Garlic and Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a potentially dangerous problem suffered by many people, often without them being aware of it. It has been estimated that in the USA alone more than 50 million people suffer from high blood pressure.

What Is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is in essence hypertension - the blood is being pumped through the system unusually fast and powerfully. This constant exertion of greater than normal force can damage the arteries, possibly leading in turn to kidney failure, heart attack and/or stroke. If you suspect you may have high blood pressure then it is essential that you discuss any symptoms with your doctor.

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is usually divided by doctors into "essential hypertension" and "secondary hypertension".

"Secondary hypertension" refers to the case where the high blood pressure is the result of some known factor such as kidney disease. "Essential hypertension" refers to the case where there is no obvious single cause of high blood pressure.

There are many factors that can contribute to essental high blood pressure, the most common of which are lifestyle related. Smoking and high levels of saturated fat intake can both contribute significantly to an elevated level of blood pressure.

If your doctor doesn't identify a particular cause then he or she could well recommend diet and exercise as the best start. Losing some weight, lowering bad cholesterol levels and reducing salt intake can assist many people to lower their blood pressure levels. For others the preferred treatment will be medication.

Can Garlic Help?

Garlic is not a substitute for prescription medicine or lifestyle changes, however it has long had a reputation for assisting with blood pressure management. The research data is not conclusive, however it does appear that there is some evidence to support the role of garlic in reducing systolic and diastolic blood pressure (1).

It appears that the reputed beneficial effects of garlic on blood pressure come more from the garlic sulphides than from allicin. Unlike allicin, garlic sulphides are not destroyed by cooking.

This hypothesis is supported by recent research into the effect of aged garlic extract on hypertension. A study published in 2012 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition(2) concluded:

"In summary, our trial suggests aged garlic extract to be an effective and tolerable treatment in uncontrolled hypertension, and may be considered as a safe adjunct treatment to conventional antihypertensive therapy."
Garlic might also assist blood pressure indirectly by helping to manage cholesterol levels.

Finally, extra garlic can be used as a seasoning, thus reducing the need for salt.

If you think you have high blood pressure then you should consult your doctor first before considering any home diagnosis or treatment.

(1) Health Effects of Garlic: American Family Physician
(2) Aged garlic extract reduces blood pressure in hypertensives: a dose-response trial