Some Herbs, Supplements May Treat Hypertension

( — The aisles of a pharmacy are full of supplements and herbs claiming to lower blood pressure, but which ones really work? A pair of cardiologists combed the scientific literature for studies on effective ways to treat blood pressure and concluded, in a new paper, that there are good data that some of the nondrug remedies work, but there is scant evidence for others.

“There are certain patients who are very reluctant to start taking medication,” said Dr. Kevin Woolf, a cardiologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center and one author of the new paper. “Many of them will ultimately need medication, but some of them, you may be able to control their hypertension with lifestyle modifications instead.”

Among the top recommendations from physicians for patients trying to control high blood pressure, or hypertension, without drugs: exercise, a change in diet, and limiting alcohol intake. But over-the-counter supplements can also have their place in a treatment plan, the researchers said.

The analysis is published in the September issue of the Journal of Clinical Hypertension.

Lifestyle changes can make a difference

Diet changes, the researchers concluded, are the best nondrug way to treat high blood pressure.

“By far, the most studied and the most efficacious is the low-sodium DASH diet,” Woolf said. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) plan includes lowering sodium intake and eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.

The researchers looked at studies of nine dietary supplements, including garlic, calcium, vitamin D, fish oil and soy protein. The evidence was strongest, Woolf said, for the effectiveness of potassium and coenzyme Q10 supplements on lowering blood pressure.

Both need to be studied more, he said, but the data so far indicate that both work better than a placebo at reducing blood pressure. The other dietary supplements may do little to treat hypertension, but there’s no harm in trying them, the researchers said.

“But the same can’t be said for herbal supplements,” Woolf said. “We really need to be careful with these because not only is there minimal evidence that they work to treat hypertension, but their safety hasn’t been well-studied.”


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