We all know that tackling blood pressure is all about good food habits and healthy lifestyle changes. But what if we told you that the right combination of spices and herbs can take this fight up a notch? That’s right, these kitchen staples that pack flavor and punch into your food can do plenty for your health as well. And their ability to help control high blood pressure is at the top of the list.
Here are some herbs and spices you can incorporate into your everyday routine to control a blood pressure problem. While some can be sourced right from your larder, others are endorsed by alternative medicine and should be available in herbal or naturopathy stores. Do consult an ayurvedic doctor or experienced herbal practitioner before using herbal remedies to tackle high blood pressure – they’ll not only guide you on dosage but will also factor in other aspects specific to your case.
The aromatic thyme doesn’t just make your food yummy but also works on your blood pressure as you chomp it down! Experts suggest that thyme helps by relaxing smooth muscles and blood vessel walls. But there’s more. As one animal study showed, it not only improved blood pressure but also brought about considerable improvement in biochemical changes and damage to the arteries associated with hypertension.1 Try adding thyme to soups and stews and use it to season meat dishes.
2. Sweet Basil
Sweet basil has been recommended for ages in traditional Chinese medicine to treat heart problems. And its use is now backed by scientific research too. Animal studies have found that sweet basil can lower levels of hormones endothelin-1 and angiotensin-II, both of which are associated with high blood pressure.2 Sweet basil has a special place in Italian cooking and goes particularly well with tomato flavored dishes. Add it to marinades and pasta sauces and, remember, it’s essential to make a mean pesto sauce.
Did you know that a cup of deep red hibiscus tea can help you manage your blood pressure? Made from the dried sepals of the hibiscus flower, this tea has a tart, sour flavor. In one study, when people with mild hypertension had hibiscus tea (3 servings of 240 ml each a day) for 6 weeks, their blood pressure levels improved. People who had a higher systolic blood pressure before treatment with hibiscus tea showed a greater response to it. Drinking around 3 cups of hibiscus tea a day should help if you’re looking to control your blood pressure.3
Animal studies have found that extracts of the leaves of Phyllanthus amarus can lower blood pressure. And it appears to have a greater effect on diastolic blood pressure than on systolic blood pressure. The blood pressure-lowering effect of this herb may be due to calcium channel ion blockade and the relaxation of smooth muscles in blood vessels. Calcium channel blockers stop calcium from entering the walls of blood vessels, which widens and relaxes them and leads to a reduction in blood pressure.4 Phyllanthus is available in tincture and tablet form.5
5. Indian Snakeroot
Indian snakeroot has been used in the ancient science of ayurveda to treat many conditions. And the presence of an alkaloid known as reserpine gives it potent hypotensive properties.6 Do speak to a healthcare professional about dosage as this herb can have a variety of side effects from abdominal cramping to depression in some. Excessive use can be harmful.
Ashwagandha is another herbal remedy for hypertension that comes from ayurveda. When 2 gm of ashwagandha root powder was taken with milk in the morning by people with hypertension over the course of 3 months, they saw a significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic pressure. Do speak to an ayurvedic doctor who can guide you about using ashwagandha to manage your blood pressure.7
There’s nothing like garlic to jazz up a dish. And this flavor booster can also turn down your blood pressure. Garlic contains a compound called alliin, which is converted into allicin when it’s crushed or chopped. Allicin can inhibit angiotensin II, a hormone that causes your blood vessels to constrict. So widen your blood vessels and lower your blood pressure with some garlic power. Simply add a few cloves of crushed garlic to your dishes.8
A common ingredient in Scandinavian, Middle Eastern, and Indian cooking, cardamom has a positive impact on hypertension. In one study, having 1.5 gm of this spice twice a day for 12 weeks was able to significantly lower blood pressure in hypertensive participants. A compound called 1,8- cineole present in cardamom may account for this beneficial effect; other constituents like limonene, myrcene, and terpinolene may also have an add-on effect.
The study also found that it enhances fibrinolysis. That is, it improves the breakdown of fibrin in blood clots and stops the growth of dangerous clots that block blood flow in your body.9 Add cardamom to curries and stews as well as buns, pies, and cakes to amp up the flavor. Cardamom also makes a great addition to a loaf of banana bread or a cup of masala chai.
Ginger is another spice that has a range of medicinal benefits and lowering blood pressure is one of them. Ginger may work by helping in the blockade of voltage-dependent calcium channels. As we saw earlier, this helps improve the circulation of blood and eases high blood pressure.10
Add ginger to salads, soups, and other dishes to experience its beneficial effects. You could also make a warm cup of ginger tea an everyday ritual.
The spicy and sweet cinnamon can be another ally in your fight against high blood pressure. Research that pooled the results of three studies found that cinnamon can significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure.11 Cinnamaldehyde, a compound present in cinnamon has been found to lower blood pressure by dilating blood vessels.12 However, it’s worth noting that cinnamon might be more useful against hypertension associated with high blood sugar. This is because it can lower circulating insulin, which can have a beneficial effect on high blood pressure.13
Cinnamon must already feature in your baked goodies. You can also sprinkle a little cinnamon onto baked fruit or add a stick of cinnamon when you steep your herbal tea. A pinch of cinnamon can also work well in Asian curries.
Here’s an exotic spice that can help with high blood pressure. An animal study found that saffron not only prevented increases in blood pressure but also blocked changes in the aorta associated with hypertension. Safranal and crocin, flavonoids present in saffron, are thought to be responsible for these beneficial effects.14 Add a few saffron threads to your everyday cooking, whether it’s baked dishes, sauces, or rice dishes like paella or risotto. Simply steep the strands in a little warm water and use the whole mix.
Turmeric, that golden yellow spice which gives curry its color, may also be beneficial if you have high blood pressure. Lab studies show that it can inhibit angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE). This enzyme plays a role in the production of angiotensin II which constricts your blood vessels. ACE inhibitors can, therefore, lower your blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessels.15
Animal studies have also found that curcumin, a constituent of turmeric, can, to an extent, stop hypertension from damaging your arteries.16 Add turmeric to curries and stews or settle down with a nice cup of healthy turmeric tea to savor its benefits.
|↑1||Kensara, Osama A., Naser A. ElSawy, Adel G. El-Shemi, and Eslam A. Header. “Thymus vulgaris supplementation attenuates blood pressure and aorta damage in hypertensive rats.” Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 7, no. 11 (2013): 669-676.|
|↑2||Umar, Anwar, Guzelnur Imam, Wuliya Yimin, Parhat Kerim, Ibadet Tohti, Bénédicte Berké, and Nicholas Moore. “Antihypertensive effects of Ocimum basilicum L.(OBL) on blood pressure in renovascular hypertensive rats.” Hypertension research 33, no. 7 (2010): 727-730.|
|↑3||McKay, Diane L., CY Oliver Chen, Edward Saltzman, and Jeffrey B. Blumberg. “Hibiscus sabdariffa L. tea (tisane) lowers blood pressure in prehypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults.” The Journal of nutrition 140, no. 2 (2010): 298-303.|
|↑4||Amaechina, Fabian C., and ERIC K. Omogbai. “Hypotensive effect of aqueous extract of the leaves of Phyllanthus amarus Schum and Thonn (Euphorbiaceae).” Acta Pol Pharm 64, no. 6 (2007): 547-552.|
|↑5||Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for herbal healing. Penguin, 2002.|
|↑6||Lobay, Douglas. “Rauwolfia in the Treatment of Hypertension.” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 14, no. 3 (2015): 40.|
|↑7||Kushwaha, Shalini, Agatha Betsy, and Paramjit Chawla. “Effect of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root powder supplementation in treatment of hypertension.” Ethno Med 6, no. 2 (2012): 111-115.|
|↑8||Ried, Karin, Oliver R. Frank, Nigel P. Stocks, Peter Fakler, and Thomas Sullivan. “Effect of garlic on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” BMC cardiovascular disorders 8, no. 1 (2008): 1.|
|↑9||Verma, S. K., Vartika Jain, and S. S. Katewa. “Blood pressure lowering, fibrinolysis enhancing and antioxidant activities of cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum).” (2009).|
|↑10||Ghayur, Muhammad Nabeel, and Anwarul Hassan Gilani. “Ginger lowers blood pressure through blockade of voltage-dependent calcium channels.” Journal of cardiovascular pharmacology 45, no. 1 (2005): 74-80.|
|↑11||Akilen, Rajadurai, Zeller Pimlott, Amalia Tsiami, and Nicola Robinson. “Effect of short-term administration of cinnamon on blood pressure in patients with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.” Nutrition 29, no. 10 (2013): 1192-1196.|
|↑12||HARADA, MASATOSHI, and SHINGO YANO. “Pharmacological studies on Chinese cinnamon. II. Effects of cinnamaldehyde on the cardiovascular and digestive systems.” Chemical and pharmaceutical bulletin 23, no. 5 (1975): 941-947.|
|↑13||Preuss, Harry G., Bobby Echard, Marilyn M. Polansky, and Richard Anderson. “Whole cinnamon and aqueous extracts ameliorate sucrose-induced blood pressure elevations in spontaneously hypertensive rats.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 25, no. 2 (2006): 144-150.|
|↑14||Nasiri, Zohreh, Hamid Reza Sameni, Abedin Vakili, Morteza Jarrahi, and Mahdi Zahedi Khorasani. “Dietary saffron reduced the blood pressure and prevented remodeling of the aorta in L-NAME-induced hypertensive rats.” Iranian journal of basic medical sciences 18, no. 11 (2015): 1143.|
|↑15||Lekshmi, P. C., Ranjith Arimboor, V. M. Nisha, A. Nirmala Menon, and K. G. Raghu. “In vitro antidiabetic and inhibitory potential of turmeric (Curcuma longa L) rhizome against cellular and LDL oxidation and angiotensin converting enzyme.” Journal of food science and technology 51, no. 12 (2014): 3910-3917.|
|↑16||Hlavačková, Livia, Andrea Janegová, Olga Uličná, Pavol Janega, Andrea Černá, and Pavel Babál. “Spice up the hypertension diet-curcumin and piperine prevent remodeling of aorta in experimental L-NAME induced hypertension.” Nutrition & metabolism 8, no. 1 (2011): 72.|