How Does Garlic Lower Blood Pressure?

By Susanna Perkins

What Is High Blood Pressure?

How Does Garlic Lower Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by your blood as it pushes against artery walls. The American Heart Association estimates that one third of Americans have blood pressure that is too high for good health.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, has been called the "silent killer" because it usually exhibits no symptoms. About one third of those with hypertension are not aware that their blood pressure is too high. Hypertension can lead to serious conditions, including stroke, heart failure, heart disease and kidney failure. Adults with hypertension are three to four times more likely to die of a stroke or heart attack than those with normal blood pressure. High blood pressure is very costly -- the American Heart Association estimated that high blood pressure cost the US economy almost $70 billion in 2008.

This Is What Your Doctor Uses to Measure Blood Pressure

The American Heart Association states unequivocally that, "The relationship of blood pressure levels to the risk of cardiovascular disease is continuous, consistent and independent of other risk factors. That means the higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney disease." In other words, lower your blood pressure, and do it now!

Traditional Methods to Lower Blood Pressure

Since blood pressure is the amount of force exerted by your blood against arterial walls, there are only two possible ways to lower the pressure: decrease the volume of blood pushing against artery walls, or make the arteries more flexible. Causing the heart to beat more slowly, although it does not specifically reduce blood pressure, can lessen some of the damage caused by high blood pressure.

Decrease blood volume by losing weight and/or reducing sodium intake. Smoking causes constriction of the artery walls, so stop smoking to allow a larger blood volume to circulate without increasing pressure. Prescription medications in the class known as diuretics reduce blood pressure by reducing excess fluid in the blood.

Using a class of drug known as ACE inhibitors allows blood vessel walls to become more flexible. ACE inhibitors work by blocking the enzyme angiotensin II, which regulates the stiffness or tension of artery walls, thus reducing blood pressure.

Regular, aerobic exercise can strengthen the heart muscle, which in turn allows the heart to beat more strongly but less frequently. Beta blockers are drugs that affect adrenaline, resulting in a reduced need for oxygen, which in turn allows the heart to beat less frequently.

Garlic Is a Powerful Blood Thinner and ACE Inhibitor

Garlic, specifically Allium sativum, contains sulfurs such as alliin, allicin, diallyl sulfide and allyl methyl trisulfide, the mineral selenium, and over 100 other chemicals. Garlic lowers blood pressure by thinning the blood, by blocking angiotensin II, and by acting on the adrenal system.

Garlic is a natural blood thinner and anticoagulant. Garlic is such a good anticoagulant, in fact, that the Mayo Clinic advises patients to stop taking it for two weeks before surgery.

Garlic is also a natural ACE Inhibitor. As the body increases production of angiotensen I-converting enzyme (ACE), blood pressure increases. Pharmaceutical ACE inhibitors work by blocking the formation of ACE. Glutamylcysteine is a natural ACE inhibitor, and adenosine helps to dilate artery walls. Garlic contains both. Hydrogen sulfide and a high allicin content also give garlic its ability to inhibit angiotensin II and dilate arterial walls.

A 2005 study in India treated 30 men with coronary artery disease with garlic oil. After six weeks, the subjects demonstrated a significant reduction in heart rates during peak exercise times. Exercise tolerance also increased. However, there were no significant changes in resting heart rate or ECG. This led the authors to hypothesize that the use of garlic oil was related to adrenal system activity.

If your doctor has prescribed a diuretic, ACE inhibitor or Beta blocker to control your high blood pressure, ask her about garlic. If you don't have high blood pressure, keep it that way by adding garlic to your health regimen.