Lowering High Blood Pressure

Image: Glow Gathering

Image: Glow Gathering

High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is a common occurrence today and it is likely that you or someone you know has been diagnosed with this disease. Normal blood pressure is classified as lower than 120/80 (systolic/diastolic).

There are three different stages of high blood pressure:

  1. Prehypertension: 120-139/80-89

  2. Stage 1: 140-159/90-99

  3. Stage 2: 160 or higher/100

The underlying cause may be due to dietary, lifestyle, psychological, and environmental factors, with genetics playing a minimal role. Any factors that impact the degree of blood vessel constriction and fluid volume can be considered a cause.

Holistic Approach

High blood pressure is often associated with many life-threatening risks, though a holistic approach that includes stress management, regular exercise, lifestyle adjustments, and the correction of blood sugar and elevated cholesterol in the blood can offer incredible results. With a commitment to consistent nourishment and self-care (including relaxation therapies), blood pressure is often significantly reduced and eventually re-regulates.


Although it is not necessary to cut out all animal products, there is a positive correlation between vegetarians and lower blood pressure. Although the amount of sodium consumed by both vegetarians and non-vegetarians may be the same, vegetarian diets typically contain more potassium, which helps to balance the sodium: potassium ratio which is key for blood pressure management. Compared to the Standard American Diet, plant-based eating is typically higher in complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and oils, fiber, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C.

Consuming more fruits and vegetables increases dietary antioxidants, which have the ability to repair damaged and clogged arteries. Consider consuming more of the following foods: celery, garlic and onions, and healthy oils from nuts and seeds. Green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of calcium and magnesium which help to relax and tone the blood vessels and arteries. Foods rich in flavonoids include berries, cherries, and grapes. Bananas and avocados are great sources of potassium and should be consumed several times a week. Other foods such as broccoli and citrus fruits are full of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant.

*Be mindful to not consume grapefruit with certain medications, as it disrupts the liver’s ability to detoxify medications and potentially make them ineffective (always read the label for medications).  

Celery contains the compound 3-n-butylphthalide, which has been found to lower blood pressure by 12 to 14%, as well as cholesterol by 7%.  Consuming 4 to 6 ribs of celery several times a week can result in tremendous cardiovascular health improvements.

Garlic Within just one to three months, the consumption of raw garlic can reduce blood pressure by 11 mm Hg, both systolic and diastolic readings.

Consuming garlic supplements containing 7.8 to 11.7 mg of allicin, or 1.8 to 2.7 grams of fresh garlic daily can produce these benefits.  Try eating 1 to 4 cloves of raw garlic every day, either as an addition in a spread like guacamole or hummus or in a salad dressing. To be effective, the garlic must be chopped finely and consumed within 15-20 minutes. *note that those with IBS will not tolerate this option well.

Healthy fats and oils, when consumed in moderation, can have many health benefits, including making the blood more fluid. Consume wild-caught cold-water fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines). Ensure that all fish products are organic and not contaminated by heavy metals, which can potentially further contribute to high blood pressure.  

In addition, nuts and seeds have many beneficial oils including hemp seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.  Eating a handful of nuts a day makes a great snack and can help in lowering blood pressure. Alternatively, sprinkle a few nuts or seeds on a salad or blend them up into a smoothie.  

Avoid excessive salt consumption, without adequate potassium intake.  Also avoid foods that damage the arteries such as refined carbohydrates, sugar, excess alcohol, excess caffeine, and wheat.

Supportive Supplements

CoQ10 A deficiency in CoQ10 has been reported in more than 1/3 of individuals with high blood pressure.  In addition, CoQ10 is depleted by many blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering medications like statin drugs.  Coenzyme Q10 is an essential component of the mitochondria, is a powerful antioxidant and tends to decrease with age.  It has been shown to reduce systolic pressure by 11 - 17 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 8 to 10 mm Hg. Many patients who have reported taking CoQ10 have reduced their need for antihypertensive medication within just 4 to 5 months.  Consider taking 100mg twice daily as a therapeutic dose.

Antioxidants have the capacity to repair damaged arteries, ultimately reducing the amount of plaque build-up and reducing pressure on arterial walls.  Vitamins A, C, and E, as well as the minerals zinc and selenium, have many healing effects on the cardiovascular system.

Potassium - Contrary to the conventional theory, salt, a mineral required by the body, is not usually the cause of high blood pressure. Potassium relaxes arterial walls which can lower blood pressure. To maintain normal blood pressure levels, potassium intake should be higher than salt intake. You can get enough potassium from foods such as bananas, baked potato with skin, and avocados. You can also supplement with 2,500 mg/day.

Magnesium - Low potassium levels are often found where there are also low magnesium levels. This is because magnesium interacts with potassium in the body. Consider taking 600 mg/day twice daily in the bisglycinate form.

Omega-3 fatty acids help to lower inflammation in the arteries which can contribute to high blood pressure. Take a high-quality fish oil supplement such as Krill Oil. Recommended dosage is 1,000 mg/day.

Helpful Herbs

Ginger is comprised of volatile oils such as shogaols and gingerols. These compounds work in the body as an anti-inflammatory agent and have the potential to thin the blood. It can help to improve the blood circulation in the body, relax the muscles, and work directly with calcium channel blockers which relax the blood vessels. This calcium channel blocker mechanism works similarly to blood pressure medications.

Turmeric has an active ingredient called curcumin. Like ginger, it acts as an anti-inflammatory and is a powerful antioxidant. It also can affect the calcium channel blocker mechanism, which is how it can also be used to lower high blood pressure.

Ginger and turmeric are available as a whole fresh root, in dried powder form, supplement, or extract form. For a small benefit consume the whole fresh ginger/turmeric root or dried powder as a tea (chop up about 1 tbsp of the fresh root, or ½ tsp - 1 tsp of the powder, and mix it with hot water). If taking in supplement form, take 2,000mg per day in divided doses with food for ginger, and 400-600 mg 3 times a day for turmeric. You can also often find both in tincture form.

Hawthorn - The berries and flowering tops are used as a cardiovascular tonic. Take 100 - 250 mg 3 x daily. Tincture or capsule form.

Olive Leaf Extract - The active ingredients oleuropein, oleacein and oleanolic acid found in olive leaf extract have the effect of lower blood pressure. Take 500 mg twice daily.

Hibiscus - Hibiscus tea and extracts have antihypertensive effects. Take 3 240-ml servings of brewed hibiscus tea per day, or 10 - 20 mg of hibiscus extract per day.

Garlic - Amongst the many beneficial properties of garlic is its ability to help lower blood pressure. Consume fresh garlic daily or take 1,000 mg/day of garlic extract (allicin).

Supportive Lifestyle

Lifestyle factors that contribute to high blood pressure include stress, a lack of exercise and smoking. People who are also sensitive to salt intake tend to be more likely to suffer from the disorder. In addition, individuals that are exposed to heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic are at a significantly higher risk. This is due to their impact on the kidneys, which are responsible for clearing toxins, such as heavy metals from our circulatory system. If these metals begin to concentrate in the kidneys, their normal functioning is disrupted and ability to regulate the body’s fluid volume is compromised. The result is retention of sodium and water in the blood.

Exercise- The more fit a person is, the less likely they are to have high blood pressure.  Exercise can be used to not only prevent high blood pressure, but also to treat it.  Studies have shown that with the addition of a regular exercise routine, blood pressure can be reduced 5 - 10 mm Hg for both the systolic and diastolic readings, and this can be achieved by doing mild to moderate aerobic exercise for at least 20 minutes 3 x per week.

It is important to find the right type of exercise that works for you and your body type.  Activities such as walking at a fast-pace, jogging, biking, yoga and dancing are ideal. The key is to exercise regularly. A minimum of 3 days per week should be considered to reduce blood pressure.

Stress reduction- Deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation are all techniques that have been shown to be beneficial in reducing stress.

Diaphragmatic breathing techniques, involving regular, short sessions of slow breaths is very beneficial.  Studies have shown that the opposite act, shallow breathing, leads to retention of sodium in the body. Diaphragmatic breathing can be practiced daily for 5-10 minutes before bed or first thing in the morning.   It is also a great technique to use in immediate stressful situations.

Yoga - The most beneficial forms of yoga for high blood pressure include restorative yoga classes, hatha yoga, yin yoga and any forms of yoga that are more gentle & fluid vs. intense. Certain postures have tremendous benefits in opening up coronary arteries and reducing diseases such as atherosclerosis, and high blood pressure. Regular practice of Fish Pose (Matsyasana) will protect the body from conditions of the heart, including narrowing of the coronary arteries, coronary thrombosis, and pulmonary hypertension.