Essential Oils Lower Blood Pressure
January 11, 2018
- Between 30 and 50 percent of Americans have high blood pressure, and only half have their blood pressure under control
- When your blood pressure is not well controlled you have a high risk of suffering from heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and cognitive decline; however, medications to control your blood pressure come with a laundry list of side effects and health problems
- Essential oils, such as lavender, ylang-ylang, marjoram, bergamot and clary sage, may help reduce your blood pressure, stress and cortisol levels, while also helping to improve your productivity
- Another natural option to help reduce your blood pressure is to increase the release of nitric oxide in your blood vessels through a simple exercise called the nitric oxide dump, which also improves your immune system and increases your lean body mass
By Dr. Mercola
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 30 percent of Americans have high blood pressure, also called hypertension, and only half of them have their blood pressure under control.1 However, under controversial new guidelines released in November 2017, which advised that high blood pressure should be treated at 130/80 rather than 140/90, nearly 50 percent of Americans would technically be suffering from high blood pressure.2
When your blood pressure is not controlled it may lead to other health conditions, such as cognitive decline, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. On a global scale, more than 1 billion people suffer from hypertension3 and that number has nearly doubled in the past four decades.4 Nearly 13 percent of all deaths worldwide are attributed to high blood pressure.
The rising numbers of people suffering from hypertension was not lost on the pharmaceutical industry. An increasing number of drugs have been developed in the past decade to control blood pressure, but they come with a laundry list of side effects and negative health problems of their own.
Instead, consider a significant number of natural options, including eliminating lifestyle choices that trigger hypertension and choosing alternative treatments that reduce your blood pressure. One of the easiest and best smelling is using essential oils.
Blood Pressure and What It Means
To fully understand why your choices increase or decrease your blood pressure, it’s helpful to understand how your blood pressure is measured and how it affects your body.
The traditional method of measuring your blood pressure was developed in 1881 and refined in 1905 when Russian surgeon Dr. Nikolai Korotkoff discovered the difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements.5 Today, sphygmomanometers measure the difference between the appearance and disappearance of sounds in your arteries, called Korotkoff sounds.
The appearance of the sound, your systolic number, represents the highest pressure through which your blood is pumped, while the disappearance of the sound, your diastolic number, is the lowest pressure needed by your heart to push blood through your arteries. In many instances, your blood pressure measurement may not be accurate, based on your body position, cuff size, activity level and consumption of caffeine, nicotine or alcohol.
Hypertension is called the “silent killer” as it may cause few or no symptoms and can quietly damage your blood vessels and organs for years without your knowledge. The added pressure needed by your heart to push blood through your vessels increases your risk of congestive heart failure.6 Coronary artery disease and an enlarged heart are two other heart conditions that may result from chronic hypertension.
High blood pressure also damages the cells lining your arteries, which may result in narrowed and less elastic arterial walls. This change raises your blood pressure further and reduces blood flow to your organs, increasing your risk of damage to your eyes, kidneys and brain. Reduced blood flow to your brain may lead to transient ischemic attacks (mini-stroke), stroke, cognitive impairment or dementia.
What Triggers High Blood Pressure?
There is no one lifestyle choice that triggers all hypertension. A combination of a number of reversible choices you make may put you at risk. Hypertension that isn’t obviously associated with a cause, such as a medical condition or medication, is referred to as essential or primary hypertension.
It’s estimated that as much as 95 percent of hypertension is essential hypertension. However, just because a known medical condition or medication is not responsible does not mean there isn’t a known cause for the condition. A number of contributing factors have been identified for high blood pressure, including but not limited to:
- Insulin and leptin resistance causes your blood pressure to increase7
- Elevated uric acid levels are associated with rising blood pressure; any program you adopt to address your hypertension needs to normalize your uric acid levels as well8,9
- Poor nutrition in childhood has been shown to raise the risk of high blood pressure in adulthood;10 consuming an excess of sugaris also linked to high blood pressure11
- Lead exposure has been associated with cardiovascular disease and hypertension12
- Air and noise pollution affects blood pressure; air pollution triggers an inflammatory response while noise pollution has an adverse effect on your nervous and hormonal systems.
By using natural options to address hypertension and any underlying medical condition you may realistically be able to reduce your dependence on medication. Lifestyle choices that are known to increase your blood pressure include smoking and alcohol use. Obesitymay also play a role.13
However, while many believe that your blood pressure will increase with age related to a decrease in arterial elasticity that is concurrent with advancing age, the truth is that this reduction in elasticity is often associated with insulin resistance, rising blood sugar and inflammation. Each of these conditions is associated with eating a diet high in net carbohydrates and refined sugars.
Medication Isn’t the Answer
It is highly likely that if your blood pressure is elevated your physician will recommend medications. While the allure of “just taking a pill” to address hypertension has millions under its spell, using medication comes without a laundry list of potential side effects and warnings. The Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure in 2014 emphasized the importance of weight control and regular exercise,14 but I don’t believe they went far enough.
It has been my experience that even stage 1 and 2 hypertension can be addressed with lifestyle interventions, making medications unnecessary. If you are currently taking medication for hypertension, do not stop. Instead, talk with your physician about your plan to incorporate lifestyle changes while monitoring your blood pressure. Then you and your physician can slowly reduce your medications while keeping your blood pressure under control. Problems associated with antihypertension medications include:15,16
|Dizzy or lightheaded||Sexual dysfunction||Headache|
|Skin rash||Weight loss||Hypokalemia|
|Muscle dysfunction (including heart)||Blood sugar fluctuations||Male breast enlargement|
|Fainting||Shortness of breath||Chest pain|
|Reduced kidney function||Ankle swelling||Flushing|
|Heartburn||Hypotension||Increased heart rate|
|Stuffy nose||Depression||Inability to fall asleep|
Essential Oils Are Simple, Easy and Effective
An essential oil is plant oil that is highly concentrated, often through distillation.17 Some oils are produced from the entire plant while others are made using specific parts, such as the leaves, bark or roots. These oils have been used in aromatherapy around the world to help reduce stress and improve health. Researchers have also been interested in the effect essential oils may have on reducing your blood pressure, on cardiovascular health and on secretion of cortisol.
In a study from the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology,18 scientists found that exposure to essential oil for one hour effectively reduced stress as measured by a reduction in the participants’ heart rate and blood pressure. However, after exposure for longer periods, both heart rate and blood pressure were elevated.
In a similar study, inhalation of a blend of essential oil was associated with a reduction in blood pressure and in cortisol secretion, often elevated during stress.19 Researchers used a blend of lavender, ylang-ylang, neroli and marjoram. There are several essential oils20that have an effect on blood pressure and help reduce your stress. Since these oils trigger an effect in your body, use an inhalation method for no longer than one hour to reduce the potential for any negative effects from overexposure.
This refreshing oil is often used in cosmetics for the scent, but research finds it also helps reduce your blood pressure and may reduce your anxiety and improve your mood.21
This oil has been shown to reduce both systolic and diastolic measurements, reduce your respiratory rate and decrease symptoms of stress and depression.22
The scent of red rose has a calming effect on your brain and has demonstrated an antianxiety and antidepressant effect,23 both of which affect your blood pressure.
Since ancient Egypt, frankincense has been used medicinally to reduce stress and promote peace of mind.
This oil retards hardening of the arteries, which raises blood pressure.24 The oil also helps regulate the cardiovascular system.
This oil comes from a small tree, known for use in trauma and shock to reduce breathing and heart rate.25 It is antidepressive, relieves anxiety and helps control blood pressure.
Low doses of the extract may reduce ischemic injury to the heart but higher doses increased the risk in an animal model.26 Further research is needed to determine a protective effect in a cardiac event. However, inhalation may protect against palpitations and heart attack and may reduce blood pressure.
Lavender may be effective in treatment of neurological disorders, including anxiety, and acts as a mood stabilizer and sedative, all of which have a positive effect on your blood pressure.27
The Nitric Oxide Dump May Be Exactly What You’re Looking For
Exercise is another important strategy that may help normalize your blood pressure. In this video I demonstrate an exercise I do daily that takes just three to four minutes and should ideally be completed two to three times during a day. When you do the nitric oxide dump allow at least two hours between each session to get the most benefit from the exercise.
I am convinced that, although this gentler strategy has not been compared to other HIIT protocols discussed in previous articles, it is a far healthier way to experience the benefits of HIIT. This type of exercise will stimulate the release of nitric oxide stored in your endothelial cells of your blood vessels that effectively:
- Relaxes and dilates your blood vessels, lowering blood pressure
- Stimulates your immune system
- Reduces the “stickiness” of your blood, reducing platelet aggregation and the potential for stroke and heart attack
- Provides a powerful anabolic stimulus to increase lean body mass