a confused or forgetful older senior woman

Q. I am concerned about my sister, who takes pills for high blood pressure. She seems more forgetful now than before she started taking medicine. I read in a magazine that blood pressure drugs destroy the brain, so I am frightened for her. The article suggests an Asian herb, Rauwolfia, instead of drugs. Should my sister take this instead?

A. Rauwolfia serpentina is native to India, where it was used in traditional medicine. Indian doctors prescribed it for high blood pressure and “insanity.”

In the mid-1950s reserpine, a chemical from Rauwolfia root, became the first treatment for hypertension in the U.S. It was also used to treat mental illness.
Although still available, reserpine is not commonly prescribed because of side effects such as sedation, low blood pressure, digestive upset, depression, stuffy nose and difficulty concentrating.

Some medicines can cause forgetfulness, but blood pressure pills do not destroy the brain. Untreated high blood pressure is far more likely to cause lasting damage.
We are sending you our Guides to Drugs and Older People and Blood Pressure Treatment so you can learn more about drugs that cause forgetfulness and how to work with the doctor to find medicine that does not cause troublesome reactions.

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  1. Dottie C.

    I have labile highpertension . Have a very hard time controlling my blood pressure. But the Dr, says I do have better luck then they do.
    I am a CNA. I wish I’d gone on to be a RN. I love reading any medical info.
    I’m now 86. My main problems are B/P and GERD and swelling feet and legs.

  2. Paul43

    Has anyone on this forum tried this?

  3. emmy

    Unfortunately, people forget that the “natural” or “traditional” medications ie herbs, vitamins, minerals etc aren’t free from dangerous side effects… If someone says he is taking such-and-such for his condition, and confronted with the possible side affects of that substance ~ which has not been intensively studied, by the way ~ the patient is often astounded that the “natural” remedy can be dangerous. I’ve seen it many times in my role as an RN……

  4. harold b.

    When starting practicing in the seventies I used reserpine.
    The side effects are well known, especially often a “blocked/stuffed” nose.
    I never worked with rauwolfia tincture [from the whole root][not reserpine derived from rauwolfia] but it seems that there may be a definite place to use this in the treatment of hypertension, carefully looking for the individual fitting dose, which may be just a few drops.
    It seems not to be available easily. Unless one is born in the “Indian tradition” one should not use this without a doctor familiar with herbs.

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