Many forms of alternative health management have been shown to be effective in reducing blood pressure. These methods are endorsed by both alternative and medical health management groups. These include managing your weight by eating a diet that is low in saturated fat and sodium (salt), and high in complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes), physical exercise, and stress management techniques.
The majority of people do not get enough exercise so it would be hard to find anyone who would not benefit from increased physical activity. Multiple random clinical trials have proven that men and women of all age groups who are physically active have a decreased risk of developing hypertension. Those who exercise for one-half to one hour three to four times a week can lower their blood pressure as much as some drugs do.
It is known that when a person is under emotional stress and tension their blood pressure increases. Recent research shows that people who practice the ancient relaxation methods of controlled breathing and physical activity, such as yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi daily for two to three months experience lower blood pressures, have lower levels of stress hormones, and demonstrate less anxiety.
Government studies have not proven the effectiveness of some types of alternative health management. For example, extensive studies on the use of acupuncture for treatment of high blood pressure have been reported, but more controlled research is needed to determine the true value of acupuncture.
The evidence that some popular herbs and supplements are both effective and safe at lowering blood pressure is very weak, and in some cases there really is no evidence at all. Several supplements, including coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), omega-3 fatty acids, and the amino acids: L-arginine and L-taurine do show evidence of effectiveness and are supported by the results of placebo-controlled studies. It is important to research all information you hear or read.
Knowing which herbs to avoid is as important as knowing which ones will help. Some herbs like licorice, Ma Huang and yohimbine as well as excessive use of alcohol can cause increased blood pressure. Caffeine, cranberry juice and alcohol in small amounts are all weak diuretics that cause sodium and water loss through the urine, which can help reduce your blood pressure. Because of the potential health risks associated with many herbs, especially when used in combination with anti-hypertensive medications. It is important to let your doctor and/or pharmacist know what herbs and supplements you are taking.