Dietary factors must be taken into account and include:
Life style can often be the key in reversing this condition. Exercise, massage and other approaches to the body are important as are relaxation techniques and meditation. The nature of the individuals work, relationships, world view, self image etc. etc. all may contribute the hypertension, creating a challenging job for the herbalist! Please refer to the section on stress management for are view of techniques that might prove helpful.
- Dietary salt: the average western salt intake is about 15 times that needed by the body. A low salt diet is strongly indicated.
- Potassium: the relative balance between sodium and potassium is crucial for many C/V factors. In addition to restricting salt intake, elevate to potassium levels in the diet by eating potassium rich foods, and using cooking methods that do not wash this essential mineral away.
- Calcium and magnesium: supplementation with these minerals can have a marked hypotensive effect.
- Obesity: a well known link exists between obesity and hypertension, as well as risk of heart attack, diabetes, gallstones, osteoarthritis and kidney disease. Weight reduction is essential, and often lowers blood pressure more effectively than drug treatment.
- Sugar: in some individuals a heavy sugar intake may raise blood pressure, possibly by causing sodium retention or by a direct effect upon the stress response hormone system.
- Alcohol: there appears to be a link between alcohol and hypertension, but not a simple one. Statistics show that people who drink a little have a tendency to lower BP than teetotalers or those who drink a lot. Alcohol withdrawal causes a temporary increase in BP before there is a fall. All in all it is safe to say that individuals with a tendency to hypertension should avoid alcohol.
- Caffeine: tea, coffee and cola drinks will aggravate hypertension because of the stimulating effect of caffeine and other alkaloids they contain. This also goes for the herbal stimulant products upon the market.
- Tobacco: experts disagree about the connection between tobacco and hypertension, but as there is no doubt about the impact of smoking upon the heart it should be avoided.
- Saturated Fats: quite separate from the impact upon blood cholesterol and other lipids, there appears to be an association between too high levels of saturated fats and hypertension. As with all C-V conditions, increasing the ratio of polyunsaturated fats to saturated fats will help the healing process.
- Vegetarian diets: a diet free of animal products definite lowers blood pressure and is strongly advised for hypertensive patients. At the very least there should be an avoidance of red meat.
- Drugs: a number of medication raise blood pressure as an unwanted side effect. Check on all prescription drugs being used, and note that even OTC non-steroidal anti-inflammatories may cause mild water retention that can elevate BP.
- The contraceptive pill: controversy still rages over the side effects of the 'pill'! One such area of debate is its hypertensive effects. Bear this in mind when taking the case history.
Aroma therapy has much to offer with the appropriate oils being used in the context of relaxing massage. Hypotensive oils to consider include Lavender, Marjoram and Ylang-Ylang. Relaxing oils may be used if the individuals situation call for it, for example Chamomile, Rose, Bergamot or Neroli.