According to the CDC, 1 out of every 3 adults in America has high blood pressure. That is a bit alarming. When you consider the fact that another 1 out of every 3 American adults has prehypertension-higher than normal blood pressure- it is even more alarming. How do we treat this growing epidemic?
Here we will break down blood pressure: what causes it, what treatment options are available, and how you can naturally reduce your blood pressure by including pure essential oils in your heart health plan.
What is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is measured using two rates:
- Systolic Pressure– The pressure measured when the heart beats, pumping blood
- Diastolic Pressure– The pressure measured when the heart rests between beats
The systolic pressure is the number above the line; diastolic pressure is the number below it.
Essentially, blood pressure is the measurement of how much work your heart must endure when pumping blood through your body. If your blood pressure is too high, it means your heart is overworking. Just like any other muscle, the heart needs to relax. The difference is, it can’t just stop contracting, or who will pump the blood? After enough stress, the heart will in fact stop pumping-which is what we call a heart attack.
Having a blood pressure of 120/80 or below is considered normal, and anything above this number is classified as either prehypertension or hypertension (high blood pressure).
Marked by a systolic pressure of 120-139 or a diastolic pressure of 80-89, prehypertension is used to describe high blood pressure which isn’t “dangerously high” yet, but should be still be monitored.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
There are two stages of high blood pressure. Stage one high blood pressure is marked by a systolic pressure of 140-159 or a diastolic pressure of 90-99.
Stage two high blood pressure is when the systolic pressure raises into the 160 or higher range, or the diastolic pressure reaches 100 or higher.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
As we know it, there is no single cause for high blood pressure. There are, however, many contributing factors which put you at risk for high blood pressure. Lifestyle factors which contribute to high blood pressure include:
- Inactive / sedentary lifestyle
- High sodium diet
- Alcohol consumption
- Tobacco Use
- Diet low in fresh fruit and vegetables.
There are other factors to consider as well. Genetics may come into play as a risk factor for hypertension. If your family has a history of high blood pressure, you may be more likely to develop it yourself. Y our age may also affect your blood pressure. A longer lifespan of poor dietary and exercise choices puts you at a greater risk for high blood pressure. Kidney disorders and sleep apnea may also have an effect on your blood pressure, contributing to higher numbers.
How Is High blood Pressure Usually Treated?
In Western medicine, there is “a pill for every ill”. In the case of high blood pressure, there are actually hundreds of them. Each reacts in the body differently and has different effects–and side effects.
There are a few standard classes of chemical medicines which aim to treat blood pressure symptoms these days, and each do it in a different way.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors– These medications work to reduce the amount of angiotensin II in your blood. The body produces this chemical to constrict blood vessels; so less of this chemical means less constricted blood vessels.
- Angiotensin receptor blockers– These medicines work to block the reception of angiotensin into the walls of the arteries, so they work much the same as ACE inhibitors.
- Water Tablets (Diuretics)-Diuretics work to increase the number of salts and liquid which are expelled in your urine. This also may have a relaxing effect on the blood vessels.
- Beta–Blockers- Beta blockers work to slow the heart rate and reduce the force of the heart, which helps lower blood pressure.
- Calcium Channel Blockers– These medicines affect the way the heart and blood vessels use calcium, which helps reduce blood pressure.
Side Effects of Chemical Medicines
Each of the major types of medicines comes with their own specific side effects:
- ACE Inhibitors- Can cause irritating and persistent cough
- Angiotensin receptor blockers- Can cause dizziness and instability
- Diuretics- Can cause gout or increase gout attacks. Can also cause impotence
- Beta-Blockers- Can cause poor circulation, cold hands and feet, sluggishness, insomnia, and impotence.
- Calcium Channel Blockers- Can reduce circulation, causing swollen ankles. Redness in the face, dizziness and constipation have all been reported.
If you have been prescribed a medication for high blood pressure, it is important to look at these medications as a temporary bandage rather than a cure. Lifestyle change should always be implemented. Do so gradually, so as not to burn yourself out.
Medical science is growing, and we are learning the importance of leaning less on high blood pressure medications and more on proper lifestyle changes. In addition to prescribing medications, Doctors will also recommend you make changes in your diet, exercise, and stress levels, and work to control your weight. Conveniently, these practices are also the best preventative medicines which exist.
Cholesterol plays a big factor in your heart health. As the arteries become clogged with LDL cholesterol (the bad one), the heart has to work harder to get blood through them-increasing blood pressure. Major contributors to LDL cholesterol are meats and dairy products.
Alternatively, Fiber-rich foods such as fruit, whole grains, and vegetables can actually work to eliminate plaque from the arteries, and help the body expel more fat as waste matter. Additionally, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains rarely contain fats which contribute to LDL cholesterol.
With diet, of course comes exercise. Regular exercise completes the “Big Two”; the two most ignored phrase of the doctor’s office. Actually, A bit of exercise can go a long way. One study found that 30-60 minutes of exercise daily can lower blood pressure by an average of 5-8 mm-Hg.
Watch Your Weight
As obesity is a contributing factor to high blood pressure, keeping your weight in mind can help prevent or reduce high blood pressure. Simply shedding ten pounds can greatly reduce your blood pressure.
Limit alcohol intake
You may have heard that “a glass of wine each day is good for the heart”. This is very true-provided that the glass of wine is a standard five ounce glass. One alcoholic drink a day can help lower your blood pressure, but increased alcohol consumption actually raises your blood pressure by several points.
Reduce sodium intake
A gradual reduction in your dietary intake of sodium can also have a drastic result over time. Simply reducing your dietary sodium intake by 800mg each day can reduce your blood pressure by up to 8 points.
Natural Remedies for High Blood Pressure
As people throughout the country and across the globe become aware of the risks and side effects of chemical medications, more and more turn to the use of natural alternatives and preventative treatments for their high blood pressure.
Great success has been found in treating high blood pressure symptoms using regular supplements of magnesium, potassium, coQ10, and fish oil. The effect of these dietary supplements can be multiplied when used in conjunction with possibly the most beneficial natural treatment for high blood pressure- essential oils.
Essential Oils for High Blood Pressure
In addition to making lifestyle changes, there are many useful essential oils which can help you out on your path to reducing your blood pressure. We are making more breakthroughs in natural science now more than ever, and more helpful essential oils pop up every day! Let’s discuss the most studied and beneficial essential oils and how you can use them today to achieve results.
1. Bergamot Essential Oil
The scent of bergamot essential oil is crisp, clean, and refreshing. It is commonly used in cosmetics, perfumes, and even foods. However, recent studies have brought to light many of bergamot essential oil’s powerful medicinal benefits.
One such study revealed bergamot essential oil reduces blood pressure when diffused for 15-60 minutes. The study focused on a group of spa workers, who were exposed to the oil diffused in their work space. The results were astounding. Workers who were exposed to an aromatherapy session of anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes in length showed significant reductions in their blood pressure and heart rate.
Another promising study showed the amazing ability of bergamot essential oil to improve mood. This study highlighted patients in a high stress environment-namely, they were about to have a surgery. The researchers found that inhalation of bergamot essential oil lead to a reduced anxiety level and better mood in every person who was exposed to it.
As bergamot essential oil enters the nose, the olfactory glands send signals to the nose to release neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. These are the chemicals responsible for making you feel good. A 15 minute aromatherapy session using bergamot essential oil can not only help you lower your blood pressure; the increased dopamine in your brain may also reduce the impulse to reach for those comfort foods.
2. Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil is possibly the most famous essential oil on the market- and for good reason! There are many benefits of lavender essential oil, including reducing high blood pressure.
In a groundbreaking study, participants were hooked up to an electroencephalogram (EEG) machine to measure the impulses in the brain before and after lavender essential oil inhalation. What they found was that lavender essential oil reduces blood pressure and heart rate, and increases the amount of relaxing theta and alpha waves in the brain. Participants who inhaled lavender essential oil reported feeling more alert, refreshed, and relaxed after the session.
3. Clary Sage Essential Oil
As great as lavender essential oil is at reducing blood pressure, Clary sage may be even more so! At least, according to one side by side study. The study compared the inhalation of Clary sage essential oil, lavender essential oil, and a control oil.
While Lavender oil showed a significant reduction compared to the control oil, clary sage essential oil reduced high blood pressure better than both of the other groups. Both systolic and diastolic reductions were noted, as well as a significant reduction in the respiratory rate of those who inhaled clary sage essential oil.
Clary sage may show promise in applications where patients may not need to feel as relaxed, but to simply have their blood pressure lowered.
Clary sage essential oil also lowers stressors and symptoms of depression. One study found that Clary sage essential oil reduces stress in test subjects, and actually promotes an anti-depressant like effect. The study noted the oil showed promise as a therapeutic agent for depression.
As one third of people with depression are alcoholics-and alcohol abuse greatly increases your risk for high blood pressure- Clary sage essential oil may be able to help cure the cause and the effect all at the same time!
4. Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
The simple scent of ylang ylang essential oil is enough to melt away some of your daily stress. As a matter of fact, one study says it may be more than just the smell. A team of researchers compared the effect of an essential oil blend containing ylang ylang with a synthetic fragrance. The participants who smelled ylang ylang essential oil showed a marked decrease in blood pressure rates, as well as an immediate reduction in stress level.
Another such study actually combined ylang ylang essential oil, lavender essential oil, and bergamot essential oil. By this point, the results are not all that surprising- but they are still just as impressive. The study showed that the inhalation of essential oils reduces blood pressure, cortisol levels, and stress factors in humans. It also noted that the use of essential oils can be considered an effective nursing intervention in clients with essential hypertension.
5. Frankincense Essential Oil
Like ylang ylang, frankincense essential oil has a powerful calming effect on the body. This helps to reduce stress levels, and regulate the heart. Unlike chemical medicines which your body requires more of over time, Frankincense is generally seen as a tonic substance-which means that its benefit to your body actually increases over time using the same amount.
The use of frankincense to promote mental clarity and reduce stress levels is nothing new. Ancient Egyptians used frankincense in their spiritual ceremonies, and the burning of the resin or diffusion of the essential oil promotes stillness and peace of mind.
6. Sweet Marjoram Essential Oil
A lesser known essential oil, sweet marjoram essential oil is no less powerful. In fact, one study found Sweet marjoram essential oil to be beneficial in reducing myocardial oxidative stress, among many other factors. What’s more impressive is that the study showed promise in not only helping reduce blood pressure, but also helping people suffering from heart attacks.
The use of sweet marjoram for heart health is not new however. A survey of traditional Moroccan practitioners found that sweet marjoram is used to treat hypertension naturally in their culture, and has been for years.
Simple Essential Oil Recipes for High Blood Pressure
So, you’ve got your pure essential oils now, but where to begin? If you are new to aromatherapy, it can be a bit confusing where to start. Below are a few tried and true essential oil recipes for high blood pressure. Feel free to experiment, and see what works best for you.
- 5 drops Lavender essential oil
- 5 drops clary sage essential oil
- 5 drops frankincense essential oil
- 2 oz. coconut oil
- Mix together and keep in a lidded container. Rub into temples and under nose whenever you need to destress and clear your mind
Blood pressure reducing diffusor recipe:
- 2 drops bergamot essential oil
- 2 drops lavender essential oil
- 2 drops ylang ylang essential oil
- Place oils in aromatherapy diffuser and diffuse for 15-30 minutes, inhaling at a slow and steady pace.
If you tried out something different, or have a favorite essential oil recipe to lower your blood pressure, we would love to hear about it. Leave us a comment below, and we will be sure to reply.
A Final Note
Though essential oil use is considered safe, there may be potential for drug interactions. If you are already prescribed a high blood pressure medication, are pregnant or nursing, or are taking an over the counter hypertension medication, talk to your health care practitioner before starting to use any essential oil. Always begin any new regimen slowly, and gradually build into it.
Allergic reactions from essential oils are rare when used properly, but it is still important to note that pure essential oils need to be diluted, either in carrier oil for the skin, or in water in a diffusor. Using safe practices ensures you have the best experience with your essential oils.