Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier - The Best Alternative Medicine

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High Blood Pressure: CAM Therapies for Specific Conditions

  • Exercise is effective against high blood pressure. It has been endorsed as beneficial by the National Institutes of Health, the AMA, and the United States Surgeon General.

  • MindBody exercises and movement decrease the harmful effects of high blood pressure. They help to create a relaxed state, and decrease the negative effects of stress.

  • Meditation reduces both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. This was shown in a study conducted by Cooper in 1978 and a major 1997 study by Wenneberg and colleagues indicating blood pressure reductions with inner-city black men.

  • Behavioral medicine helps high blood pressure patients. Components of cognitive behavioral interventions include education, training in coping skills, training in motivation techniques, behavioral rehearsal, and group support.

  • Hypnotherapy induces decreased blood pressure. Hypnosis creates reduced sympathetic nervous system activity, decreased blood pressure, slowed heart rate, and slower frequency brain waves. It can also bring about changes in thinking and behavior.

  • Imagery is used to treat high blood pressure. It has been shown to reduce stress, help patients manage pain, reduce heart rate reactivity, and decrease resting heart rate. It can help patients enter an altered state of consciousness, similar to that achieved by hypnosis.

  • Biofeedback, a training program used to improve a patient's control over autonomic body functions, is sometimes used in the treatment of high blood pressure. It appeals to many patients because it encourages them to actively participate in their therapy. It also can significantly reduce treatment costs.

  • Tai chi exercise improves heart rate and blood pressure. A 1992 study by Dr. Jin in Australia indicated that tai chi improved heart rate and blood pressure as much as brisk walking.

  • Qi Gong exercises can help lower high blood pressure. A number of studies support the use of Qi Gong in treating cardiovascular disorders. In one study, patients using Qi Gong averaged a 10 percent drop in blood pressure.

  • A diet centered on plant foods, or phytonutrients, presents less risk for high blood pressure patients. Animal fat has been shown to be the primary dietary factor in predisposing patients to cardiovascular risk. If and when animal fats are eaten, portions should be small.

  • Women at risk for high blood pressure showed a reduction of hypertension when using the mineral selenium. This was demonstrated in a 1994 Chinese study by Han of pregnant women at risk for high blood pressure.

  • SOD is an enzyme that has been investigated for its ability to protect against drops in blood pressure. This substance is a powerful antioxidant that may decrease the damage caused by oxygen deprivation to organs of the body.

  • Licorice reduces levels of potassium in the blood.

  • Salvia, an herb, has been applied in coronary artery disease and in other cases where there has been damage to body tissues, such as after a stroke. It promotes circulation in the small blood vessel beds, reduces blood pressure, and reduces cholesterol.

  • Garlic has become one of the most popular substances for reducing cardiovascular risk factors. This medicinal application is partly based on a large number of clinical studies.

  • Hawthorn produces a mild reduction in blood pressure. Several studies indicate the healthful effects that this herb has upon the cardiovascular system.

  • Chiropractic therapy can be of value in reducing high blood pressure, according to chiropractor Dr. Chester Wilk of Chicago.

  • Yoga exercise can be effective in helping to reduce high blood pressure. It can induce a relaxed state in the autonomic nervous system.

  • Parental love in a person's childhood can help protect against high blood pressure many years later. In a thirty-five-year study at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, doctors found that people who described their parents in positive terms during their middle-aged years were far less likely to suffer from a number of chronic conditions, including high blood pressure.

  • Pets can help to lower blood pressure. In a 1988 study, researchers found that heart attack patients who had pets were even more likely to survive than patients who had a living spouse, or extensive family support.

  • Prayer can help to lower blood pressure. In numerous studies, Harvard's Dr. Herbert Benson has shown that prayer has a positive effect on many physical functions, including blood pressure.


Caution: When combined with diuretics, such as lasix, or heart stimulants, such as lanoxin, licorice can cause muscle weakness and irregular heartbeats. Do not use licorice if you have high blood pressure or irregularities in heartbeats.

Caution: Treatment with Dasheng Jiangya oral liquid, a Chinese herbal preparation, showed no significant effect upon high blood pressure, although it did appear to have other beneficial effects.

Caution: Ephedra is a powerful herb which can increase blood pressure to dangerous levels.

Caution: Two studies on chiropractic manipulation showed different results in its effect on high blood pressure. A 1985 study indicated that chiropractic manipulation did not improve blood pressure, but a 1988 study indicated that it did.



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Copyright © 2000 by Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, Inc.

Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, New York.


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