The herbal formulas of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can sometimes be of assistance for regulating high blood pressure. The key to success in using TCM for high blood pressure is to make sure that the herbs you use, are unique for your combination of symptoms.
Don’t be surprised if your conventionally educated doctor is skeptical of using TCM as part of your plan to control hypertension. It’s not something they teach in medical school (at least not outside of China). However, both acupuncture and 17 different Chinese herbal medicines have been tested in 73 clinical trials involving 8,138 patients. In these studies, several findings stand out:
- Chinese herbal formulas that are prepared by companies that use Good Manufacturing Practices are safe. None of the 73 clinical studies of professionally prepared Chinese herbal formulas reported any serious side effects.
- Chinese herbal formulas do not make a huge difference in blood pressure numbers. The 13 herbal formulas found to be generally effective lowered systolic blood pressure (the higher number or first number) by 3.94 to 13.50 mm Hg. They lowered diastolic blood pressure (the lower number or second number) by 2.28 to 11.25 mm Hg. This means they aren’t strong enough to reduce blood pressure for severe hypertension, but they may save you having to take prescription medication if you have “borderline” high blood pressure.
- Chinese herbal formulas get results comparable to prescription medications. For example, one study compared a calcium channel blocker, nifedipine, with an over the counter Chinese herbal product Quan Tianma. There were no more incidents of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, transient ischemic attack, kidney failure, or retinopathy among hypertensives who were treated with Quan Tianma than with people who were treated with nifedipine.
Your results depend on whether the formula you take matches your symptoms. Chinese herbal formulas that treat hypertension are never just about hypertension. They are for lowering your blood pressure while treating your other symptoms. Of course, certain symptom patterns are more common than others so certain herbal formulas are more commonly prescribed.
- A survey of doctors in Taiwan found that the most often used herbal formula for high blood pressure is a combination called Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin. In English, this formula is usually called Gastrodia and Uncaria Decocotion. Clinical trials confirm that it lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke. Researchers have confirmed that it acts as angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, in much the same way as the prescription drugs lisinopril or ramipril, but without their side effects. It usually gets results in about 10 days, but there is a major contraindication: Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin can increase insulin resistance. This means that it can aggravate prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. You should not take this product if you have problems with blood sugar control.
- Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang is not frequently prescribed, but it may be added to treatment with Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin when there are weak pulses in the hands or feet. Laboratory experiments have confirmed that it prevents the formation of blood clots. This well-known formula is sometimes called “Drive Out Stasis” in the Mansion of Blood Decoction, referring to its ability to reinvigorate the flow of blood throughout the body.
- The second most frequently prescribed herbal product for hypertension in Taiwan is a single herb called Dan Shen. It is also known by its botanical name, Salvia miltiorrhiza. Even though Taiwanese physicians prescribe Dan Shen to about 17% of their hypertensive patients, over 500,000 times per year, there have been no reported side effects in over 50 years. Clinical trials have confirmed that it lowers blood pressure, prevents blood clots, and slows down the process of atherosclerosis. It is often used for people who have high blood pressure and already have heart disease or hardening of the arteries in the brain, because laboratory studies confirm that it improves microcirculation through the capillaries of the heart and brain. However, it should not be used with aspirin (which makes it less effective), warfarin/Coumadin (because the herb and the drug used together have an excessive anticoagulant effect), ginseng (because the two herbs have opposing effects), or the tranquilizer diazepam (because Dan Shen increases the activity of liver enzymes that break down diazepam).
- Gou Teng San, which is also known as Uncaria Powder, is a headache remedy that is also prescribed for high blood pressure. It would be most often prescribed when a patient complains of headache, dizziness, and/or blurred vision, and the doctor notices that blood pressure is high. Clinical studies confirm that it lowers blood pressure. The formula is also used to treat dementia, but the fact that you are prescribed it does not mean you have dementia.
- Jia Wei Xiao Yao San, which is also known as Augmented Rambling Powder, is primarily a treatment for problems associated with menopause, especially insomnia and hot flushes. This formula is most likely to be used to treat “borderline” high blood pressure in women going through menopause. The formula is modification with the addition of herbs “Rambling” Powder, so named because it allowed younger women to ramble freely during their painful periods.
- The single herb Gou Gen (Uncaria) is used to treat high blood pressure in those relatively rare people who are truly salt sensitive. It’s also used to treat “phlegm,” which roughly corresponds to health problems that result from years of misdirected energy. If you are overweight, and having problems with cholesterol and blood sugars, then this herb might be helpful for you.
All of these herbal products are readily available from Chinese herbal practitioners. You should always seek the advice of a registered practitioner for the most safe and accurate diagnosis. For your health safety and peace of mind, your Chinese Medicine Practitioner should be registered with the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Remember, a treatment for high blood pressure has to lower your blood pressure. Take your blood pressure readings regularly and any medications your doctor prescribes. Use Chinese herbal medicine to make that critical difference that keeps your cardiovascular system healthy.
Any new changes should be consulted with your medical practitioner
The information and reference materials contained here are intended solely for the general information of the reader. It is not to be used for treatment purposes, but rather for discussion with the patient’s own physician. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of professional medical care.
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