Tackling Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) – The Herbalists Approach

Tackling Hypertension - The Herbalist ApproachThe NHS claim that as many as 30% of the population have a blood pressure reading above what is currently considered normal.  This reading reflects the level of pressure blood vessel walls are subjected to; the theory being the higher the level the more demand is put on ones heart and circulatory system.

There are some herbs with a common reputation for use in hypertension – the use of hawthorn, valerian and garlic is well documented.  As a herbalist, I believe hypertension develops differently in each person; what contributes in one person will not be the same as another and so their prescription of herbs will be different too.  Blood vessel health is important so I might use blueberry or yarrow; kidney function is often implicated so I may choose a diuretic – dandelion leaf, celery seed and/or limeflower.  Often my  consultation reveals the nervous system and adrenals need attention, using supportive herbs such as oats, borage, valerian, limeflower, and skullcap may contribute to lowering blood pressure here.  If tension is an issue anti-spasmodics like cramp bark is often added for its effects on smooth muscle.  As we age our bodies become less able to cope with stresses and strains and hypertension can be one manifestation of this, including a heart supporting herb like hawthorn or rose is almost always indicated in these cases – traditionally, these herbs were referred to as cordials and were common place a couple of generations back!   Attention to diet can also help the body cope with age related hypertension.  Keep caffeine and alcohol to an abosolute minimum, same with salt (or try pink Himalayan salt instead), avoid processed foods, eat plenty of wholegrains and be careful with full fat dairy products.

Whatever method you use to control blood pressure, its vitally important to ensure you are regularly monitored by regular trips to your Medical Herbalist, GP, or practice nurse. Those with existing medical conditions or taking pharmaceuticals should always take advice from a Medical Herbalist before taking any herbal medicines. Do contact me for no obligation advice!

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist


Herbal First Aid

I am often asked about which remedies, creams and potions people should keep handy for emergencies in the home.  It can be quite confusing and you risk ending up with lots of different products forgetting which one should be used when! The trick is to keep it straightforward so this month I will talk about a few simple yet very versatile herbs.

Tincture and/or cream of Calendula officinalis flowers (marigold).  Marigold flowers are extremely versatile – they help promote the healing of tissues they come into contact with, both externally and internally making them a handy remedy for cuts, grazes, and mouth ulcers.  Marigold is also antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal and may be considered for a variety of ailments – ringworm or other fungal related conditions, bites and stings, spots, abscesses, sore nipples for nursing mums, whitlows, burns (including sunburn), dry and sore skin following gardening or heavy household chores.   The tincture can be diluted with cooled boiled water and applied with cotton wool.

A cream made from Symphytum officinalis leaves (comfrey) is also a good addition to the emergency cupboard.  It may be useful to have a stock of the dried leaves kept in a cool dark place too!  The cream is handy to use in a hurry – comfrey is anti-inflammatory, it infuses right through to the deep tissues and bones, it was used for fractures long before plaster casts were heard of!!  Any inflammation and pain of the joints and bones may be helped by application of comfrey.  It is also a powerful healer of cuts and grazes but one has to take more care than when using marigold – it can heal so quickly you need to make sure there is no infection in the wound to be addressed first.  When you have more time available, a compress can be applied to aching joints – brew up some tea and soak a bandage in it to provide a longer acting soothing and anti-inflammatory action.

Tincture of Valeriana officinalis root (valerian) is always handy to have at home.  Valerian is anxiolytic (a substance that alleviates anxiety).  I may well suggest this to people (after a short chat) to try for most short term nervous states – exam nerves, before their driving test, and any excessive nervous states causing irritability.  It has sedative, carminative, relaxant, anti-spasmodic and mild analgesic effects too.  It has been used for centuries for its calming effects and may also help headaches and pain involving spasm – both musculoskeletal and digestive in origin.  Valerian is a true tranquilliser, what this means is that it will not send you to sleep if you don’t need to, however, at night in bed when your thoughts are racing and keeping you awake it may help calm the mind enough to allow the body to sleep.  I would definitely recommend talking to a qualified Medical Herbalist though, before you try valerian – it is a very gentle remedy but doesn’t suit everyones needs.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist