Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) refers to any healthcare practice that falls outside the scope of conventional medicine. Conventional medicine is the type taught in medical schools and practiced by medical doctors. The following CAM approaches have shown promise for controlling blood pressure in some 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. They should be used along with, not in place of, conventional treatments and proven lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation. It’s a good idea to discuss CAM approaches with your doctor. Some herbs and supplements can interact with medications, so be sure to let your doctor know about any you are taking.
There is some evidence that these dietary supplements might help control blood pressure. They can often be found in health food stores and some drug stores.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil)
These healthy fats — found in fish, some nuts and vegetables, and supplements — have well-documented benefits for heart health. According to the American Heart Association, research shows that they:
- decrease triglycerides
- slow the buildup of fatty deposits inside arteries
- decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats
- lower blood pressure slightly
Coenzyme Q-10 is produced by the human body and is also available in supplements. It supports the basic functioning of cells. According to the Mayo Clinic, research suggests that there is good scientific evidence that coenzyme Q-10 does lower blood pressure. However, they caution that further study is needed to determine the ideal necessary dose.
Garlic is popular as a food and is also sold in supplement form. It contains sulfur compounds that have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. According to the National Institutes of Health, some studies suggest that it might also lower blood pressure slightly.
Found in cocoa products and dark chocolate as well as in supplements, cocoa is rich in antioxidant plant chemicals called flavonoids. 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. It 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. It can help with flexibility and fitness as well as stress levels. According to the NCCAM, 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, you’re 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 your heart rate, at will.