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08 March 2013

Herbal Allies for High Blood Pressure

Many of the most common kitchen herbs are very helpful in maintaining a normal blood pressure. Spices like oregano, basil, tarragon, parsley, and, of course, garlic are great to use liberally in cooking. Dr. James A. Duke recommends one clove of garlic a day to normalize blood pressure in his world famous book on herbal medicine, The Green Pharmacy. He also praises onions, celery, broccoli, and carrots as blood pressure helpers. Pepper, including black and cayenne, are famous blood pressure regulators. I love red chard cooked slowly over a long time in a big pot of water with garlic, onions, and sea salt as a mineral rich side dish that will calm my nerves every time. Ginger is also a great herb to heal whatever ails you and will work wonders with high blood pressure. You could cook with it, of course, and even try the tea, although the tea might be too strong for some people (add some honey to lessen the bite). Many people with high blood pressure could also be deficient in magnesium. There are plenty of foods that are high in magnesium, like whole grain rice and dark chocolate, and even some decent supplements out there; although I try to get my vitamins and minerals first through my diet and generally avoid most supplements, there is a supplement called Calm that seems to deliver magnesium in a safe and effective way.

Regarding other herbs, Stinging Nettle infusions will work wonders for the kidneys and circulatory system and will, according to my mentor Susun Weed, promote flexibility in one's blood vessels, which will have a direct effect upon lowering blood pressure. Oatstraw infusions work to tonify the nervous system and also strengthen the heart, so I would use Oatsraw infusions as well as Nettle. Motherwort tincture and  St. John's Wort tincture have immediate effects upon normalizing blood pressure and can be used over long periods of time with no ill effects.

One way to think about a condition such as high blood pressure is to see it as a message from one or more systems of the body such as the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, and even the respiratory system saying something is going on. I'm aging too fast, I've become weakened by chronic stress or cellular oxidation, and I  need nourishment. Chinese medicine would have us look to our kidneys as a big player in high blood pressure, so what strengthens kidneys? Good rest, sound nutrition, including good quality protein, and healthy Qi building exercise like Yoga or Tai Chi perhaps. I would avoid exercising in extreme temperatures, especially heat as this will stress kidneys. Running can also stress the kidneys and contribute to high blood pressure. I would also consider looking into my diet to see if I am consuming foods that promote inflammation and seek to avoid them. Vegetable oil is a main culprit in this case and other unhealthy fats such as trans fats. While there are mixed reports on coffee, caffeine is a substance that will raise blood pressure, and I have known some people to give up coffee and have their blood pressure normalize without doing anything else! Finally, a good quality sea salt is essential to healthy blood pressure. I go out of my way to find Light Grey Celtic Sea Salt, and I avoid common table salt entirely.

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