High blood pressure affects about 75 million American adults (29% of the population), and even more people will experience short-duration high blood pressure due to different health or situational times throughout their lifetime. Even if you don’t currently have high blood pressure, knowing some basic facts may help you understand and get treatment at some point in the future, or help someone you know.
To identify if you have elevated blood pressure, a basic check-up with your doctor is the best way to not only find out where you are at, but also gain an understanding of what the numbers mean. If the numbers from a blood pressure test are higher than what you’d like to see, your doctor will likely have some suggestions for you to try to adjust and control your blood pressure. It’s also important to search for the root cause of your blood pressure numbers—a focus of how naturopathic medicine functions.
Dr. Katie Stage, a licensed naturopathic doctor here at SCNM had some good information to share about the naturopathic approach to treating high blood pressure:
“There are many herbs which can lower blood pressure. My favorite is hibiscus tea which has a mild diuretic effect and contains lots of protective antioxidants. It has a pleasant, tart taste and combines well with cinnamon and peppermint. Hibiscus flowers are widely available and can be found economically in the bulk food sections of many international supermarkets. Hibiscus tea is called Jamaica in Central America, but can have lots of sugar added if purchased already prepared. Use 1 heaping teaspoon per cup of tea, and steep covered for 15 minutes.
Dandelion leaf and nettle leaves also have a diuretic effect that can help lower blood pressure. And both, although commonly considered weeds, and full of vitamins and minerals and actually excellent wild foods. Both work well as tea, and can be found in natural food stores. Dandelion leaf is also available in farmer's markets in the spring. The young leaves are much less bitter than more mature leaves. Note that dandelion *root* is used for other conditions and will not lower blood pressure. If harvesting your own nettles, use gloves to avoid skin irritation. Allowing the leaves to dry for a few minutes, or poaching in water will deactivate the irritating needles on the plant. Nettle leaves are delicious and can be make into pesto, dip, and used as any leafy green might be.
There is a study which showed that 5 celery stalks a day lowers blood pressure. This is an easy dietary change to implement. The celery can be eaten raw or juiced.”
Coming from a stress relief angle to control blood pressure naturally, Dr. Elizabeth Rice added some helpful information:
“Practicing mindfulness meditation and deep breathing are excellent tools for lowering blood pressure. A simple biofeedback technique called hand warming can increase peripheral circulation and help to lower blood pressure. All of these recommendations are eliciting the relaxation response, bringing the body out of fight or flight mode, and helping to relax the blood vessels to drop blood pressure.”
You may see blood pressure machines at your local grocery store and see numerous blood pressure cuffs being sold at stores, but they should only be used once you’ve already met with a licensed doctor and have gained a deeper understanding of your unique situation. You can use those methods to track numbers between visits with your doctor, but be aware that blood pressure stations or cuffs offered in a stores are often slightly off in their measurements. Only use those means if you are interested in getting a very general idea of your progress and if you ever see a dramatic reading using those methods, be sure to see your doctor right away to check if there really has been a change.
Remember, if you find out that your blood pressure is high, you are not alone and there are many ways you can work with your doctor to map out a plan to get those numbers to where you’d like them!