Doctors love scientific explanations for how things work. That is why they are quick to prescribe medications for a variety of conditions. FDA approval provides reassuring evidence of effectiveness.
Dietary supplements, herbs and home remedies rarely have scientific support and usually lack an explanation for the way they work. That may be why it is hard for physicians to recommend such treatments.
There is, however, a growing body of scientific research supporting the use of beet juice to lower high blood pressure. Investigators even have a mechanism to explain how beetroot (Beta vulgaris) works to help control hypertension (Hypertension, online April 15, 2013).
Scientists knew that a natural compound called nitrite in the bloodstream helps blood vessels relax and lowers blood pressure. But how? And does this work in people with hypertension as well?
To find out, they did research in rats that develop hypertension spontaneously. They identified an enzyme called xanthine oxidoreductase (XOR) in the red blood cells called erythrocytes. This enzyme converts nitrate to nitrite, which is then turned into nitric oxide. This is the compound that relaxes vessel walls and reduces blood pressure.
Figuring out how to control blood pressure in rats is interesting, but doesn’t have much practical application. So the investigators ran a test in Londoners with hypertension. Their systolic pressure was between 140 and 159, while their diastolic pressure was between 90 and 99. These 15 volunteers were given a cup (250 ml) of beet juice to drink as a dietary source of nitrate. In the placebo arm, the beverage was low-nitrate water.
The results were encouraging. Just one cup of beet juice lowered systolic pressure an average of 11 points between three and six hours later. Even after 24 hours, the blood pressure of participants who had consumed beet juice was still a bit lower than baseline. Diastolic blood pressure fell about 9 points, and was back to baseline at 24 hours.
This kind of reduction in blood pressure is as good as the results usually achieved with medication. Many drugs for hypertension only lower blood pressure 4 or 5 points on average.
One reader reported his experience with beets:

“I have high blood pressure and cannot take medication. So I decided to try beet root juice. A small amount every day brings my blood pressure down quickly and it stays that way for the whole day.
“I found it too expensive to buy continually so I went out and bought a juicer. Now I juice one beet a day in with other leafy green vegetables. I am telling you, the beet juice works!
“My blood pressure now when I check it is always on the low side. You won’t regret drinking beet juice, but you need to drink it EVERY day for it to continue to work.”

Leafy green vegetables are also high in nitrate. That may explain why the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has been proven so effective. We have more information about the DASH diet and other foods such as chocolate, grape juice and pomegranate for hypertension in ourĀ Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment.
Now that there is science to support food as medicine, doctors may be more willing to recommend beets for blood pressure.

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  1. Jeff S

    My blood pressure started to climb when I had to go into a rest phase waiting for injuries to heal. I’m using testosterone cypionate 100mg/week (for hypogonadism) which makes it worse.
    At first I was using a small amount, say a beet split with my wife. It did have an effect. I didn’t own a blood pressure testing device, but relied on occasionally using the ones in the grocery store / pharmacy.
    I’ve read studies where 17.x oz of juice was consumed, 2/3 of which is beet, 1/3 apple lowered the diastolic blood pressure by 5 points. That is two baseball sized beets, and a couple of small green apples. This will have an noticable effect on stool colour, and often urine.
    While traveling I didn’t have access to a blender for a month. The stress of traveling, plus no beet juice, I’ve had my diastolic pressure rise to the high 90’s.
    I bought a blood pressure testing device and use it a few times a day. In the week that I’ve been using one large beet per day, it has had little effect.
    I’ve now increased to two large beets. This, in combination with Pranayama will lower my systolic by 30 points, and my diastolic by 25 points if my Pranayama practice is 20 minutes or more. I’ve gone from 140/95 at noon, down significantly immediately after. The part that has impressed me is 8 hours later I’ve found it to be 110/65 the same day. If I don’t make time and only do 10 minutes, it lowers both by 15 and 10 points, respectively.

  2. vb

    I have somewhat low blood pressure – averaging 105/75. Its not because I’m super fit, because I’m not. I like what I’ve read about other good effects of beet juice, but don’t want to lower my BP any more, should I avoid?

  3. BillC

    If NiTRITES are supposed to bad for you, how do the NiTRITES in beet juice differ from the NiTRITES derived from preservatives (BHA/BHT ?)?.
    Thank you,

  4. Andy

    From my experience the effects lasted at least 12 hours, enough to make me cut back my Atenolol for the day (2 doses of atenolol daily). The beets were also batch dependent. The effects were stronger with some batches than others. I never tried storing the juice in the refrigerator to see if it was just as potent the next day. It would be convenient to juice a batch to last a few days. Juicing can become time consuming but some people make the lifestyle adjustment.
    I used an Omega 8004 auger slow juicer, not the type that spins the pulp around.
    It takes commitment to juice daily, and maybe eliminating meds would be a nice incentive to do so, especially since the medical community has acknowledged its proven effectiveness for our cardiovascular system health.

  5. Joan

    How much juice altogether? 8 oz or ?? how much carrots to make enough?
    also how long does the 15 point drop last for? all day? 8 hours? enough to get in and out of the dr’s office? just kidding -sort of.

  6. Andy

    I would recommend fresh raw beat juice. Processing neutralizes enzymes and other beneficial nutrients that make vegetable juices valuable. It’s simple enough if you already own a good quality juicer. I wouldn’t necessarily go out and buy a juicer for this sole purpose. I was amazed how the juice of 1/4 of a large beet mixed with the juice of carrots lowered my BP 15 points within an hour of consumption.
    I would also consult with your physician since it will reduce BP lower than any current medication you may be on.

  7. Andy

    I tried beet juice last year in addition to taking a beta blocker. I juiced 1/4 of a large beet root in addition to baby carrots. It did work. My BP dropped 15 points to near 115/65, which is lower than comfortable for me.
    I reduced my beta blocker dose and used a small amount of beet/carrot juice for a few weeks. It did work but beets are a natural source for MSG and after 2 weeks I began to have side effects of MSG. I stopped using beet juice and returned to the regular beta blocker doseage.
    Unfortunate, it would have been nice to switch off the beta blocker completely.

  8. DWD

    I just stopped taking Norvasc and it stopped my ankle swelling and the doctor doubled my dose of Benazepril, but my bp is averaging about 140/80 and I would like to get it lower without a new blood pressure med. So….
    I am giving the beet juice a try. I had no luck finding it at Food Lion and Harris Teeter but it did find it at Whole foods. It is expensive at 6.69$ for 16.9 ounces (half liter) which is two cups of juice at about 3.40$ per serving. Plus the sodium in it is 70 mg per 8 ounce serving which is lower than most canned beets or pickled beets. I bought one bottle just to say I tried it.
    I did find 15 ounce cans of UNSALTED canned beets in Whole Foods for 1.19 so about 60 cents per serving per day and only 25 mg of sodium per serving. A bunch of 3 beets varied from 3.49 (Food Lion and Harris Teeter) to 2.28(Walmart). Buying a larger quantity of whole beets from the farmers market might be cheaper, but one has to store them some how. Maybe puree them and freeze? The juice is in fluid ounces but the canned beets are by weight. I am going to try about 5 ounces of canned beets per day. Wish me luck.

  9. Kevin

    My blood pressure reached 167/111 last weekend which is very high for me. I am not on medication. This has only been recently noticed – supposedly pre hypertension, though had been mostly a diastolic pressure 90+. Been cutting out salt, sugar etc. Taking the ordinary beets you buy in the store – cooked seems to work with me. Though been taking raw garlic clove daily with some raw ginger too. Last two days BP been 126/73 on average. 126/71 tonight. I am 51 years old. Hopefully won’t need medication for a while if ever. Of course exercise helps too. Good luck.

  10. JWM

    How much beet juice does one take daily for the juice to lower blood pressure? The scientific research used a cup of juice. One of the commenters said they used a small amount every day. Another said they juiced one beet everyday. A cup is a large amount and I have no idea what a small amount is.. Help!!!!

  11. DWD

    It is the sodium in the sodium nitrate (NaNO3) or sodium nitrite (NaNO2) that is not good, but I believe it is because it causes cancers not high blood pressure. Sodium Chloride or salt NACL causes high blood pressure. Nitrate alone is NO3. Nitrite is NO2 and the enzyme XOR converts it to Nitric Oxide is N2O which relaxes the blood vessel walls to lower the pressure.
    It is interesting that Sodium Chloride NaCl can cause high blood pressure, while Sodium Nitrate/Nitrite NaNO3/NaNO2 cause cancers, while nitrate, nitrite and nitric oxide work in the body to lower blood pressure.
    Please note I am not a chemist so my analysis should be taken with a grain of salt :-) since I am just a lay person when it comes to chemical compounds.

  12. DWD

    I went back and read the article and gleaned a few more pieces of info. One person used a juicer because of expense and it worked. The person implied they had used canned juice before that. One would have to read how canned beet juice is prepared. I would assume it is at least pasteurized at high heat if not fully cooked. So plain canned cooked beets will probably work but the posting does not give any information on how the canned beet juice was prepared.

  13. Fla Eason

    My question is the same as the others. Does it have to be juice or will the beets work?

  14. AMP{

    I have high blood pressure and also am on blood thinners. I have noted that beets are on the NO list for the blood thinner. So what should I be doing?

  15. DWD

    Joe and Terry, your article seems to have created a lot of questions. Do you have anymore information that might answer these questions.
    A baseline would be to see the nutritional contents label on beet juice and compare it to other canned beet products. It seems sodium would be one factor. Any other additives for preservation would also be a factor. People are mentioning cost, but if blood pressure meds could be eliminated then the cost of the meds should be subtracted from the cost of the juice. Off to the grocery store to read labels. I have an appointment today with my cardiologist and blood pressure was on my list of items to discuss.
    An interesting article that reinforces why I subscribe to your newsletter. I get the articles a bit faster than I see in the local paper and they don’t always publish all you have in the newsletter.

  16. DB

    Do pickled beets (can buy them in glass jars in the supermarket) have the same effect?

  17. MEZ

    Would fresh organic beets cut up into filtered water with celtic sea salt (fermented) on counter for 2 days then refrigerated have the same effect as juicing the whole beets?

  18. joan

    powder or pills from beets you can use also? anything available?

  19. PP

    I’d like to hear more about this

  20. JimL

    Is it “juice from beets” as in squeezed or pressed or “juiced beets” as from a juicer or blender? Cooked or raw? The study might be scientific, but the reporting is lacking in that regard.
    Apple juice comes from pressed apples; apple sauce comes from blender.
    Some one please help with the details.

  21. Pam

    I don’t have a juicer but I make smoothies in my VitaMix blender which pulverizes the beets into fiberous liquid. Do you think that would have the same effect as juicing?

  22. DH

    So this makes me wonder: why is the sodium nitrate in wieners and lunch meat considered a factor in heart disease? Is this type of nitrate not also converted to sodium nitrite and will eventually produce relaxed blood vessels? Is it because the sodium content is higher? I’d love to hear from someone on this.

  23. Carole

    I love beets, and would like to eat them to lower my blood pressure… but I also am diabetic and have been told that beets have too much sugar. Any other suggestions?

  24. Cookie

    does eating steamed beets (or cooked by any method) work for high blood pressure? Is the beet juice prepared from uncooked beets?

  25. mimsy

    I want to know if you get the same effect if you use canned beets?

  26. Jeff C.

    Joe and Terry, how about beet powder? Beet juice is quite expensive and hard to find. We’d juice whole beets, but they are not always available and the juicing process is not the most convenient.
    My wife and I have been taking beet powder capsules—seems to work—I need to do a more rigorous study of effects on us. Beet root powder capsules from Nature’s Way and others are quite economical and readily available from health food stores and VitaCost, also Amazon.
    Any studies to cite or other comments, Terry and Joe?
    Love your show and e-mailings and books!

  27. elle

    I have had low blood pressure most of my life. I am 44. I often ask the nurse and or Dr.” is low blood pressure bad”? They all say the same thing. “It’s way better then high”! I can’t find a lot of info on the internet either. My father had low blood pressure most of his life. When he was 66 it spiked up suddenly. He was prescribed nitrates. After 3 yrs they took him off the nitrates. (do not know why). He had a major stroke a year later. He died 6 weeks after a “bleed” stroke.
    Could low blood pressure actually cause a stroke or other cardiac issues? Is there anything that can raise blood pressure naturally? I asked the Dr. if there was anything for low blood pressure, he said” they don’t treat low blood pressure as a problem”

  28. SM

    I take medication for blood pressure and am interested in your suggestion to use beet root juice to control it. I love Borscht and wonder if a cup of that every day would work as well since it is cold soup made from beets. If not, where can I buy beet root juice?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Try the borscht and see if it works. You may have to cut back on the usual amount of salt you would use.

  29. Betty F.

    Would eating beets (cooked or pickled) do as well? Beetroot juice is nearly $11 a quart. Boy, am I going to go to Farmers’ Market this summer!
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: We think eating beets should work. Unfortunately, no researchers have published studies on how many beets to eat.

  30. RDW

    Would a beetroot supplement every day also lower blood pressure or does it have to be the juice? If it has to be the juice, does the juice have sugar in it. I am not diabetic but am trying to lower my risk of it by exercising and lowering my carb intake (have lost 50 pounds over 2 years).
    Thank you for any information you can give me.

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