A middle-aged man approached me the other day, asking if I could provide advice on treating high blood pressure. “I tried everything,” he said, as I ran through all the standard recommendations. From our brief interaction, it was clear that diet and lifestyle were the likely culprits, evidenced by his higher-than-average body mass index (BMI), his stressful 70-hour work weeks, and the apparent halitosis (bad breath) he experienced.
In the United States, 67 million American adults (31%) have hypertension, defined as persistently high arterial blood pressure (1). It is quantified by having a systolic blood pressure (pressure during the contraction phase of the cardiac cycle) of 120 mm Hg or higher, or a diastolic blood pressure (pressure during the relaxation phase of the cardiac cycle) of 80 mm Hg or higher. Common FDA-approved medications for hypertension include diuretics (water pills), angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, and beta blockers.
Of course, a problem is never presented without a solution, and in the case of hypertension, many natural solutions exist. A recent review in the journal Pharmacognosy Review examined the scientific research regarding natural herbs in the treatment of hypertension, and provided a list of 49 potentially effective plants along with their medicinal actions (2).
In this post, I will relay what the authors discovered. Most of these plants are wild, while some are cultivated. Regardless, if you experience hypertension and think that you have tried every treatment, confirm your belief with this list.
1. Round leaf buchu (Agathosma betulina)
Round leaf buchu is a South African plant used as an effective diuretic.
2. Garlic (Allium sativum)
In individuals with increased systolic pressure, garlic may decrease blood pressure through the increase of nitric oxide production.
3. Prickly custard apple (Annona muricata)
A leaf extract of this Central American/Caribbean tree may lower elevated blood pressure by decreasing peripheral vascular resistance.
4. Celery (Apium graveolens)
Studies show that the juice and seeds of the celery plant are safe and effective treatments for high blood pressure.
5. Manchurian pipevine (Aristolochia manshuriensis)
This Chinese plant has been studied for its use as a diuretic; magnoflorine, a compound isolated from the plant, displays hypotensive properties.
6. Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)
A leaf extract from this species of flowering tree in the mulberry family has been shown to reduce tension in aortic rings in animal studies.
7. Oats (Avena sativa)
The common oat is a soluble fiber-rich cereal grain that has been found to significantly reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with hypertension.
8. Psyllium (Plantago ovata)
Preliminary research shows that a daily 15 gram psyllium supplement can moderately lower systolic blood pressure by about 8 mm Hg, and diastolic by about 2 mm Hg.
9. Tea (Camellia sinensis)
Research on the population level shows that consumption of green tea and oolong tea (different fermentation levels, same plant) is associated with a decreased risk of developing hypertension.
10. Lasaf (Capparis cartilaginea)
This scrambling perennial shrub has been reported to produce a dose-dependent decrease in blood pressure in rats.
11. Ajwain (Trachyspermum ammi)
Ajwain is a parsley-like plant whose extract produces a drop in blood pressure and heart rate in rats.
12. Chaksu (Cassia absus)
A crude extract of this tropical plant produces a dose-related decrease in blood pressure, as well as a decrease in heart rate at higher doses.
13. Coffeeweed (Senna occidentalis)
A small pantropical tree, coffeeweed has traditional use as an antihypertensive agent. Research has confirmed a relaxant effect on aortic rings from the leaf extract, as well as the ability of the plant to relax smooth muscle and reduce blood pressure.
14. Moreton Bay chestnut (Castanospermum australe)
A crude extract from this South Pacific plant has been shown to reduce blood pressure in a dose-dependent manner. Note: the seeds are poisonous, and rendered edible when prepared properly.
15. Coleus forskohlii (Plectranthus barbatus)
Forskolin, a vasodilating compound isolated from this tropical perennial plant, has been shown to reduce blood pressure in animal studies.
16. Virginia dayflower (Commelina virginica)
This perennial herbaceous plant, native to the mideastern and southeastern United States, has been shown to reduce tension of aortic rings in animal studies.
17. Chinese hawthorn (Crataegus pinnatifida)
Chinese hawthorn is a small to medium sized tree that has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine. Scientific research has elucidated its effects in lowering blood pressure.
18. River lily (Crinum glaucum)
An aqueous extract of this West Nigerian plant has been shown to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressures.
19. Giant dodder (Cuscuta reflexa)
A crude extract from this parasitic plant in the morning glory family has been shown to reduce blood pressure in animal studies.
20. Wild carrot (Daucus carota)
Also known as Queen Anne’s lace, Daucus carota may lower blood pressure through the blockade of calcium channels. Caution should be taken when harvesting this plant, as it resembles the deadly poison hemlock (Conium maculatum).
21. Coin-leaf desmodium (Desmodium styracifolium)
Dried leaves and stems from this leguminous plant have been shown to lower arterial blood pressure in animal studies.
22. Hardy fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica)
Native to South America, hardy fuchsia is a dwarf shrub in the evening primrose family. An infusion of the leaf extract acts as a diuretic and lowers blood pressure.
23. Soybean (Glycine max)
Soybean may provide a modest reduction in blood pressure.
24. Pima cotton (Gossypium barbadense)
Traditional medicine in Suriname utilizes the leaves of this plant as an antihypertensive agent. Research has shown Pima cotton to decrease the tension in aortic rings in animal studies.
25. Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
The roselle is one of the most well-studied plants for the treatment of hypertension. In human studies, the roselle has been shown to act very similarly to captopril, an ACE inhibitor, in its antihypertensive effects, effectiveness, and tolerance.
26. French lavender (Lavandula stoechas)
Crude extracts of this Mediterranean plant have been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate in animal studies.
27. Broadleaved pepperweed (Lepidium latifolium)
This edible plant in the mustard family displays diuretic and blood pressure lowering effects in animal studies.
28. Flax (Linum usitatissimum)
Flaxseed is a good source of alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA), a parent fatty acid of the omega-3 fats. ALA has been shown to possess antihypertensive effects in individuals with high-normal blood pressure and mild hypertension.
29. Black mangrove (Lumnitzera racemosa)
Amongst the mangrove plants, the black mangrove is the most salt tolerant species. An aqueous acetone extract of this small tree has been shown to display antihypertensive activity.
30. Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum)
An extract of the tomato has been shown to reduce blood pressure in individuals with mild, untreated hypertension. Additionally, a significant correlation has been discovered between systolic blood pressure and lycopene, a carotenoid pigment in the tomato.
31. Moringa (Moringa oleifera)
A crude extract from Moringa oleifera, the most cultivated plant in its genus, caused a fall in systolic, diastolic, and mean arterial blood pressure in animal studies.
32. African corkwood tree (Musanga cecropioides)
Native to Africa, this straight-stemmed evergreen tree has been studied for its dose-dependent effects on lowering blood pressure.
33. Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
This South East Asian culinary herb exhibits antihypertensive effects through its chemical compound, eugenol. Also found in spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, eugenol works by blocking calcium channels.
34. Harmal (Peganum harmala)
Harmal is a perennial plant that has traditional usage in Turkey and Syria. A crude extract from harmal exhibits antihypertensive effects in animal studies. In addition to its blood pressure lowering properties, harmal may have also been an important entheogen in ancient Middle East.
35. Nela nelli (Phyllanthus amarus)
Closely related to chanca piedra (“stone breaker”), this species of Phyllanthus has traditionally been used as a diuretic to lower blood pressure.
36. Maritime pine (Pinus pinaster)
Pycnogenol, an extract isolated from the bark of maritime pine, has been shown to be effective for venous insufficiency. Research has also shown that 200 mg/day of pycnogenol may modestly lower blood pressure in individuals with mild hypertension.
37. Kudzu (Pueraria lobata)
A member of the pea family, kudzu root is officially recognized in China as a muscle relaxant, fever reducer, and a treatment for hypertension. An isoflavone extracted from kudzu has been shown clinically to reduce blood pressure and heart rate.
38. Pomegranate (Punica granatum)
Research, although with conflicting results, suggests that pomegranate juice may be effective in reducing blood pressure.
39. Radish (Raphanus sativus)
The edible root of this mustard family plant has been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate in animal studies.
40. Snakeroot (Rauvolfia serpentina)
Snakeroot is considered to be one of the most antihypertensive plants. A purified alkaloid from snakeroot, reserpine, was the first effective drug used in the long term treatment of hypertension, though it is rarely used today.
41. Rhaptopetalum coriaceum Oliver
The bark from this woody, tropical South American plant has been used traditionally as a treatment for hypertension. Research has revealed that its mechanism of action may be through calcium channel blocking.
42. Sesame (Sesamum indicum)
Sesame is one of the oldest oil-seed crops known. In patients with hypertension, consumption of sesame oil has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and increase endogenous antioxidant production. Sesamin, a lignan found in sesame oil, may be useful as a preventative for hypertension. Alcoholic extraction of the seeds has also been shown to lower blood pressure in animal studies.
43. Sticky nightshade (Solanum sisymbriifolium)
Sticky nightshade has been used in traditional Paraguayan medicine as a diruetic and antihypertensive agent. Studies in animals have elucidated its role in reducing blood pressure.
44. Cacao (Theobroma cacao)
Studies have shown that consumption of polyphenolic-rich chocolate (dark or milk) can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressures. Compounds in chocolate also enhance vasodilation within the cardiovascular system.
45. Wheat bran (Triticum aestivum)
Increasing wheat bran intake by 3-6 grams daily may modestly reduce blood pressure.
46. Cat’s claw herb (Uncaria rhynchophylla)
This flowering plant in the coffee family has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine to lower blood pressure. Its hypotensive effects may be attributed to the alkaloid, hirsutine, which acts on calcium channels.
47. Mistletoe (Viscum album)
Mistletoe is a hemi-parasitic plant in the sandalwood family. Aqueous extracts of its leaves display blood pressure lowering effects in animal studies.
48. Wild African black plum (Vitex doniana)
An extract from this flowering plant in the mint family has significantly lowered blood pressure in animal studies.
49. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Frequently used for digestive issues, ginger also has been shown to improve blood circulation and relax muscles surrounding blood vessels. Studies performed on animals have revealed its ability to reduce blood pressure through calcium channel blocking.
There we have it. Forty-nine plants that may aid in the reduction of blood pressure. If you (or someone you know) have hypertension, and believe that every treatment has been tried, study this list and see if one or more of these plants can provide assistance.
It should be understood that there is hardly a replacement for optimal diet and lifestyle practices. A single plant is not the cause of hypertension, therefore a single plant cannot be the cure for it either.
Only with alterations in the way we live our lives – through the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the sunshine we receive, our thoughts, actions, relationships, etc. - can we begin to radically transform our bodies, reclaiming the health and robustness that once defined our species, Homo sapiens.