High blood pressure, also called hypertension, affects nearly half of all American adults.
It’s the most common preventable risk factor for heart disease.
This article looks at the scientific research behind 10 herbs and spices that may help lower blood pressure.
Managing high blood pressure
High blood pressure is defined as having at least one of the following:
- systolic blood pressure (the top number) over 130 mm Hg
- diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) over 80 mm Hg
- both systolic and diastolic values above these levels
You can manage blood pressure with medications, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and calcium channel blockers.
Many dietary and lifestyle changes can also reduce your blood pressure and lower your risk of heart disease.
Studies have shown that some herbs and spices may reduce blood pressure levels, so you may want to consider adding these to your diet, too.
Make sure to speak with your healthcare provider before using any of the following herbs.
Below are 10 herbs that may help lower blood pressure.
Summary: You can manage high blood pressure with medication, as well as dietary and lifestyle changes. Some herbs and spices may likewise help lower blood pressure.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a flavorful herb that comes in various forms. It’s popular in alternative medicine because it’s rich in various powerful compounds.
Sweet basil is high in eugenol. Research has linked this plant-based antioxidant to many health benefits, including lowered blood pressure.
Studies suggest that eugenol may help reduce blood pressure by acting as a natural calcium channel blocker.
Calcium channel blockers prevent the movement of calcium into the heart and arterial cells, allowing the blood vessels to relax.
Animal studies have shown that sweet basil extracts helped relax blood vessels and thin the blood, which in turn helped reduce blood pressure.
However, scientists need to do more research to investigate whether basil helps lower blood pressure in humans.
Summary: Basil contains compounds, such as eugenol, that may help reduce blood pressure, according to animal studies. However, more human research is needed.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a popular herb in American, European, and Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s native to the Mediterranean and has an impressive nutritional profile.
Parsley contains a variety of compounds, such as vitamin C and dietary carotenoids, that may reduce blood pressure.
Several studies have shown that carotenoid antioxidants reduce blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease.
Animal studies have shown that parsley reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by acting like a calcium channel blocker — a type of medication that helps relax and dilate blood vessels.
However, there’s limited human research on parsley and blood pressure. More research in this area is needed to better understand its effects.
Summary: Parsley contains a variety of compounds, such as vitamin C and dietary carotenoids, that may help lower blood pressure. However, more human research is needed to confirm these effects.
3. Celery seeds
Celery seeds (Apium graveolens) are a versatile spice that’s packed with various nutrients, such as iron, magnesium, manganese, calcium, and fiber.
Interestingly, some research suggests celery seeds may help lower blood pressure.
One study in rats examined the effects of celery seed extract on blood pressure.
The study found that celery seed extract lowered blood pressure in rats with preexisting high blood pressure — but not in rats that had normal blood pressure.
Researchers have suggested that compounds in celery seed extract may help lower blood pressure by acting as a natural calcium channel blocker.
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In addition, celery seed is a good source of dietary fiber, which has been linked to lower blood pressure.
That said, there are only a few studies on celery seeds and blood pressure. Scientists need to conduct more human research in this area.
Summary: Animal research suggests celery seeds may reduce blood pressure. This herb may be effective thanks to its fiber and action as a natural calcium channel blocker. More studies are needed.
4. Chinese cat’s claw
People have long used Chinese cat’s claw in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including high blood pressure.
Its scientific name is Uncaria rhynchophylla, and it’s also called Gou-Teng or Chotoko.
However, do not confuse it with cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa). Despite its similar name and appearance, this plant has a different origin and different chemical properties.
Chinese cat’s claw contains several compounds, such as hirsutine and rhynchophylline. Animal studies have shown these may reduce blood pressure by acting as natural calcium channel blockers.
In addition, these compounds may stimulate blood vessels to produce nitric oxide, which is a chemical compound that helps blood vessels relax and dilate.
Animal studies support these effects, showing that taking Chinese cat’s claw extract or its compounds reduces blood pressure and aid blood flow. However, human studies are still limited in this area.
You can purchase Chinese cat’s claw at select health food stores or online.
Summary: Chinese cat’s claw contains compounds that may act as natural calcium channel blockers and help blood vessels relax, according to animal studies. More human studies are needed.
5. Bacopa monnieri
Bacopa monnieri is an herb that grows in marshy areas in South Asia. Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine use it to treat various ailments, including anxiety, memory issues, and high blood pressure.
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In animal studies, Bacopa monnieri helped lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels by stimulating blood vessels to release nitric oxide.
A 12-week human study in 54 healthy adults looked at the effects of Bacopa monnieri on memory, anxiety, depression, and blood pressure.
While the herb improved most mental aspects, it did not affect blood pressure.
Although the findings from animal studies are promising, bacopa monnieri‘s effects on blood pressure in humans are still unclear. Scientists need to do more research on this herb’s effects.
You can buy Bacopa monnieri from health food stores and online. It’s available in several forms, including powder and capsules.
Summary: Animal research suggests the herb Bacopa monnieri may help blood vessels dilate and relax, lowering blood pressure. However, human research is conflicting and limited.
Garlic is rich in many compounds that may benefit your heart.
In particular, garlic contains sulfur compounds, such as allicin, which may help increase blood flow and relax the blood vessels. Collectively, these factors may help lower blood pressure.
A review of 12 studies in over 550 people with high blood pressure found that taking garlic reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 8.3 mm Hg and 5.5 mm Hg, respectively.
This reduction was similar to the effects of blood pressure medications.
A 24-week study in 30 people found that 600–1,500 mg of garlic extract was just as effective at lowering blood pressure as the drug Atenolol.
Summary: Garlic contains compounds, such as allicin, that have been shown to help relax blood vessels and aid blood flow. Collectively, these factors may help reduce blood pressure.
Thyme is a flavorful herb packed with numerous healthy compounds.
Rosmarinic acid is one such compound. Research has linked it to many benefits, such as reduced inflammation and blood sugar levels, as well as increased blood flow. It may also help reduce blood pressure.
Animal studies have shown that taking rosmarinic acid helped significantly reduce systolic blood pressure by inhibiting the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE).
ACE is a molecule that narrows blood vessels and raises blood pressure. Thus, inhibiting it may lower blood pressure.
Other animal studies have shown that taking thyme extract reduced heart disease risk factors, such as total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.
That said, there’s limited human research on thyme and blood pressure. Scientists need to do more research to investigate these effects in humans.
Summary: Thyme contains powerful compounds, such as rosmarinic acid, that appear to help relax blood vessels in animal studies. However, researchers need to do more studies on humans.
Cinnamon is an aromatic spice that comes from the inner bark of trees from the Cinnamomum genus.
People have used it for centuries in traditional medicine to treat heart conditions, including high blood pressure.
While it’s not fully understood how cinnamon lowers blood pressure, animal research suggests it can help dilate and relax the blood vessels.
A review of 9 studies including 641 participants showed that taking cinnamon reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 6.2 mm Hg and 3.9 mm Hg, respectively.
This effect was stronger when people took cinnamon consistently over 12 weeks.
Moreover, a review of 3 studies including 139 participants with type 2 diabetes looked at the effects of taking cinnamon.
Those who took 500–2,400 mg of cinnamon daily over 12 weeks experienced an average reduction of 5.39 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 2.6 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure.
Cinnamon is easy to incorporate into meals. Concentrated cinnamon supplements are another option.
Summary: Cinnamon appears to help dilate and relax the blood vessels, which may help lower blood pressure.
Ginger is incredibly versatile and a staple in alternative medicine.
People have used it for centuries to improve many aspects of heart health, including circulation, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure.
Both human and animal studies have shown that taking ginger reduces blood pressure in several ways. It acts as a natural calcium channel blocker and natural ACE inhibitor.
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Calcium channel blockers and ACE inhibitors are types of blood pressure medication.
A study on more than 4,000 people found that those who consumed the most ginger — 2–4 grams per day — had the lowest risk of developing high blood pressure.
Ginger is delicious and easy to incorporate into your diet with meals. Alternatively, you can purchase ginger supplements online. These are more concentrated.
Summary: Ginger appears to lower blood pressure by acting as a natural calcium channel blocker and dilating the blood vessels.
Cardamom is a delicious spice with a slightly sweet, intense flavor. It’s packed with various antioxidants that may help lower blood pressure.
A 12-week study in 20 adults that were newly diagnosed with high blood pressure found that taking 3 grams of cardamom powder daily significantly reduced blood pressure, lowering it close to the normal range.
Test-tube and animal studies suggest cardamom may help reduce blood pressure by acting as a natural calcium channel blocker and diuretic.
A diuretic is a compound that helps remove water buildup through urination.
While these findings are promising, research in this area is still quite new. Therefore, scientists need to conduct additional studies to further investigate cardamom’s effects on humans.
Cardamom is simple to incorporate into your cooking or baking. Alternatively, you could take a cardamom supplement or extract under the guidance of your healthcare provider.
Summary: Animal and human research suggest cardamom may help lower blood pressure by acting as a natural calcium channel blocker and diuretic. Still, more human studies are needed.
High blood pressure is the most common, preventable risk factor for heart disease. It affects nearly half of all American adults.
The best way to manage high blood pressure is through a combination of the right medications, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors.
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That said, there are several promising herbs and spices you can incorporate into your diet that may help lower your blood pressure.
They include basil, parsley, celery seeds, Chinese cat’s claw, Bacopa monnieri, garlic, thyme, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom, to name a few.
Keep in mind that many herbs and spices may interact with common blood thinner medications, and many extracts and supplements discussed above lack sufficient safety research.
For this reason, always consult a healthcare provider about what herbs and spices you’re considering incorporating into your diet, and never discontinue a medication without consulting them first.