Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) refers to any health-care practice that falls outside the scope of conventional medicine—the type that is taught in medical schools and practiced by medical doctors (M.D.s and D.O.s). The following CAM approaches have shown promise for controlling blood pressure in preliminary studies. However, until more research is done, the jury is still out on their safety and effectiveness.
It’s possible that CAM approaches might help prevent or manage high blood pressure. However, they should be used along with, not in place of, conventional treatments and lifestyle changes. It’s a good idea to discuss them with your doctor. Also, some herbs and supplements can interact with medications, so be sure to let your doctor know about any you are taking.
Herbs and Supplements
There is some evidence that these dietary supplements might help control blood pressure.
Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil)
These healthy fats, found in fish as well as supplements, have well-documented benefits for heart health. Research shows that they decrease triglycerides, slow the buildup of fatty deposits inside arteries, decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats, and lower blood pressure slightly.
Coenzyme Q-10 is produced by the human body and also available in supplements. It supports the basic functioning of cells. Research suggests that it might cause small decreases in blood pressure.
Garlic is popular as a food and also sold in supplements. It contains sulfur compounds that have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. Some studies suggest that it might also lower blood pressure slightly.
Found in cocoa products and dark chocolate as well as supplements, cocoa is rich in antioxidant plant chemicals called flavanols. In a study from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), when people with high blood pressure consumed cocoa twice daily for two weeks, it improved the ability of artery walls to relax but did not lower blood pressure significantly.
These techniques counter the body’s stress response, which might help control blood pressure.
Meditation is the practice of focused attention, which calms the mind, relaxes the body, and reduces stress. In a recent study funded in part by NCCAM, meditation lowered blood pressure in a group of students at high risk for developing high blood pressure.
This ancient meditation practice combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and focused attention. Research suggests that it may reduce heart rate and blood pressure.
Biofeedback is a technique in which you learn to control a specific bodily function with your mind. During a biofeedback session, you are connected to sensors that gather information about what’s going on inside your body. This information is then fed back to you via visual or auditory cues. For example, let’s say you are connected to a sensor that gathers information about your heart rate and feeds it back in a computerized graph that changes as your heart rate changes. The aim is to learn to control the graph—and therefore, your heart rate—at will. Numerous studies indicate that biofeedback may be helpful for high blood pressure.