Natural products to lower blood pressure

by Michael T. Murray, N.D.

This article was originally published in February 2003

Dr. Murray

(February 2003) — It is estimated that high blood pressure (hypertension) directly kills more than 50,000 people in the United States each year and contributes to another 200,000+ deaths a year. Suffice it to say, high blood pressure is something that needs to be taken very seriously.

In addition to contributing to more than 75 percent of all strokes and heart attacks, high blood pressure is also a factor in many cases of kidney failure, sexual dysfunction, and mental deterioration in the elderly. Although high blood pressure is a serious disease, it is often a silent one. In fact, most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms.

One of the biggest problems many doctors face is that the popular drug treatments tend to make their high blood pressure patients feel worse because of side effects. Fortunately, there are safe and effective natural products useful in helping to lower blood pressure.

What causes high blood pressure?
Ultimately, the health of the artery is critical to maintaining normal blood pressure. When the arteries become hard due to the build-up of plaque containing cholesterol, blood pressure rises. Therefore, it is very important to prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Just like other degenerative diseases including atherosclerosis, the development of high blood pressure is closely related to lifestyle and dietary factors. Some of the important lifestyle factors that may cause high blood pressure include stress, lack of exercise, and smoking. Some of the dietary factors include: obesity; high sodium to potassium ratio; low fiber, high sugar diet; high saturated fat and low omega-3 fatty acid intake; and a diet low in calcium, magnesium and vitamin C.

Are there any special foods that people with high blood pressure should eat? Special foods for people with high blood pressure include celery, garlic and onions, nuts and seeds or their oils for their essential fatty acid content, cold-water fish (salmon, mackerel, etc.) or fish oil products concentrated for EPA and DHA, green leafy vegetables for their rich source of calcium and magnesium, whole grains and legumes for their fiber, and foods rich in vitamin C such as broccoli and citrus fruits.

Celery is a particularly interesting recommendation for high blood pressure. Two researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center have performed studies on a compound found in celery, 3-n-butylphthalide (3nB), and found that it can lower blood pressure. In animals, a very small amount of 3nB lowered blood pressure by 12 to 14 percent. The research was prompted by a researcher’s father, who after eating a quarter-pound of celery every day for one week observed his blood pressure dropped from 158 over 96 to a normal reading of 118 over 82.

If you do not want to eat that much celery, you can take celery seed extract standardized to contain 85 percent 3nB at a dosage of 150 mg daily. 3nB appears to help lower blood pressure by acting both as a diuretic and vasodilator through impacting the production of prostaglandins (discussed below) as well as acting in a similar manner to drugs known as calcium-channel blockers.

3nB also has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the formation of arterial plaque in experimental studies (animal and test tube studies). This effect increases the elasticity of the blood vessels and leads to lower blood pressure readings.

Garlic and onions are also important foods for lowering blood pressure. Although most recent research has focused on the cholesterol-lowering properties of garlic and onions, both also have been shown to lower blood pressure. Both garlic and onions should be used liberally in the diet.

In addition, taking a garlic supplement that delivers at least 4,000 mcg of allicin daily may be of benefit.

Are there any special supplements for people with high blood pressure?
Yes, anyone with high blood pressure should be on a high potency multiple vitamin and mineral formula to insure optimal levels of key nutrients, especially magnesium. This recommendation is especially important if a diuretic (water pill) also is being used. In addition to celery seed extract and garlic, one other supplement can be extremely helpful — Anti-ACE Peptides.

What are Anti-ACE Peptides?
This product is composed of a mixture of nine small peptides (proteins) derived from bonito (a member of the tuna family). It works to lower blood pressure by inhibiting ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme), thereby inhibiting the formation of active angiotensin, a substance that increases both the fluid volume and the degree of constriction of the blood vessels. If we use a garden hose model, angiotensin would be similar to pinching off the hose while turning up the faucet full blast.

By inhibiting the formation of this compound, Anti-ACE peptides relax the arterial walls and reduce fluid volume. Anti-ACE Peptides exert the strongest inhibition of ACE reported for any naturally occurring substance available.

Are there any clinical studies with Anti-ACE Peptides?
Yes, three major clinical studies have been conducted. The material appears to be effective in about two thirds of people with high blood pressure — about the same percentage as many prescription drugs. The degree of blood pressure reduction in these studies was quite significant, typically reducing the systolic by at least 10 mm Hg and the diastolic by 7 mm Hg in people with borderline and mild hypertension.

The typical dosage is three 500 mg capsules daily. No side effects were reported in the clinical studies and a safety study showed no side effects with dosages as high as 30 g daily. Anti-ACE Peptides do not affect blood pressure in people without hypertension and have no adverse drug interactions so they can be used in combination with conventional anti-hypertensive drugs.

Michael T. Murray, N.D., is regarded as one of world’s leading authorities on natural medicine. He is on the Board of Trustees at Bastyr University and has written more than 20 books including the best-selling Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. He is also Director of Product Development and Education for Natural Factors Nutritional Products, Inc.

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