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Complementary and Alternative Treatments for High Blood Pressure

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Herbal Therapies for High Blood Pressure

The efficacy and safety of herbal therapies, such as Rauwolfia serpentina (snakeroot), Stephania tetrandra (tetrandrine), Panax notoginseng (ginseng), and Crataegus species (hawthorn) for treating high blood pressure have not been extensively studied. Because of potential health risks associated with these herbs, it is imperative that you inform your doctor if you plan to use or are already using them. This is even more important if these herbs are used in combination with high blood pressure drugs. Some herbs, such as licorice, ephedra (Ma Huang), and yohimbine (from the bark of a West African tree) should not be used by people with hypertension, because they can increase blood pressure.

Supplements to Lower Blood Pressure

Some supplements have been evaluated as blood pressure-lowering options, including:

  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): People with mild high blood pressure who were taking CoQ10 experienced a significant drop in their blood pressure without appreciable side effects. In addition, CoQ10 appears to reduce blood pressure by a different mechanism than major antihypertensive drugs.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Some studies report that EPA and DHA may reduce blood pressure in people with mild hypertension. However, other studies have had conflicting results. Current evidence suggests that modest reductions of blood pressure may occur with significantly higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Amino acids: It has been suggested that the diet supplement L-arginine may lower blood pressure; however, the few studies conducted to date were small and not well-controlled, and suggest that L-arginine may lower blood pressure for only a short period of time. Another amino acid, L-taurine, may also have blood pressure-lowering qualities.

Talk to your doctor before starting any medication, including these supplements, which may be available without a prescription. The risks and benefits of every medicine (including over-the-counter drugs) must be carefully weighed on an individual basis.

Acupuncture for High Blood Pressure

Extensive research on the effectiveness of acupuncture for lowering blood pressure has been reported, but many studies have considerable weaknesses. More rigorously controlled research is needed to determine the value of acupuncture as a treatment for hypertension. At this time, there is no evidence that acupuncture reliably lowers high blood pressure.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klodas, MD, FACC on May 07, 2012
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