Naturopathic Medicine for Hypertension
Hypertension or high blood pressure is the most common chronic illness in the United States, affecting more than half of all Americans aged 65 and older. Although hypertension is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke, and heart and kidney failure, many people are unaware that they have high blood pressure. Naturopathic medicine can be effective in controlling hypertension, even when other types of medical treatment have failed.
How Does Naturopathic Medicine Treat Hypertension?
There are two types of hypertension—essential and secondary. Secondary hypertension is high blood pressure caused by an underlying condition and is usually treatable and reversible. However, most cases of hypertension are essential, meaning that the cause of the high blood pressure is unknown.
Diet and nutrition are central to naturopathic medicine and numerous studies have shown that dietary changes are very helpful in treating hypertension. Naturopathic medicine focuses on promoting a healthy lifestyle and preventing disease. Therefore, in addition to diet and nutrition, naturopathic medicine for hypertension includes lifestyle changes, exercise, and relaxation techniques.
How Does Diet Affect Hypertension?
Potassium is the most important mineral for treating hypertension. Naturopathic medicine for hypertension aims to increase the ratio of potassium to sodium in the body through a diet that is high in raw fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and low in processed foods and table salt. In a naturopathic recommended diet, low-fat, low-cholesterol foods that are high in complex carbohydrates replace red meat, sugar, and salt.
In addition to the potassium-to-sodium ratio, naturopathic medicine for hypertension focuses on other dietary factors that are known or suspected of influencing blood pressure:
- Garlic is widely recognized for its efficacy in lowering blood pressure.
- Some evidence suggests that diets that are low in calcium may increase the risk of hypertension, particularly during pregnancy.
- Magnesium can help lower blood pressure by increasing the efficiency of the heart muscle.
- Hypertension has been associated with low levels of vitamin C in the diet.
- There is some evidence that consuming 12 grams per day of soluble fiber can help lower blood pressure.
- Several studies have indicated that diets or supplements that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil, can significantly lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.
- After his father developed hypertension and began craving celery, a university scientist discovered that 3-n-butyl phthalide, a natural compound in celery, is a potent blood-pressure reducer. Celery is also a traditional Chinese medicine for high blood pressure.
- Dietary diuretics may replace prescription diuretics for treating hypertension with naturopathic medicine.
For treating hypertension, naturopathic medicine recommends a diet of:
- Potassium-rich foods such as bananas
- Green leafy vegetables for calcium and magnesium
- Broccoli and citrus fruits for vitamin C
- Other foods that are rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, including carrots, alfalfa, mushrooms, lima beans, potatoes, avocados, and most fruits
- Whole grains and legumes for fiber
- Nuts, seeds, and their oils, and cold-water fish, such as mackerel and salmon, for omega-3 fatty acids
- Celery for 3-n-butyl phthalide
- Restricted salt intake
Naturopathic medicine for hypertension may also utilize choline, lecithin, and fish-oil supplements or flaxseed oil for their omega-3 fatty acids. A vegetarian diet is sometimes introduced with a one- to two-week fast on alkaline juices or watermelon.
Naturopathic medicine can also employ Oriental therapeutic foods to treat hypertension, including:
- Mung bean soup
- Chrysanthemum and spinach tea
- Cucumber vine tea
How Does Naturopathic Medicine Use Nutritional Supplements and Botanicals to Treat Hypertension?
Naturopathic medicine may treat hypertension with vitamin and mineral supplements including:
- Vitamins A, C, E, B6, and riboflavin (B2)
- Potassium, magnesium, and calcium
- The trace minerals selenium and zinc
In addition to garlic, naturopathic recommended herbs for hypertension can include:
- Dandelion, which can increase potassium levels
- Arjuna bark
- Olive leaf
- European mistletoe
- Black cumin seeds
- Indian snakeroot
- Various Chinese herbs
What Other Naturopathic Methods Are Used to Treat Hypertension?
Naturopathic medicine treats hypertension with a variety of lifestyle modifications including:
- Controlled weight loss
- Good sleeping habits
- Stress reduction
Naturopathic medicine treats hypertension with relaxation techniques such as:
- Slow, deep breathing exercises
- Transcendental meditation
- Progressive muscle relaxation
Naturopathic medicine may employ hydrotherapy to treat hypertension, including:
- Hot baths to promote sweating
- Peroxide baths to stimulate skin circulation
- Constitutional hydrotherapy
- Foot baths with alternating hot and cold water
Naturopathic medicine can utilize a variety of other techniques for treating hypertension, including:
- Flower essences
- Color therapy
- Healing rocks
How Does Naturopathic Medicine Treat Varying Degrees of Hypertension?
Naturopathic medicine treats mild hypertension—usually defined as a systolic pressure of 140 to 160 and a diastolic pressure of 90 to 104—with diet and lifestyle changes. Weight loss, exercise, stress reduction, and the avoidance of alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco can all help reduce mild hypertension. The elimination of sodium salt from the diet is of particular importance.
In addition to diet and lifestyle changes, naturopathic medicine may treat moderate hypertension (140–180/105–114) with coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10, ubiquinone) and hawthorn extract.
Severe hypertension of above 160/115 may require prescription medication from a medical doctor, in addition to the above treatments, until the blood pressure is reduced.
Acute hypertension—a sudden and dangerous rise in blood pressure—can be treated with an enema, followed by a full body hot bath with cold compresses to the head and neck.
What Is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathy is prevention-oriented medicine that draws on a wide variety of medical practices from around the world. It is taught at four-year graduate-level schools with curricula grounded in basic science, naturopathic medicine, and clinical experience. The licensing and regulation of naturopathic doctors (NDs) varies by geographical region. NDs may be primary-care physicians or specialists who treat particular conditions or utilize specific treatments such as nutrition, herbal medicine, acupuncture, or homeopathy.
What Causes Hypertension?
Essential hypertension that can be treated with naturopathic medicine may be caused by:
- A high sodium-to-potassium ratio in the body
- A low-fiber, high-sugar diet
- High intake of saturated fats and low intake of essential fatty acids
- A diet low in calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C
- Coffee consumption
- Alcohol intake
- Lack of exercise
- Exposure to lead
Kane, Emily ND. “Hypertension”, published by American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.
Dr. Farhang Khosh, “Naturopathic Approach to Hypertension,” Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, June 2002.