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Q
Herbs for Hypertension?

I just read about a new herbal medicine for blood pressure called Mukta Vati. What do you think about it? I am currently having trouble taking a prescription drug for blood pressure. It is really helping my (blood) pressure, but it is causing insomnia. I am having dreams every night, and even if I do get a nap it is not a solid sleep.

A
Answer (Published 12/17/2004)

Mukta Vati is an Ayurvedic herb used to treat high blood pressure. Although I’ve seen testimonials from people who say it really has helped lower their blood pressure, I haven’t seen any scientific studies confirming its effects.

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If your blood pressure is high enough to warrant medication, I would suggest discussing the drug-related problems you’ve been having with your physician. He or she may recommend another medication or adjust the dosage of the one you’re taking in an effort to eliminate the side effects you’ve experienced. At the same time, consider making lifestyle changes that can help control your blood pressure. Here are some suggestions:

  • Limit your caffeine intake (caffeine can contribute to high blood pressure).
  • Limit alcohol intake (Blood pressure increases as your body metabolizes alcohol.)
  • Avoid processed foods and other sources of salt. Your salt intake should be no more than one teaspoon (2,400 mg) per day.
  • Watch your weight. (Losing even a few pounds can improve blood pressure.)
  • Relax. (Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and biofeedback all can help lower blood pressure.)
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Exercise. (As little as 30 minutes per day of walking can lower blood pressure.)
  • Make sure that no medication you’re taking is contributing to high blood pressure. (Steroids, birth control pills, decongestants, NSAIDS and diet pills can raise blood pressure. So can over-the-counter medications containing licorice root, guaraná, kola nut, yerba maté, ginseng and yohimbe.)
  • Take calcium and magnesium. (Low intake of both are associated with high blood pressure; women need between 1,000 and 1,200 mg of calcium per day; men no more than 600 mg daily from all sources which means men probably do not need to supplement. If you get your calcium from supplements, take half as much magnesium as your calcium dosage.)
  • Take vitamin C, which has been shown to lower blood pressure in people with mild to moderate hypertension.

In addition, make sure that your daily diet includes eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables, including garlic (it can help lower blood pressure). Include four to five servings of nuts, seeds and dry beans per week and plenty of fish such as wild Alaskan salmon and sardines for the heart-protective omega-3 fatty acids they provide.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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