home blood pressure monitor, lower blood pressure

Do you have hypertension? The chances are strong that you do. That’s because cardiologists at the American Heart Association have established new guidelines. Anyone whose blood pressure readings are above 130/80 is now considered hypertensive (American College of Cardiology, Nov. 13, 2017).  That means one out of every two adults has high blood pressure, or more than 100 million Americans. Can you lower high blood pressure naturally?

Why Should You Lower High Blood Pressure?

There’s one simple answer: high blood pressure kills people. Maybe not right away, but over the long term hypertension increases the chance that a person will have a heart attack, stroke, kidney disease or dementia.

Hypertension wreaks havoc with the body. Arteries are gradually damaged and weakened. That increases the risk for aneurysms and other blood vessel mischief. It’s hardly any wonder that physicians would want to help their patients avoid such disastrous consequences. What’s the best way to avoid or control high blood pressure?

Rounding Up The Usual Suspects:

Well-meaning health professionals often suggest the following lifestyle changes:

  • Lose weight
  • Exercise at least 3 to 4 times a week
  • Don’t smoke
  • Drink alcohol in moderation (if at all)
  • Eat lots of veggies
  • Avoid salt
  • Keep caffeine to a minimum
  • Stay calm and avoid stress

Making Progress is Hard:

You’ve heard all that before. Such recommendations are reasonable, but hard to implement. A person in a high-stress job may find it challenging to stay calm. Losing weight is incredibly difficult for almost everyone, including many doctors. And avoiding salt may not be as productive as most public health authorities think (see this link).

Are You Cutting Back On Salt? Does It Matter?

Most medical clinics do not provide practical support to help patients lose weight, exercise, quit smoking, eat healthy food or learn the relaxation response. As a result, doctors get frustrated when patients come back six months or a year later without having made much, if any, progress. A frequent response is to write a prescription for an anti-hypertensive medication.

Drugs to Lower High Blood Pressure:

There are dozens of drugs to control hypertension. Some work better than others. It is hard to predict which medication will be best for any given person. As a result it is often a trial and error process.

Virtually all medications to control hypertension have side effects. We have heard from thousands of patients over the last 40+ years. They report unexpected complications from a variety of antihypertensive medications. Here are some links:

Lisinopril Stories

Lisinopril Side Effects Can Be Lethal

Doctors Ignore Lisinopril-Caused Cough

Hydrochlorothiazide (HCT, HCTZ) Stories:

Hydrochlorothiazide Side Effects: Skin Cancer and More

Hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) Side Effects, Complications and Gout!

Amlodipine Stories:

Amlodipine and Dizziness: How Common is This Side Effect?

Amlodipine (Norvasc) Side effects

Metoprolol Stories:

What Are Metoprolol Side Effects When Prescribed for High Blood Pressure:

What Are Metoprolol Side Effects When Prescribed for High Blood Pressure:

Back Pedaling on Beta Blockers (Atenolol, Metoprolol, Propranolol) for Hypertension

Are There Nondrug Ways to Lower High Blood Pressure?

A surprising number of nondrug approaches may help get hypertension under control. Some health care professionals might be surprised to learn that there is science to support many of these strategies.

Sauna Baths:

People in Finland and other Scandinavian countries are devoted to their sauna baths. Rather than seeing this as a luxury, they use the sauna for hygiene and social interaction as well as for health.

A study of Finnish men showed that those who visit the sauna regularly (four to seven times weekly) are only about half as likely to develop high blood pressure as those who go only once a week (American Journal of Hypertension, Nov. 1, 2017).

Perhaps the benefits for blood pressure help explain why sauna bathers are also at lower risk for stroke (Neurology, May 29, 2018)  and dementia (Age and Ageing, March 1, 2017).

Breathing to Lower High Blood Pressure:

No sauna bath handy? You can also lower your blood pressure with slow breathing or meditation. People who hate the idea of meditating may find the RESPeRATE device that helps pace respiration is useful (Journal of the American Society of Hypertension, Jan. 2015).  Practicing the relaxation response can also help bring blood pressure down to normal (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, May 2018).

Hibiscus and Tart Cherries to Lower High Blood Pressure:

What you sip can also help with blood pressure. Hibiscus tea, made from red Hibiscus sabdariffa flowers, can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure about as much as common medications (Journal of Hypertension, June, 2015).

Hibiscus works through a classic mechanism. It inhibits angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE). This is the way commonly prescribed blood pressure medicines such as lisinopril work. In one study, hibiscus tea lowered ACE as well as lisinopril (Indian Journal of Pharmacology, Sep-Oct. 2015).

Tart cherry juice works through an identical mechanism (Food Chemistry, June 30, 2018).  In one study, volunteers drank two cups of tart cherry juice or a placebo beverage daily. Those drinking cherry juice significantly lowered both their systolic blood pressure and their LDL cholesterol (Food & Function, June 20, 2018).

Beet Juice For Hypertension:

Another beverage that has been well studied is beet juice. A study published in the Journal of Human Hypertension (Oct. 2016) found that a cup of raw beet juice daily significantly lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure.  It also lowered markers of inflammation and improved blood vessel flexibility.

Chocolate for High Blood Pressure?

Perhaps the tastiest nondrug approach to lowering blood pressure is dark chocolate. One study found that people eating a bit less than an ounce of high-potency dark chocolate a day lowered their blood pressure significantly (ARYA Atherosclerosis, Jan. 2015).

There are many ways to lower blood pressure with and without medications. If nondrug strategies are inadequate, doctors can choose from a wide range of effective antihypertensive medications.

You can learn more about nondrug approaches to controlling hypertension in our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment. It describes numerous foods, herbs and supplements that can help keep your numbers where they belong.

* * *

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Their syndicated radio show can be heard on public radio. You can also download free podcasts of the show. In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. You can e-mail them via their Web site:


Share your own story about how to lower high blood pressure in the comment section below.

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  1. Nana

    Deep breathing does help. Our Silver Sneaker instructor has us push all air out by mouth and keep pushing and then breathe in through our noses. It increases lung capacity and makes lungs stronger. At first you may cough but you will become able to do this easily after daily practice. There were 4 or 5 in our class who were supposed to start meds and then didn’t have to as BP went down. Worked for me.

  2. Janice
    Roanoke, VA

    Have seen recent info related to Olive Leaf reducing bp. Curious if anyone has used and had good results. Never want to take bp meds again. Totally believe docs are in cahoots with the drug industry.

    • Tony

      I tried Olive Leaf Extract, and it didn’t seem to work for me.
      Since the capsules were lying around, my wife tried them also..
      Didn’t work for her either.

  3. Antoon Groot
    New zealand

    There are basically 2 major food items that will elevate your blood pressure and they are excessive glucose and sodium.
    Of glucose, reduce the consumption of sugar, grains and potatoes for a couple of weeks and you will be surprised at the beneficial experience you will enjoy.
    Especially wheat products are very destructive because wheat contains Amylopectin A, which will spike your blood sugar faster than sugar. My wife and I do not eat bread and the difference is amazing, sugar is also of the list. Sugar combined with wheat is the worst of our food consumption.

  4. Judy
    Winston Salem NC

    Tart Cherry Juice is tasty and may work but I can’t afford something that costs $6.99 and up for a 24 oz bottle. I don’t know if they would help with blood pressure but it seems that Cinnamon, Apple Cider Vinegar and Garlic are helping to keep my cholesterol under control even after going off statins.

    One little vent… the word is vegetables. I get so tired of seeing veggies everywhere, it is almost as if has replaced the word vegetable — is it cuter, does it come up more on searches? I don’t know but I surely do miss the good old vegetable.

    • John

      Thank you, Judy, for pointing out that the word is “vegetable”. I also get annoyed seeing things like “veggie” for “vegetable” or “comfy” for “comfortable”. I also like your point about people giving recommendations for items without any consideration for how much it costs if bought regularly. I am pretty sure that most people who read this are not rich people for whom price is not important. This is similar to where doctors write prescriptions for expensive medicines when much cheaper ones are available.

  5. John H

    How true Oigen’s statement is. For 60 years it was completely natural for systolic pressure to be 100 plus your age for men, subtracting 10 for women. This was Dr Piette’s guide, universally accepted and in use for over half a century.

  6. Aina

    My BP dropped to normal after increasing my Omega 3 and COq10 and it also helped the A Fib dramatically to almost normal heart beat

  7. Michele

    You might find some good information in this newsletter. Please read through it. Take a look.

  8. cameron

    I am taking L-Argnine plus. Its a powder, mine is grape flavored, mix with a glass of water. It is metabolized to nitric oxide which dilates the blood vessels similar to viagra’s action. You can read the reviews. Seems to be working for the blood pressure part, haven’t noticed the viagra effect :) Seems to help my workouts as well. I am 66.

  9. Dr. Bill

    I take a BP reading daily and Fax a monthly copy to my Cardiologist. I do have meds but the most effective is a 6-8 glass of red wine with dinner and enjoying a couple hours of reading a good book. I cannot convince the Dr. that a script would be helpful.

  10. Sandy

    I have had success in lowering my blood pressure by adding Beet Powder to food and/or drinks each day. I have found that beet powder is mild in taste so it does not over power the food you are adding it to.

  11. AL

    I have been on blood pressure medication for about 15 years. I didn’t watch my salt intake very much. My BP would sometimes spike very high where I would need to take an extra pill to bring it down. Well, about a year ago, I started looking for reasons for the spikes. It was salt. When I ate a high salt at a restaurant, etc. That was when it would spike. Started a low salt diet, and now don’t even need BP meds. My doctor said I’m very salt sensitive.

  12. LULU

    I have tried most of those listed here with varying success. The one thing that works the best for me is hibiscus tea and Nattokinase. Nattokinase has been used in Japan for centuries and has been studied for blood clot prevention. It has also been shown to lower blood pressure and there is a ton of info online. My cardiologist agreed that I could try it and it would not do any harm. Well, it did not harm and has dropped my blood pressure to under 120/80. The only warning is that you should not take it if you are using warfarin or are pregnant. As for my history, I am 68 years old, very active, vegan, and have no other complications. I hate and detest pharmaceutical blood pressure meds. Have tried many different BP meds and always get side effects I can not tolerate. I have an enlarged aorta so it is important to keep my blood pressure as low as possible. Nattokinase is amazing.

    • jjoe

      where do you buy nattokinase and how do you take it?


    • Tracey Lynn M.

      I took Nattonkinase and it affected my breathing. I read that breathing issues can be a side effect. Thank God when I stopped it, my breathing went back to normal.

  13. Jan Youngs N

    My blood pressure has been as high as 196/95, but I refused to take prescription meds and finally went to Sprouts to their nutritionist to find out what over-the-counter drugs worked. She told me to take hawthorne berry and ashwaganda combined, so I bought both in pill form. It took me about a month to adjust the dosage for my needs, now 3 Hawthorne berry in the morning, and 1 ashwaganda in the morning, then the same amount in the evening.

    For me it was a huge doseage but remember I had begun with an outrageously high blood pressure number. I added one regular coated 350 mg. aspirin every night at bedtime, and suddenly, my heart is purring like a kitten. No more flutters, no ringing in my ears, no getting tired mid-day. Best of all, my blood pressure has dropped more than 40 points on the to and 20 on the bottom number.

  14. Carol
    Dallas, TX USA

    Is bottled beet juice effective, or do I need to juice my own to reap the benefits?

    • LaRae
      Mesa, AZ

      Either will work. Or, you may want to buy beetroot powder. I take 1/2 tablespoon mixed with 4 oz of water once a day. It works great and it is more cost effective than buying the bottle juice or the hassle of juicing fresh beets.

  15. Carol
    Dallas, TX

    Is bottled beet juice effective, or do I have to juice it myself to reap the benefits?

  16. Victorianlady853

    I take lisinopril (20mg) daily and it does a nice job of lowering my blood pressure to the 120/70 range. Of course I would prefer to lower my blood pressure by natural means if possible. I tried hibiscus (Lemon Zinger) tea which has the same ingredients as lisinopril. It was the worst tasting stuff I ever drank. Even adding lots of sugar couldn’t erase the very bitter taste. I’ll keep trying other things like tart cherry juice and beet juice. Maybe I’ll find something that lowers my blood pressure and suits my palate as well.

  17. Caroline M
    Alberta, Canada

    Wow ! I was told almost 30 years ago, I would be dead in a few years if I did not stay on BP medications and no salt or canned foods. When I had an infected cyst and had to have surgery, my BP went up to 235/145, yet they let me go home with no medication because the moment they put me under, the Dr. said my BP went down to normal.

    So, if we are on medication, what happens then? Could it not go too low and kill you also?

  18. Marilyn

    My blood pressure has always been normal, or even a little low. A while back I tried drinking a glass of water with unfiltered apple cider vinegar every morning for I don’t remember what (a friend recommended it highly). After 3 or 4 days I started to get light-headed and it turned out it was lowering my blood pressure and I had to quit.

  19. Larry
    Raleigh, NC

    So Hibiscus is a natural ACE inhibitor like Lisinopril. Then why would you recommend it, given all the Lisinopril dangers you’ve warned about? Just because it’s “natural?” That makes about as much sense as recommending Red Yeast Rice (natural Rosuvastatin) for cholesterol when the patient has already reported dangerous statin side effects.

    Consistency is a good thing.

  20. L

    What about celery?

  21. Susan C

    I also would like to know about tart cherry juice capsules. I’ve been using the juice to help with sleep (apparently it has melatonin in it, or helps you make melatonin) and it does help. But my BP meds I think are both making me lightheaded and very tired. I’d like to avoid the sugar in the cherry juice.

    I did find that some concentrates of the juice have less sugar than others which helps some. Also I only want to use organic cherries, even in capsules, because I researched it and they do need to use some pesticides with the tart cherry crops (grown largely in Michigan). Just google about it and you’ll see info on it. So organic tart cherry juice caps (small ones if possible–I can’t swallow big ones!) would be wonderful. But I couldn’t find any organic ones and don’t really know if they would work.

  22. david

    Referral to a dietitian should be one of the first steps. Dietitians can use a food diary to record what you are actually eating and how much alcohol you actually drink. Insurers usually pay for a dietitian consult on physicians order because it is so cost effective. Doctors don’t have the time and skills to be effective weight loss coaches. Some fitness centers and magazines do some diet education and motivation, but overcoming the American diet and compulsive overeating of unhealthy foods needs something better.

    Effective weight loss and getting alcohol consumption under control at the beginning of metabolic syndrome prevents prediabetes and progression to diabetes. A anti-hypertensives which raise blood sugar like thiazides can progress to prediabetes. The higher the blood sugar, the more insulin spikes and insulin resistance which makes it hard to lose weight. I wish there were an antihypertensive medication which lowers blood sugar, raises insulin sensitivity and helps with weight loss, but there isn’t,

    Seventh Day Adventist vegetarians diet and lifestyle make them the large, well studied American population who live much longer than average Americans. Less heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia add years of health to those who have learned a healthy lifestyle.

    I am a retired pathologist with no connection to dietitians. Over the course of my career, I examined hundreds of legs amputated for type 2 diabetes so I know just how bad metabolic syndrome can be.

  23. DS

    I trust the AHA about as much as I trust the FDA. They villified saturated fat and egg yolks and had people eating margarine and vegetable oils. And now they lower the parameters so they can claim that more people need their services. I believe my father would have lived at least ten years longer if he had not followed the low fat advice of the 1970s.

  24. Marcia
    Cape Cod

    Editorial thoughts on the following: “patients come back six months or a yeast later” . . . surely that should be a “year” later?

  25. Dennis
    Union, NJ

    Dr. Matthias Rath, M.D. along with Linus Pauling proposed and has proven in numerous medical studies that cardiovascular disease is as a result of atherosclerosis being caused directly by chronic internal inflammation of ones arteries and veins; the famous landmark book “Why Animals Don’t Get Heart Attack But People Do!” that can be brought from Amazon makes for a much better rational way for accessing a means of directly addressing and actually dealing with cardiovascular disease by attacking its actual root cause; via a method of comprehensive nutritional supplementation which I have read about in his published over +300 page book; its quite eye opening indeed; and he clearly outlines the actual nutritional supplementation guidelines on page 25 and page 57 of his book:

    Dr. Rath’s Basic Cellular Health Recommendations(parenthesis-coronary heart disease patients):

    Vitamin C 600 to 3,000mg(1,200/1,800mg to 6,000/9,000mg)
    Vitamin E 130 to 600IU(260/390IU to 1,200/1,800IU)
    Beta-Carotene 1,600 to 8,000IU
    Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 5 to 40mg
    Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 5 to 40mg
    Vitamin B3 (Nicotinate) 45 to 200mg
    Vitamin B5 (Pantothenate) 40 to 200mg
    Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) 10 to 50mg
    Vitamin B12 20 to 100mcg
    Vitamin D3 100 to 600IU(200/300IU to 1,200/1,800IU)
    Folic Acid 90 to 400mcg(180/270mcg to 800/1,200mcg)
    Biotin 60 to 300mcg(120/180mcg to 600/900mcg)
    Calcium 30 to 150mg
    Magnesium 40 to 200mg
    Potassium 20-90mg
    Phosphate 10 to 60mg

    Trace Elements
    Zinc 5 to 30mg
    Manganese 1 to 6mg
    Copper 300 to 2,000mcg(600/900mcg to 4,000/6,000mcg)
    Selenium 20 to 100mcg
    Chromium 10 to 50mcg
    Molybdenum 4 to 20mcg

    Other Important Cellular Nutrients
    L-Proline 100 to 500mg(200/300mg to 1,000/1,500mg)
    L-Lysine 100 to 500mg(200/300mg to 1,000/1,500mg)
    L-Carnitine 30 to 150mg
    L-Arginine 40 to 150mg
    L-Cysteine 30 to 150mg
    Inositol 30 to 150mg
    Coenzyme Q10 5 to 30mg
    Bioflavonoids 100 to 450mg
    (Chondroitin sulfate: supports the stability of the artery wall as a “cement” for connective tissue)
    (N-acetyl-glucosamine: supports the stability of the artery wall as a “cement” for connective tissues)
    (Pycnogenol: acts as a biocatalyst for improved vitamin C function and improved stability of the artery wall)

    Cellular Health Recommendations For Patients With Higher Coronary Heart Disease
    In addition to the Basic Cellular Health Recommendations above, he recommends that patients with documented existing coronary heart disease or a high risk for this condition take the following cellular micro-nutrients in much higher 2 to 3 times normal dosing under the medical supervision of a medical doctor with actual certified nutrition training:

    Vitamin C: provides protection and the natural healing of the artery wall and reversal of plaques
    Vitamin E: provides antioxidant protection
    Vitamin D: optimizes calcium metabolism and the reversal of calcium deposits in the artery wall
    Folic Acid: provides a protective function against increased homo-cysteine levels together with vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid nutrients
    Biotin: provides a protective function against increased homo-cysteine levels together with vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid nutrients
    Copper: supports stability of the artery wall with the improved cross-linking of collagen molecules
    Proline: supports collagen production, stability of the artery wall and reversal of plaques
    Lysine: supports collagen production, stability of the artery wall and reversal of plaques
    Chondroitin sulfate: supports the stability of the artery wall as a “cement” for connective tissue
    N-acetyl-glucosamine: supports the stability of the artery wall as a “cement” for connective tissues
    Pycnogenol: acts as a biocatalyst for improved vitamin C function and improved stability of the artery wall

    • Bev

      I didn’t take it the same as you but more like there’s “natural” alternatives to take rather than the synthetic forms and fillers put in meds. By going the natural approach like beets or hibiscus you’re also getting other vitamins and nutrients unlike medication. Not being disagreeable just a different way of thinking and intention of someone being helpful like that person.

    • Bev

      Can we find all that in one pill…please. ;)

  26. Tony

    I’ve been taking Quinapril for quite a few years now, but it only seems to get my blood pressure down to the “pre-hypertensive level”…
    I did some research & reading about “L-Arginine” and started taking 2 x 1000 mg. a day …
    The L-Arginine is a precursor to Nitrite Oxide, which your body needs and uses to dilate
    your blood vessels….
    As a side note, I also started taking “Celery Seed Extract” [85% 3nb], 2 x 75mg. a day, for my knee pain, which it helped relieve the pain …BUT,
    It too, also helped lower my blood pressure…
    Both my PCP, and my Cardiologist now say my blood pressure is “”PERFECT””…

  27. laura

    im wondering re: beeturia. my husb had 2 episodes & my md
    may want to rx antihypertensive meds on my next visit. im also
    concerned re natural remedies containing sugar as my A1C
    approaching 7. thank you

  28. Antoon G
    New zealand

    Sugar is one of the main culprits of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

    I have said this before and say it again most if not all our metabolically disorders are caused by what we eat. This message should be kept in front of people every day.

    I am in my 86th year and have normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels. I have never taken prescription medicine and never will.

    Good health.

  29. Oigen

    Anyone whose blood pressure readings are above 130/80 is now considered hypertensive ……….. If that is so then I should have croaked sixty years ago. Blood pressure drug sales must by wanting again.

    • Helen

      I agree Oigen, is this a conspiracy to foist more drugs on the unsuspecting medicos and patients – like Statin drugs? And we all know how dangerous Statins are. Yes how come BP benchmark normal readings were ALWAYS 140/80. Now suddenly, its too high. Come to think of it, I’m wondering if the normal BGL’s parameters have been shifted down too, to sell more Metformin. For years normal BLood Glucose readings were 8mmls to 3mmlsWho conducted or paid or sponsored the study on Blood Pressure?

    • Shirley
      Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

      Another example of the pharmaceutical companies running the show. Changing the blood pressure coda is very clever. Now millions more need to buy their wares. Just like making pain ‘the fifth vital sign’ to sell poison in the form of pain pills to everyone with a toothache or minor sprain or pain. Can you say billions of $$$$? And statins for all! I worked at a psychiatrist’s office for years – free lunch for all 10 employees every day and Morton’s or Ruth Chris twice a month, even for non-clinical personnel. That gravy train has dried up but there are plenty of others. Check out ‘Dollars for Docs’.

    • John H

      How true Oigen’s statement is. For 60 years it was completely natural for systolic pressure to be 100 plus your age for men, subtracting 10 for women. This was Dr Piette’s guide, universally accepted and in use for over half a century.

  30. Karen

    I have been advised to get on blood pressure medication, and I’m looking for natural alternatives because I already have joint problems. Do you know about the efficacy of tart cherry capsules? I’m concerned about the amount of sugar in tart cherry juice.

    • Ruth

      Karen: Try grapefruit juice, a juice glass full morning and evening. Check with your doctor that this is all right (it interacts with prescription medications, and if you are taking any, it could be a serious problem, so always do the check!). But, it will lower your BP up to 20 points, in my experience. And, no sugar! (put artificial sweetener in it if it’s too tart for your taste)

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