Ayurveda for Hypertension
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is diagnosed when the blood pressure measurement (the force of blood on the artery walls) is regularly higher than 120/80. Hypertension causes damage to blood vessels and major organs and is the most common cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association, one in three adults in the United States has high blood pressure. Blood pressure should be checked regularly and discussed with your health care practitioner. Recommendations for treatment of hypertension revolve around the creation of a healthier lifestyle, and Ayurveda fits perfectly with that goal by providing a natural treatment plan that encourages lifestyle improvement through diet, exercise and the development of healthy habits.
How can Ayurveda Help With Hypertension?
Following the principles of Ayurveda encourages a person’s balance within themselves and within their environment. Heart diseases, including hypertension, involve imbalances in all three doshas (psychophysiological energies). An Ayurvedic course of treatment is individualized based upon the predominating dosha (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—three main bodily humours that make up the basis for Ayurvedic medicine) imbalance that a person is experiencing.
- The Vata dosha is responsible for the heartbeat and for the overall circulation of the blood. An imbalance in this dosha is frequently associated with nervous system disorders and will be characterized as anxiety, worry, or stress. Ayurvedic treatments for these psychological imbalances often include herbs such as raulfia serpentine, garlic, and nutmeg.
- The Pitta dosha is associated with the enzymes in the heart. When Pitta is the dominant dosha that is out of balance, symptoms such as anger, nosebleeds, irritability, and fluctuations in the high blood pressure will be seen. Herbs which provide a calming effect will be used. These may include Brahma Rasayana Saraswat powder and Indian sarsaparilla.
- The Kapha dosha is related to the strength of the heart. When a Kapha imbalance predominates, signs will be swelling of the hands and feet, lethargy, obesity, and a consistently high blood pressure. Ayurvedic practitioners recommend that the person stay away from dairy products, eggs, and meat. Herbs that are prescribed in this imbalance are guggulu, cardamom, and cinnamon.
Why Use Ayurvedic Medicine to Treat Hypertension?
Ayurveda medicine is about the correction of imbalances and maintenance of health. The foundations of Ayurveda are related to diet and harmony with one’s self and with the environment. Ayurvedic practitioners encourage the same lifestyle changes as the general medical community. The treatment for hypertension includes not smoking, exercising regularly, eating a low-fat diet high in vegetables, whole grains, and fruit, and positively managing stress. Ayurvedic practitioners also recommend laughing often and regularly meditating.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is an ancient Hindu science of healing and translates as “Science of Life.” It originated in India and continues to be used by millions of people worldwide. Based upon the theory of balance and wholeness of the universe and the body, Ayurveda reminds us that health is derived through peace with the environment, body, mind, and spirit. Ayurveda focuses on healthy living with therapeutic measures that relate to physical, mental, social, and spiritual harmony.
Ayurveda teachings describe three bioenergetic influences, or doshas, that act upon our health. These doshas are the natural forces at work in the body. Each of these doshas is defined by two of the five natural elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. Vata dosha, representative of space and air, helps to govern the function of the nervous system. Pitta dosha, the fire and water principle, is most closely associated with the digestive system. Kapha dosha, characterized by water and earth, governs most of our physical being and relates to the respiratory system.
Ayurvedic treatments use dietary modification, detoxification techniques, herbal and mineral remedies, yoga, meditation, and massage as healing methods. Ayurvedic philosophy also asserts that maintaining dosha balance through the daily use of appropriate diet and exercise will maintain health and prevent disease.
What causes Hypertension?
Hypertension is the most common cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in developed countries and are increasingly common in developing countries. Because it rarely causes symptoms, hypertension is often called “the silent killer.” The only way to know if a person has high blood pressure is to regularly monitor blood pressure and discuss the results with a health care practitioner. Left untreated, hypertension can lead to heart failure, stroke, or kidney failure.
In the vast majority of cases of hypertension, the cause of the disease cannot be established. There are, however, common risk factors for hypertension.
High blood pressure is more common in people who:
- Have a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes
- Are of African descent
- Are over 50 years old
- Are a post menopausal female
- Are overweight
- Are physically inactive
- Use tobacco products
- Eat foods high in fat and/or salt
Finding an Ayurvedic Practitioner
There are experienced Ayurvedic practitioners in many communities, some of whom will provide long-distance consultations. Professional organizations such as the National Ayurvedic Medicine Association, the Association of Ayurvedic Professionals of North America, and the Light on Ayurveda Education Foundation have worked to unify the profession and elevate the quality of Ayurvedic medicine available in the US. For those who wish to explore Ayurveda treatments within a traditional Hindu culture, medical tourism companies can provide this opportunity.
A video from Jiva Ayurveda on Hypertension.
A discussion on Ayurveda from the Chopra Center.
A discussion on Ayurvedic Management of Hypertension from Ayurveda For You.