A Warm Way to Lower Your Blood Pressure
By Maureen Williams, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (November 4, 2004)—People with high blood pressure (hypertension) can lower their blood pressure by drinking a tea made from a standardized extract of hibiscus flower every day, according to a study published in Phytomedicine (2004;11:375–82).
The World Health Organization defines hypertension as blood pressure higher than 140/90. It is a common condition in the developed world, affecting approximately 20% of adults. Though people with hypertension usually do not experience symptoms and often do not know their blood pressure is high, it can lead to serious health problems, including congestive heart failure and stroke. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercising, and practicing relaxation can all help to prevent or treat hypertension. Blood pressure–lowering (antihypertensive) drugs are often prescribed if these lifestyle changes do not sufficiently reduce blood pressure. These drugs work either by opening (dilating) the blood vessels or by increasing the volume of urine (in other words, a diuretic effect) and thereby reducing the volume of blood.
Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is a small tree with bright red flowers that are rich in flavonoids, minerals, and other nutrients. The flowers have a fruity taste that makes hibiscus popular as both hot and cold tea. Studies have demonstrated that they have a diuretic property and have also found mild blood vessel–dilating effects. Several trials using hibiscus extracts have suggested that hibiscus can lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.
The current study evaluated 70 people with mild to moderate hypertension who were otherwise healthy and had not received treatment for at least one month before entering the trial. Participants were randomly assigned to drink one-half liter (approximately 16 ounces) of hibiscus tea before breakfast each day or to take 25 mg of an antihypertensive medication (captopril) twice a day for four weeks. The tea was made from a hibiscus extract standardized to contain a specified amount of flavonoids known as anthocyanins. Blood pressure was measured at the beginning of the study and weekly during the study. After four weeks, the effectiveness of the two treatments was statistically similar: diastolic blood pressure (the lower number of a blood pressure reading) was reduced by at least ten points in 79% of the people receiving hibiscus and 84% of those receiving captopril.
The results of this study demonstrate that a tea made from a standardized hibiscus flower extract can reduce blood pressure in people with mild to moderate hypertension. Hibiscus flowers might have several components and properties that contribute to its blood pressure–lowering effect. The antioxidants in hibiscus could add to its cardiovascular benefits by protecting blood vessels and heart muscle from oxidative damage. Furthermore, its safety and low potential for causing negative side effects make hibiscus an attractive alternative to antihypertensive medications.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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