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What to Know About Herbal Supplements and Blood Pressure

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on October 19, 2022

Adding a supplement to your diet can help improve your health in many ways. If you have high or low blood pressure, there are dietary supplements you may take to help regulate it. If your blood pressure is high enough that you need medicine, you should consider taking a supplement. However, you must remember that natural supplements are not a substitute for medicine. You should always consult your doctor before beginning to take a supplement, as some may interact with certain medications.

In this article, we will look at some supplements that help regulate blood pressure, as well as some to avoid. Then we'll look at lifestyle changes you can make to control your blood pressure.

What Supplements Work Best for High Blood Pressure?

Hypertension is common in the United States. In fact, about 47% of adults in the United States have hypertension. Let's look at some natural supplements for high blood pressure.

Magnesium

Magnesium has been studied for years as one of the supplements for lowering blood pressure. A study found that over 24 weeks, magnesium supplementation decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The dose used was between 500 mg and 1000 mg a day. There are many explanations as to how magnesium works to reduce blood pressure, including the following:

  • Works as a calcium channel blocker
  • Increases prostaglandin 
  • Increases nitric oxide synthesis

Another study found that taking oral magnesium had a significant antihypertensive effect on blood pressure. Therefore, they suggest it could be used as a prevention method or as adjuvant therapy.

Beetroot juice 

Beetroot juice contains nitrates that are helpful to your blood pressure. Many studies suggest that it can lower your systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It is also high in antioxidants. The betalain pigments in beetroot protect your cells from damage and help lower inflammation, which can help keep your blood pressure in check.

Another placebo-controlled study found that people who drank beetroot juice daily experienced a reduction in systolic blood pressure.

Vitamin C 

Having a vitamin C deficiency is a risk factor for high blood pressure. The use of vitamin C for eight weeks reduced systolic blood pressure, but not diastolic. Amlodipine was given to elderly patients who had hypertension and were already on the maximum dose. The researchers added 600 mg of vitamin C and patients who were administered the medication had lower blood pressure than the control group.

Hibiscus sabdariffa

Hibiscus sabdariffa has a compound that has a diuretic effect on blood pressure. Polyphenols extracted from hibiscus have antioxidant effects and help reduce blood pressure. For example, in random controlled studies, drinking hibiscus tea or extract lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure in adults with moderate hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

Another study found that daily drinking of hibiscus tea lowered the blood pressure of adults with mild hypertension.

Olive Leaf Extract 

Olive leaf extract can help treat cardiovascular diseases. A study found that olive leaf extract taken regularly may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 9–14%. The study involved 61 people, half of whom drank 20 mL of olive leaf extract daily for 16 weeks. Those that drank the olive leaf had lower blood pressure than the control group.

A recent meta-analysis of olive leaf extract found that a 500 mg per day dosage lowered systolic blood pressure. Researchers compared a 1,000 mg daily dosage to the effectiveness of a prescription blood pressure pill.

What Supplements Work Best for Low Blood Pressure?

Low blood pressure, or hypotension, is when you are not getting enough blood to your organs. Low blood pressure is anything less than 120/80 mmHg. If you regularly experience symptoms of low blood pressure, you may want to investigate natural remedies. Some of the adverse side effects of low blood pressure include:

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness 
  • Confusion
  • Falling in and out of consciousness 

Having low blood pressure can be scary. However, there are some supplements to help ease the situation.

L- carnitine (levocarnitine)

People with renal disease often have hypotension following kidney dialysis treatments. Around 15–30% of all kidney dialysis patients develop hypotension. L-carnitine is an amino acid that your body naturally produces. You can also purchase it as an oral supplement, and it may help to bring your blood pressure back to a safer level.

A recent study on patients receiving dialysis used L-carnitine to see if it could prevent the hypotension that is associated with the procedure. L-carnitine taken for three months helped to avoid hypotension in kidney dialysis patients.

In a separate study, they divided 33 patients who were receiving dialysis. Half got a placebo, and the other half got a supplemental dose of levocarnitine before treatment. The levocarnitine group had 9.3% fewer episodes of hypotension.

Bitter orange 

Bitter orange contains synephrine. A study found that the synephrine in it can increase blood pressure and, therefore, could help people with low blood pressure.

What Supplements May Interact With Medications?

Herbal supplements can interact with various medications. For example, suppose you take medicine to treat high blood pressure or heart failure. In that case, you need to check with your doctor before you add herbal supplements. However, some interactions can be dangerous. Let's look at a few supplements that have known interactions with medications. 

St. John's wort 

St. John's wort may help with symptoms of depression. However, St. John's wort may interact with, or lower the effectiveness of, various different drugs such as:

  • Warfarin
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Statins 
  • Antidepressants 
  • Birth control pills
  • Cyclosporine
  • Blood thinners

Gingko Biloba

Because of its positive vascular activity, taking Ginkgo Biloba may improve blood flow and circulation. However, taking Gingko Biloba may increase your risk of bleeding if you take aspirin or Warfarin.

Licorice

Licorice interacts with Warfarin and digoxin. It can also interact negatively with ACE inhibitors.

Arnica

Arnica may potentiate the effects of anticoagulants such as Warfarin. It also may interact negatively with antiplatelet agents.

What Supplements To Avoid if You Have High Blood Pressure

Some herbal supplements negatively affect your blood pressure and can raise it. One study found that the following supplements may increase blood pressure:

  • Arnica
  • Ephedra
  • Gingko 
  • Ginseng
  • Guarana
  • Licorice
  • Senna
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Yohimbine
  • Bitter Orange 
  • Dong Quia

People with heart disease should not overeat licorice because it can cause serious problems that could kill them. Studies have also shown that it significantly raises blood pressure, lowers potassium levels, and raises sodium levels in the bloodstream when taken in larger amounts.

What Lifestyle Changes Should I Make? 

Lifestyle changes help maintain healthy blood pressure. The DASH eating plan is one way to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. The "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension" (DASH) diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, and low-fat dairy products.

Additional lifestyle modifications include:

  • Regular physical exercise 
  • Limit salt intake
  • Lose weight
  • No smoking and limit alcohol use
  • Get a restful night of sleep
  • Reduce your stress

Show Sources

SOURCES:
British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology: “Nutraceuticals with a clinically detectable blood pressure-lowering effect: a review of available randomized clinical trials and their meta-analyses.” 
CDC.gov: “Facts About Hypertension.”
Cleveland Clinic: “St. John’s Wort.”
European journal of nutrition: “Impact of phenolic-rich olive leaf extract on blood pressure, plasma lipids and inflammatory markers: a randomised controlled trial.”  
Fitoterapia: “Hibiscus sabdariffa L. in the treatment of hypertension and hyperlipidemia: a comprehensive review of animal and human studies.” 
Foods: “Bioactive Candy: Effects of Licorice on the Cardiovascular System.” 
Hypertension: “Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Blood Pressure.”
Mayo Clinic: “Herbal supplements and heart medicines do not mix.”
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “Arnica.”
NIH: “Lifestyle Changes Can Lower Blood Pressure.”
Nutrients: “The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease.”  
Peer J: “Olive leaf extract effect on cardiometabolic profile among adults with prehypertension and hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis.”  
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: “Herbal Products That May Contribute to Hypertension."
PloS one vol. 17: “The effect of levocarnitine supplementation on dialysis-related hypotension: A systematic review, meta-analysis, and trial sequential analysis.” 
The Annals of pharmacotherapy vol. 40: “Blood pressure and heart rate effects following a single dose of bitter orange.”
The Cochrane database of systematic review: “Ginkgo biloba for intermittent claudication.” 
The Journal of nutrition: “Hibiscus sabdariffa L. tea (tisane) lowers blood pressure in prehypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults.”  
Therapeutic apheresis and dialysis: “Levocarnitine Decreases Intradialytic Hypotension Episodes: A Randomized Controlled Trial.”

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