Herbal Supplements or Medication?
Combining the advice of medical doctors with alternative medical practice is a great way to not only stay health-conscious but to also create habits that will improve your long-term health and meet short-term health goals. With your personal health, your best offense is a good defense; in other words, prevention is key. Pharmaceutical drugs can work to solve a problem that already exists but herbal remedies can arm your body to properly prevent those issues from arising in the first place. Below, I will explore this idea by taking a closer look at herbal and pharmaceutical treatment and prevention options for high blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure
Nearly one-third of all Americans suffer from high blood pressure, putting them at a much higher risk for life-threatening health emergencies including stroke, blood clots and heart disease.
Natural Remedies for High Blood Pressure
Switching from a high-sodium diet full of salty foods to a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables rich in potassium and calcium will significantly improve your heart health. Herbal supplements can work in concert with these dietary changes for even better results. These supplements include:
Of particular note, patients diagnosed with high blood pressure taking aged garlic extract over a 12-week period have shown significant improvements. This supports the long-standing hypothesis that aged garlic improves arterial stiffness and inflammation, common in patients whose blood pressure is high. Additionally, berberine is thought to increase nitric oxide production in the blood, which plays a pivotal role in regulating blood vessel health.
Pharmaceutical approach: The doctor’s orders
When prescribing a medication for high blood pressure, your doctor may start with a combination of low-dose medications rather than a larger dose of a single drug. Though it may seem random, two or more blood pressure medications are often more effective than just one, as they work in conjunction to more holistically tackle the issue at hand. This process requires patience, as it involves a bit of trial and error. Below is a list of common blood pressure medications and a brief description of what they do:
- Thiazide diuretics (water pills): Help kidneys eliminate sodium and water in your blood
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: Help relax blood vessels by blocking the formation of the chemical that narrows vessels
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs): Relax blood vessels by blocking the action of the chemical that narrows blood vessels naturally
- Calcium channel blockers: Help relax the muscles of blood vessels
Pros and cons
With both pharmaceuticals and herbal remedies, a bit of trial and error is involved before you can be sure which supplement or medication works best for you. While these herbal remedies can help to keep blood pressure low, they cannot replace the precise work of blood pressure medications. If your problem is severe, make sure to follow your doctor’s advice. Only after your blood pressure is under control can you chat to your doctor about adding herbal supplements to your regimen. Side-effects from both types of treatment are relatively mild, ranging from stomach cramps to muscle fatigue and tiredness. Always report any adverse effects to your doctor.
Herbal and Pharmaceutical Medicine can Coexist
The above example is just one of countless maladies that can be addressed through a combination of herbal and pharmaceutical medicine. Even something as common as stress and anxiety can be treated more effectively by combining herbal remedies with medical knowledge. Though alternative treatments seem outside the realm of traditional medicine, there are many doctors out there who combine the two. After educating yourself on these practices from trustworthy and science-based resources, talk to your doctor about incorporating these different approaches to health into your lifestyle. As I said earlier, the best offense is a good defense, so weighing all of your options when it comes to medical treatment can more adequately fight and prevent illness, keeping you happier and healthier in the long-run.
Photo by Humphrey Muleba