(BlackDoctor.org) — Yes, high blood pressure is common among African Americans, but there are a few treatments out there that are not so common. Research shows that some relaxation techniques, herbs and supplements can work when used with conventional treatments to lower high blood pressure.
Recent studies have shown that alternative therapies can reduce blood pressure slightly, by 3 to 6 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). It’s not huge, which means if you’re on medication you want to stay on it, but many alternative therapies to lower blood pressure are safe and may do some good.
Stress Reduction and Breathing Techniques
Many people find their blood pressure rises when they experience emotional stress. Therefore, managing stress can help you keep your blood pressure in check and may even reduce it. Some stress-reduction techniques that have been effective for lowering high blood pressure include:
• Qigong—A combination of deep breathing and movement that promotes relaxation.
• Tai chi—A popular method of relaxation and fitness, tai chi uses gentle, flowing exercises and stretching movements.
• Yoga—Many different forms of yoga exist, but all strive to improve circulation and flexibility and can enhance one’s overall sense of well-being through breathing and stretching exercises. The results can benefit the cardiovascular system because it increases fitness, strength and flexibility. The practice of yoga also is a great relaxation therapy.
• Slow breathing—If you slow your breathing down, concentrating on taking long, slow, deep breaths for about 15 minutes every day for one to three months, it could lower your blood pressure.
A number of herbal therapies have been examined to see if they can help reduce hypertension. Some, such as garlic, have been studied extensively while larger studies still need to be done on other herbs.
Three herbal remedies that could help lower blood pressure are:
• Hawthorne (crataegus, various species) and hibiscus (hibiscus sabdariffa). The best way to take either of these is to make a cup of tea by adding 1 teaspoon of dried leaves to boiling water. Drink at least two cups a day.
• Garlic (allium sativum). Studies have shown that eating a clove a day can help lower blood pressure. You can cook with it or take it as a supplement.
Some small studies have suggested that the following supplements may lower high blood pressure:
• Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10 is a substance naturally found in the body that is now available in supplement form. A recent study showed that people with mild hypertension saw a significant drop in their pressure after taking CoQ10.
• Omega-3 fatty acids are commonly found in salmon, mackerel and sardines. Fish oil supplements are often used to help lower high cholesterol.
Of three recent studies on the effect of acupuncture on hypertension, two showed that acupuncture may lower blood pressure. More research is needed to explore the use of acupuncture for hypertension, but it does not appear to be harmful. If you are interested in trying acupuncture to help control your blood pressure, be sure to see a licensed acupuncture practitioner.
The best natural approach to controlling blood pressure is to minimize stress and take good care of yourself. Eat a well-balanced, low-salt diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Also, get enough rest and regular exercise, and maintain a healthy weight. If you do decide to try any complementary treatments for your high blood pressure, talk to your doctor first. Keep in mind that even therapies marked “natural” can have serious side effects.