Hesperian Health Guides

Medicines Can Lower Blood Pressure

In this chapter:

Nutritious food and more exercise improve health for most people with high blood pressure. Some people also need medicines to lower and control their blood pressure. If your blood pressure is high and you also have other health problems, taking medicine every day can prevent health emergencies.

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There are many blood pressure medicines. All of them work best when you take them every day. If you stop taking them, usually your blood pressure will go back up. When these medicines are necessary to live a long, good life, people can get used to taking them every day.

Some blood pressure medicines can cause uncomfortable side effects like having to urinate often, diarrhea, nausea, or a cough. Instead of just stopping the medicine, ask your health worker if there is another medicine that will work better for you. But if you get a rash or swelling, stop taking the medicine and talk to your health worker.

People may need more than one blood pressure medicine to control their blood pressure. For people taking more than one blood pressure medicine, it may help to take them at different times of the day.

NWTND heart Page 13-2.png Use a 7-day pill box to help you remember to take the pills every day. You can make your own. Refill it once a week. NWTND heart Page 13-3.png

The most common types of medicines used for high blood pressure are:

  • Diuretics (“water pills”). Examples are hydrochlorothiazide and chlorthalidone. They make you urinate more often. This leads to less fluid in the body and this makes blood pressure go down.
  • Calcium channel blockers. These include amlodipine, nifedipine, diltiazem, and verapamil. They prevent blood vessels from narrowing and that helps lower blood pressure.
  • ACE inhibitors and ARBs. Examples are captopril, enalapril, lisinopril, and losartan. They prevent the narrowing of blood vessels and this lowers blood pressure. These help protect your kidneys and are often used for people with diabetes who also need to lower their blood pressure.
  • Beta blockers. Examples are atenolol, metoprolol, bisoprolol, and carvedilol. They make the heart beat a little slower so it pumps with less force and lowers blood pressure. When used to treat high blood pressure, beta blockers are used together with diuretics or other medicines.

Some plant medicines may lower blood pressure

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Stinging nettles contain calcium, vitamin K, folic acid, and other important nutrients and may help with high blood pressure. They are safe in pregnancy. But cover your hands when you pick them or you will be stung!

Plants that grow in your region may also be used to lower blood pressure. For example, stinging nettle (urtica dioica) leaves make you urinate more and reduce fluid in the body, a way to lower blood pressure. Hibiscus (hibiscus sabdariffa) can lower blood pressure and is found in many places. Hawthorn berries and flowers (crataegus) seem to improve cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure by improving blood flow in the body. However, hawthorn should not be used in pregnancy. Using garlic and turmeric in your food may help lower blood pressure as well.

Often these plant medicines are prepared as teas or extracts. Ask midwives, healers, and the older women in your community if they know about helpful plants and plant medicines, where they can be found or purchased inexpensively, how to prepare them, and how to use them without causing harm.

As with other medicines, take care when using plant medicines. Find out how much is the right amount to take, if it interacts with other plant or chemical medicines you may be taking, and if it is safe to use during pregnancy. Some plant medicines used to treat other conditions may raise blood pressure, so find out if a plant medicine you already take might be making your blood pressure high.

For most people with high blood pressure, neither plant medicines nor chemical medicines will do them much good if they do not get enough healthy food and exercise. Healthy food, clean water, basic safety, and good lives are most important.

NWTND heart Page 15-2.png Hibiscus is used all over the world to treat high blood pressure. Common names for this red flower include roselle, rosella, red sorrel, jamaica, chukor, and bissop. Prepare a tea by letting the dried flowers steep in hot water for 5 or 6 minutes. Drink a glass of the tea, warm or cold, 3 times a day, each day for 5 or 6 weeks. Continuing for longer will do no harm. Drinking this flavorful tea with little or no sugar is best because sugar makes heart problems, diabetes, and other conditions worse.

This page was updated:05 Jan 2024