce you to plant-based therapies, including many using plants that can be grown in your own home and have clinical evidence demonstrating their effectiveness in lowering blood pressure.
Nature is the most fantastic pharmacy; it is the source of countless plants with potent healing properties, the knowledge of which has been passed down over thousands of years and has been demonstrated more recently to be effective in clinical settings.
With the growing prevalence of chronic diseases and high healthcare costs worldwide, interest in natural therapies has gained renewed traction (1). One of the most concerning health issues is hypertension, or high blood pressure (2).
High blood pressure is a significant cause of premature death, as it is linked to numerous chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and diabetes (3). In fact, the worldwide prevalence of hypertension exceeds 1.3 billion people (4). Of those people, only one in five adults has their hypertension under control (2).
Note: If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or are currently taking blood pressure medication, you must discuss and plan with your healthcare team before modifying your therapy, including the addition of herbs and botanical supplements.
An Introduction to Plant-Based Therapies
Nature can be a seemingly miraculous healer. The abundance of plants that thrive in the natural environment has offered therapies for some of the most pervasive health problems humans face.
While plant-based therapies are seen as “alternative medicine,” they are actually the first type of medicine used by humans (5). Long before the development of pharmaceuticals, people from all corners of the world shared and utilized their knowledge about plants to prevent and treat a wide variety of ailments.
In the 20th century, when laboratory-derived pharmaceuticals gained traction in the West because of their effectiveness for quickly improving symptoms in the short term, western medical professionals often dismissed knowledge about natural, plant-based therapies (5). However, non-western medical systems, like Mayan medicine, Ayurveda, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), continued to utilize them as their primary practices.
Today, Western medicine is beginning to come full circle with practices like functional and holistic medicine that recognize the effectiveness and validity of plant-based therapies to relieve symptoms and prevent and treat health problems. Thousands of articles are published yearly demonstrating their effectiveness for a range of common conditions, from infections to chronic diseases.
Modern western scientists have classified natural plant therapies into two primary categories: herbs and botanicals (7). Botanicals are plants or parts of plants that have been used for medicinal purposes throughout history. Herbs are a subgroup of botanicals, including plants with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for food, perfume, or medicine. This article focuses on herbs and botanicals used for medicinal or therapeutic purposes that may also have other uses.
5 Household Herbs Scientifically Demonstrated to Lower Blood Pressure
Basil is a flavorful herb commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine. Its many varieties that grow worldwide have made basil a well-known herb, not only for its flavor but also for its health properties.
Basil is high in an antioxidant component called eugenol (8). Research shows that this component may reduce blood pressure by naturally blocking calcium channels, allowing the blood vessels to relax (9).
Laboratory studies have demonstrated that sweet basil extracts may help relax blood vessels and prevent platelet clumping, thereby reducing blood pressure (10, 11)
Parsley is a potent herb that grows in various environments and is commonly used in North American, Central American, European, and Middle Eastern cuisine.
It contains multiple antioxidant compounds, including vitamin C and carotenoids, linked to blood pressure reduction (12).
Parsley is high in carotenoid antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components. These compounds not only have the potential to reduce blood pressure, but they may also help to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol (12, 13).
Lab research on rats has shown the positive impact of regular parsley intake in lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Similar to basil, its components are likely to act as a calcium channel blocker, helping blood vessels relax (13).
In addition to being a flavorful addition to savory dishes, garlic has known positive effects on heart health.
Garlic is rich in sulfur compounds, such as allicin, that help to improve coronary perfusion pressure, which is a measure of how well blood flows through the coronary arteries (14).
A review of studies that included over 550 participants with hypertension found that taking a garlic supplement had a similar effect on blood pressure reduction as blood pressure medications (15).
Cinnamon is a favorite holiday spice and accompanies sweet and savory dishes wonderfully. Many people are unaware that it contains potent antioxidant compounds, and cinnamon supplementation has been shown to significantly reduce blood pressure when taken daily over several weeks (16).
The blood pressure-reducing effects are likely due to the presence of the antioxidant cinnamaldehyde. The same compound may also be responsible for helping to regulate blood sugar in studies with animals deficient in insulin (17).
Thyme is an aromatic herb that is a balcony garden favorite; it grows with very little soil and in varied conditions.
Thyme contains rosmarinic acid, which has notable potential to prevent and treat high blood pressure. Rosmarinic acid is an anti-inflammatory antioxidant that has been shown in animal studies to help normalize blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and promote glucose control (18, 19, 20).
Main Takeaway For Utilizing Herbs To Lower Blood Pressure
Hypertension is a common, problematic health condition that often goes unnoticed. When someone has been diagnosed with high blood pressure, integrating herbs and botanicals with blood-pressure-lowering effects into their regular self-care routine may be effective. At the same time, note that eating these herbs in foods and as teas is very different from consuming them as extracts and supplements, which are typically much more potent than their culinary use.
Additionally, consuming herbs and botanicals is only one part of caring for yourself when you have high blood pressure. Getting regular check-ups, eating a diet rich in fiber and antioxidants and low in sodium, maintaining regular physical activity, losing extra weight, managing other health conditions, and learning to manage stress are all essential measures for managing high blood pressure.
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