This is the third and final article in a series on blood pressure. In it you’ll find about herbs that can raise blood pressure, and how this can sometimes be a paradoxical action depending on the time frame visited. Will also dig into the less common problem of hypotension, that is too low blood pressure.
A lot of ground has been covered. In the first article, Blood Pressure and Hypertension, the basics of how blood pressure works and both conventional and unconventional treatments and lifestyle changes for hypertension were covered.
In the second article, Herbs for Lowering Blood Pressure, some of the biological mechanisms of action were explored further followed by herbs and foods that can lower blood pressure. This final article will be the shortest of the bunch.
About Hypotension or Low Blood Pressure
Hypotension, commonly known as low blood pressure, is a condition where blood pressure readings are lower than the normal range. Generally, a blood pressure reading lower than 90/60 mm Hg is considered hypotensive.
The causes of hypotension are varied and can include:
- Dehydration: When the body loses more water than it takes in, it can cause weakness, dizziness, and fatigue. Severe dehydration can lead to a significant drop in blood pressure.
- Heart Problems: Some heart conditions can lead to low blood pressure, including extremely low heart rate (bradycardia), heart valve problems, heart attack, and heart failure.
- Endocrine Problems: Some gland disorders like underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s disease), and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can cause low blood pressure.
- Severe Infection (Septicemia): When an infection in the body enters the bloodstream, it can lead to a life-threatening drop in blood pressure called septic shock.
- Blood Loss: Losing a lot of blood from a major injury or internal bleeding reduces the amount of blood in your body, leading to a severe drop in blood pressure.
- Lack of Nutrients in Diet: A lack of the vitamins B-12 and iron can prevent the body from producing enough red blood cells (anemia), causing low blood pressure.
- Long Periods of Bed Rest: Prolonged bed rest can cause the body’s cardiovascular system to become less effective at regulating blood pressure.
- Neurological Disorders: Conditions like Parkinson’s disease, multiple system atrophy, and diabetic neuropathy can impair the body’s ability to control blood pressure.
Orthostatic hypotension, also known as postural hypotension, is a form of low blood pressure that happens when you stand up from sitting or lying down. It’s characterized by a sudden drop in systolic (upper) blood pressure of at least 20 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or a drop in diastolic (lower) blood pressure of at least 10 mm Hg within three minutes of standing up.
Each of these would include lifestyle interventions, aiming at the root issues, but could also use some of the herbs listed below.
A Look at Exercise to Understand Short Term vs. Long Term Blood Pressure Effects
Before we dive into the herbs it is important to note that different effects can occur over different time frames. The best example of this is exercise. The act of exercising, whether it be isometrics, resistance training, sprinting or running is going to raise blood pressure due to the anaerobic or aerobic demands. (Plus, recall from the first article how isometrics were shown to beat any other form of exercise in lowering blood pressure over time. Interestingly, these will require maximum blood pressure increases in the short term.)
An increased heart rate leads to raised blood pressure. And your muscles need more oxygen and nutrients during exercise, so more blood is sent to them. This increased demand temporarily raises blood pressure to ensure adequate blood flow.
But the body adapts to whatever stressors it is put through. Recovering from the exercise leads to:
- Improved Heart Efficiency: Regular exercise strengthens your heart, which is a muscle. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort.
- Improved Blood Vessel Health: Exercise also helps keep your arteries and veins flexible and able to dilate (widen) or constrict (narrow) efficiently.
- Better Regulation of the Nervous System: Regular exercise improves the body’s ability to manage stress and reduces the impact of the sympathetic nervous system (often called the fight or flight response), which can raise blood pressure.
- Weight Management and Metabolic Health: Exercise helps in maintaining a healthy weight and improves overall metabolic health, both of which are important factors in managing blood pressure.
In summary, while exercise temporarily raises blood pressure to meet the increased demands of physical activity, regular exercise leads to a stronger, more efficient heart and healthier blood vessels. Over time, these changes result in lower resting blood pressure and a reduced risk of hypertension-related health problems.
Why am I talking about exercise in a post about herbs? It is because herbs can have a similar effect.
An adaptogen is a class of herbs that helps the body’s stress response system to work better. Many people taking herbs such as Ashwagandha will report that things that stressed them out before just don’t have the same effects on them. But how does an adaptogen work? Compounds inside upregulate the stress response system…by stressing it out.
And so we may see similar action with herbs in the cardiovascular system.
Herbs that Potentially Raise Blood Pressure
The following list of herbs is compiled from numerous sources such as this study and this one as well as elsewhere..While the herbs are listed, understand that some may have raising effects in the short term or the long term. Research in this area is quite limited, so I stress that these are potential effects.
Overall, only people with very high blood pressure may want to be careful with these.
- Licorice Root – Loved for its sweet flavor and cortisol-sparing effects, but long-term has in some cases lead to secondary hypertension as covered in case studies here and here.
- Bitter Orange – Used in weight-loss supplements, it’s known to increase blood pressure. Specifically compounds inside, synephrine and octopamine, are similar to ephedra.
- Ephedra (Ma Huang) – Used for weight loss and energy, but known to increase blood pressure.
- Eleuthero – Known for enhancing stamina, but can also raise the blood pressure bar. (Eleuthero, also known as Siberian Ginseng, is used inside of our Spartan Formula.)
- Yohimbe – A stimulant often used in fat-loss and sexual supplements that can cause a hypertensive crisis. Based on case studies this is much more common with isolated yohimbine in comparison to more full extract methods.
- St. John’s Wort – Often used for depression, it can interact with blood pressure medication leading to increased blood pressure.
- Guarana – A natural stimulant that can lead to hypertension.
- Senna – A natural laxative that can potentially raise blood pressure.
- Rhodiola – Used for stress, fatigue, and anxiety, but known to raise blood pressure in certain cases.
- Echinacea – Often used to boost immunity, it can interfere with blood pressure medications.
- Arnica – Can elevate blood pressure when consumed internally.
- Yerba Mate – A common tea ingredient known for its stimulant effects, which may also raise blood pressure.
- Blue Cohosh – While used for menstrual problems, it can have hypertensive effects.
- Dong Quai – Frequently used in women’s health supplements but can cause hypertension. (Dong Quai, also known as Angelica, is used inside of our Athena Formula.)
- Ginkgo Biloba – Improves cognitive function but may increase blood pressure if overconsumed.
- Goldenseal – A natural antimicrobial agent that may raise blood pressure.
- Saw Palmetto – Used for prostate health but can interfere with blood pressure control.
- Devil’s Claw – Used for arthritis but may cause hypertension.
- Ginseng – As covered in the previous article, Ginseng can sometimes lower blood pressure and sometimes raise it. This may depend on dosage as well as time frame.
When it doubt, if blood pressure problems occur or increased, then you may want to eliminate these herbs from your regimen. If you have extremely high blood pressure or are on medications, it is best to consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner or herbalist that knows what they’re talking about.
And, as always, it is important to understand that everyone is a bit different. These herbs could work great for certain people, perhaps even lowering blood pressure, while they cause uncomfortable spikes in others. You must experiment to find what works for you.
Some of our other herbs at Lost Empire Herbs possibly can raise blood pressure too, but limited research or even anecdotal reporting is available for some of these more rare herbs.