Proof for Herbal Hypertension Therapy?
Answered by: Susan Eagles
Question from: Robert Leavitt
Posted on: May 11, 1998

I am interested in any information on controlled studies examining the anti-hypertensive qualities of herbal therapy. I have been searching for approximately 3 months and have found little in the way of non-anecdotal evidence.

There are some clinical studies showing the effectiveness of herbal therapy in hypertension, but you would have to look under the different categories of the therapy. Herbal therapy is a holistic practise that assesses the whole patient, and treatment may include recommendations for changes in lifestyle, diet and stress management. Herbal treatment varies depending on factors particular to the patient. The philosophy behind the treatment is that the human body can usually heal itself, given support for the particular areas that are evident in the problem, and correcting the factors that are causing an imbalance. Research for orthodox drugs is usually funded by pharmaceutical companies who expect to make a profit from the drugs they market. Herbal therapy may not provide that profit.

High blood pressure is usually caused by a narrowing of the arteries due to clogging with fatty deposits that are a result of a diet high in fat and low in fibre, stress and/or too little exercise.

Classes of orthodox drugs used in hypertension and their actions are:

* ACE inhibitors (angiotensin creating enzyme) - reduces resistance in arteries; strengthens heartbeat

* Calcium Channel Blockers - reduces work heart must perform; reduces normal artery pressure; increases oxygen to heart muscle

* Beta Blockers - blocks certain actions of sympathetic nervous system; lowers heart’s oxygen requirements; slows nerve impulses through the heart; reduces blood vessel contraction in heart and other body parts

* Diuretics, loop - increases elimination of sodium, potassium & water from the body. Decreased fluid retention lowers blood pressure other types of diuretic drugs conserve potassium

* Aspirin - used to prevent blood clots in prevention of heart attack & stroke

Herbal treatment, working on correcting the problem rather than just lowering the blood pressure, may include, as well as diet, exercise and stress management recommendations, a herbal diuretic, a herbal relaxant, a herb to support the heart & circulation and one to help lower the cholesterol and lipids that are clogging the arteries. The aim with this treatment is to prevent further damage, and to correct the factors causing high blood pressure. Often, once the blood pressure has lowered and lifestyle changes have been put into practise, the herbal medications are no longer required.

Examples of internet information on clinical studies are:

* Health World Online - where David Hoffman states conclusions of studies on Hawthorn (Crataegus) as increasing the strength and normalizing the rhythm of the heart beat and increasing coronary myocardial circulation by dilation of the coronary arteries (similar to an ACE inhibitor) and Garlic (Allium) as a platelet inhibitor effecting a decrease in blood lipids and cholesterol. He then lists the Medline studies showing the stated results. The herbal index is

* Michael Moore also lists clinical studies on his web page, herbal research abstracts on An example is a study on Oats (Avena sativa) and Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) that shows their effect in reducing blood cholesterol and lipids.

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