Studies have shown that it can!
Did you know that you could be having “wonder drugs” in your kitchen cabinet? Most of us underestimate the value of the herbs and spices we use daily. Several of these herbs have been used in the past several years as natural home remedies for multiple clinical disorders including high blood pressure. In fact, some have even proven to be as efficient as prescription antihypertensives in lowering blood pressure. One such miracle herb is Allium sativum commonly known as garlic.
When garlic is mentioned, we immediately think spices and true to that, garlic has been used to spice up food for several centuries. However, it has also been used medicinally for over 3,000 years. It is one of the earliest documented herbs used for treatment of disease and the maintenance of general health. Today, we are discovering that several ancient civilizations recommended garlic for many medicinal applications including circulatory disorders. This has been sighted in multiple old texts including the Egyptian Ebers papyrus and the sacred books of India, “the Vedas”. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, recorded the use of garlic as a diuretic agent in ancient Greece. Aside from its cardiovascular benefits, garlic has traditionally been used to strengthen the immune system and treat conditions like gastritis. It has also been popularized worldwide as an antibiotic and an antifungal earning it the nickname “poor man’s penicillin.” Today, this intriguing herb is probably the most widely studied medicinal herbs. In this article, we will explore the therapeutic benefits of garlic especially its efficiency as an antihypertensive.
HOW DOES GARLIC LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE?
It is simply amazing how many nutrients are contained within a single glove of garlic. These nutrients include: antioxidants such as germanium and selenium, multiple vitamins, and minerals, 33 sulfur compounds and up to 17 amino acids. These chemical compounds, including a substance called allicin give garlic its unmistakable pungent odor. They also make for the herbs’ pharmacological edge in lowering blood pressure and managing cardiovascular disease.
Garlic also contains a compound known as gamma-glutamyl cysteine, a natural inhibitor of the compound Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) found within the body. This chemical, in combination with the high allicin content in garlic, give garlic its ability to cause the dilation of blood vessels. Increased levels of ACE production in the body causes vascular constriction. Therefore, by targeting this enzyme, garlic can lower blood pressure. Multiple pharmaceutical drugs also work in a similar fashion, but they might have multiple side effects.
Several other mechanisms of action have been postulated to explain garlic’s BP lowering potential including the mediation of Nitric oxide production within cells. Nitric Oxide is a soluble gas that is well known for its potential to induce acetylcholine mediated vasodilation. This causes relaxation of vascular smooth muscle cells reducing peripheral vascular resistance hence reduction in blood pressure.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER BENEFITS OF GARLIC?
Studies have also shown that garlic reduces blood stickiness by inhibiting platelet aggregation. This helps thin the blood much like aspirin or thrombolytic drugs do. In a double-blind research study, patients given garlic demonstrated thinner, more slippery blood when compared to matched controls. Fibrinolytic activity increased by over 70% after consumption of raw garlic. What’s the relevance of thinning the blood you ask? Clumping of platelets can lead to the formation of clots which can increases your susceptibility to heart attacks and cerebrovascular accidents. Garlic protects against this.
Recent studies have also shown that garlic supplement can reduce your cholesterol levels by about 9% to 12%. These studies have also shown that garlic can even reverse hardening up of arterial walls. Certain conditions such as atherosclerosis, caused by excess of “bad-cholesterol” in blood, result in hardening of vascular walls making it difficult for the blood vessels to dilate adequately thus resulting in a higher blood pressure. By lowering cholesterol levels, garlic reverses such conditions.
Aside from its therapeutic effects, garlic also improves an individual’s emotional well-being. One study investigated the psychological state of volunteers over a four-month period of treatment with garlic extracts. Reports showed major improvements in positive mood characteristics in those who took garlic extract tablets, while emotional changes in those who took the placebo were insignificant.
HOW IS GARLIC BEST TAKEN FOR HYPERTENSION?
Several types of preparations are available. Garlic can be taken raw or freshly cooked. It can also be taken as garlic oil, garlic powder or as aged garlic extract. However, garlic is best taken raw as its main therapeutic component Allicin is highly volatile and unstable thus its easily destroyed by cooking. Despite its abundance of allicin, it requires up to 15 cloves of fresh garlic per day to achieve desired results as evidenced in clinical studies. Therefore, while it’s a good idea to include garlic in your diet, such high doses can be best achieved through garlic supplements. You may be curious as to what the recommended doses are. Well, the dose varies depending on the concentration of the extracts. A typical dose will supply 1000mcg – 5000mcg allicin.
HOW EFFICIENT IS GARLIC AS AN ANTIHYPERTENSIVE?
In October 2007, researchers from University of Adelaide carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis looking at the effects of garlic extracts on blood pressure. 25 relevant randomized controlled trials were identified. 11 of these provided sufficient information to be included in the meta-analysis. Nine of these studies compared garlic extracts alone versus placebo alone while the remaining 2 two compared garlic preparations plus another drug versus placebo plus the same drug. The study showed that garlic preparations reduced systolic blood pressure (SBP) by 4.6mmHg more than placebo in both hypertensive and non-hypertensive individuals. Researchers also reported that studies that included people with hypertensive individuals only, showed garlic preparations reduced SBP by 8.4mmHg, and DBP by 7.3mmHg.
This shows how effective this wonder drug is in management of high blood pressure. However, it is important that one consults with their physician before they can make changes to their antihypertensive regimen especially for those taking other medications such as anti-thrombolytics like warfarin.
Rohner, Andres et al. “A Systematic Review And Metaanalysis On The Effects Of Garlic Preparations On Blood Pressure In Individuals With Hypertension”. American Journal Of Hypertension, vol 28, no. 3, 2014, pp. 414-423. Oxford University Press (OUP), doi:10.1093/ajh/hpu165. Accessed 26 Feb 2018.
Ried, Karin, and Peter Fakler. “Potential Of Garlic (Allium Sativum) In Lowering High Blood Pressure: Mechanisms Of Action And Clinical Relevance”. Integrated Blood Pressure Control, 2014, p. 71. Dove Medical Press Ltd., doi:10.2147/ibpc.s51434. Accessed 26 Feb 2018.
Garlic For High Blood Pressure”. Lower Your Blood Pressure Fast, 2018, https://mylowerbloodpressure.com/garlic-extracts. Accessed 26 Feb 2018.
“LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE NATURALLY WITH GARLIC – FIVE REMEDIES”. Fiveremedies.Com, 2018, https://fiveremedies.com/heart-disease/lower-blood-pressure-naturally-with-garlic/. Accessed 26 Feb 2018.