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.

Join Over 80,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. Keely
    Durham, NC

    While I think this data is great, and I love seeing it, I’m really disappointed at the number of patients who have shown up at my office having completely stopped their blood pressure medications in favor of occasionally eating beets.

    Please remember to discuss this with your doctor before suddenly stopping a med that is being given to help prevent a cardiovascular event.

    • Keely
      Durham, NC

      Also, I would point out that the only human data has a study group of fewer than 20 people. As was shown in the faulty chocolate/weight loss study, this is hardly a large enough group to make sweeping recommendations regarding a sea change in the treatment for hypertension. I look forward to seeing broader study, but am doubtful that anyone will undertake such a rigorous study, unfortunately.

  2. Gus

    I am hearing a great deal about Beets, powder , juice, etc. lowering BP. No one seems to have a Beta for someone who has hypertension & would love to get off these deadly RX pills. I am a little appprehensious about taking the Beet powder 3 grams with my RX benazapril/hczt-20/12.5.
    I have been taking supplements in ernest for over 35 years & I am very careful & understand you can mix the wrong thing with the wrong thingh.
    For instance people who are on RX BP meds should never be mixing Rhodiola, or Red siberian Ginseng, they can have a deadly result yet none of the “experts in the vitamin stores & I am talking about some pretty experienced people not the typical newbie at GNC who just came in from the car wash.
    So I just am very careful about what I mix. Beets appear to be very benign; but they could have a unique bad effect with a RX BP med.

  3. Gus
    So. California

    So if I take 3 grams of beet powder & benazapril/hctz 20/12.5 mg., will I have any problems?
    Is there anyone out there who might have an opinion?
    Thank you.

  4. tish

    BEETS, grow your own, don’t be so dependent on the store. Costs you almost nothing.

    • nancy

      I would think there would be no contraindications between the meds and the Beet Root Powder. Think it as a food. Did they tell
      you not to eat beets while on these meds?

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.