Most of you reading this will be aware of the risk factors associated with high blood pressure (hypertension) because it has become such a common condition with lots of publicity: stress, obesity, smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine, genetics, a diet high in saturated fats and sodium. This is a lifestyle disorder. But of these factors, the only one we have no control over is our inherited tendency, which is good news for those of us who want to take care of our own health issues because it gives us lots of scope to make significant changes. A fine tuning if you will!
This column is about plants that may be useful in treating hypertension so I don’t want to devote too much space to a discussion of lifestyle issues, but I need to make it clear that there is little point employing herbal options discussed here without also taking steps to improve the risk factors mentioned above. Unlike prescription medication, herbal allies require a contract with us which involves a certain level of responsibility on our part! This is not meant to put you off. Don’t stop reading just because you haven’t fulfilled all your health resolutions! And don’t forget to consult with your health care provider if you are currently being treated for high blood pressure.
So here are some suggestions for plants that may be helpful in controlling high blood pressure. We are looking for several approaches here: an improvement in circulation, dilation of blood vessels, strengthening of heart function. The following three plants grow in our area. You may already have them in your garden.
Garlic: One of the easiest to use because it can be incorporated so readily into your diet. As well as its ability to strengthen the heart and lower blood pressure, it has many other valuable medicinal properties. If you already eat garlic, eat more! And if you don’t like the taste or the lingering smell, take capsules.
Hawthorn: Strengthens the heart muscle so it can pump more productively without increasing the oxygen needs. Also dilates blood vessels to increase circulation. I just picked a basket of hawthorn berries, sharing them with a flock of cedar waxwings, wondering whether their little hearts were benefiting from the berries too!
Motherwort: This has long been used as way to calm and strengthen the heart. It reduces stress and helps restore ease to a dis-eased heart.
All three are also available in tincture or capsule form.
Victoria Jungwirth owns Wilderness Herbs, specializing in local medicinal plants, and also was a manager at the Marquette Food Co-op. She lives in a remote corner of Marquette County where she and her husband build birch bark canoes.
Excerpted with permission from the Winter 2008-2009 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2008. All rights reserved.