Hypertension (known as Rakta Gata Vata to Ayurveda) occurs when the pressure of the blood in the arteries becomes elevated.
Using a blood pressure cuff, “normal” blood pressure of a healthy adult is around 120 mmHg systolic and 80 mmHg diastolic. Hypertension is said to occur when systolic blood pressure rises to 140 mmHg or greater. “Systolic” blood pressure refers to the pressure in the arteries when the heart is in contraction. “Diastolic” blood pressure is the pressure recorded while the heart is relaxed.
Causes of Hypertension
An increase in blood pressure tends to occur naturally with aging as the blood vessels become less elastic. Males also tend to have higher blood pressure than females. Family history can also play a role; certain types of high blood pressure run in families.
Other causes of high blood pressure that tend to play the most significant role (and are more under our control) include:
Many of the foods we consume today are packed with refined, denatured ingredients, chemicals and preservatives. These substances, foreign to the body, impair digestion and lead to accumulation of toxins (ama). From an Ayurvedic perspective, these toxins mix with the blood, making it acidic and heavy. These toxins also aggravate the membranes of artery walls, causing inflammation and scarring. Plus, they build up and clog channels and arteries. All of these issues are principle factors that promote hypertension.
From a Western perspective, almost all processed foods these days are loaded with refined salt. Too much salt in the diet is also a major contributor. Plus, a high-fat and low-fibre diet.
Heavy, hard-to-digest foods also promote excess accumulation of kapha dosha (weight gain). Another driver of hypertension.
Excessive intake of tea, coffee or alcohol are other principal factors. As well as smoking and chewing tobacco.
The body was built to move. Moving the limbs, increasing the heart rate, inducing sweat are key factors that promote correct circulation and routine cleansing of all bodily fluids, including the blood. Too little exercise causes stagnation, rigidity and weight gain—all of which promote hypertension.
Stress, anxiety and negative emotions constrict the body’s vessels, weaken the digestion, promote tissue inflammation—all of which can increase blood pressure.
High blood pressure can also be caused by: kidney disorders and heart diseases including increased cholesterol (which from an Ayurvedic perspective is high levels of ama).
Associated complications can include insomnia, feelings of uneasiness, dizziness, heart palpitations, fatigue and pain in the chest or the back of the head.
High blood pressure is the main risk factor for stroke.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, the primary aim of treatment is to identify the root cause of the condition. Only then will the treatment be successful. Of course causes and treatments necessarily vary from individual to individual!
As an initial collective general step however, it is imperative that the digestive fires are balanced and strengthened.
Secondly, the toxins (ama) that have accumulated (in the digestive tract, circulation, and probably in the heart channels and associated arteries) have to be cleansed and eliminated.
Thirdly, the individual’s constitution should be balanced, or strategies put in place to move each individual towards their innate physical balance, and
Fourth, mental relaxation techniques such as pranayama, yogasanas, meditation and oil massage are recommended to help physical and mental cleansing, and support the mind to remain calm and stable.
General Diet & Lifestyle Advice
Avoid meat, eggs, refined table salt, pickles, tea and coffee. In the place of refined salt, rock-salt should be used in moderation.
Avoid licorice and licorice root (Yasti madhu).
Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco.
Take light, digestible foods that support your unique constitution.
Increase your intake of garlic*, lemon*, parsley, amla (Indian gooseberry). *Don’t overdo if pitta is high.
Don’t overconsume water and other fluids, especially if you have high kapha dosha.
Slowly increase regular exercise. Try walking, jogging, swimming, yoga.
Reduce the stressful activities in your life. Worry less, laugh more! Even if life looks dark, try to locate a ray of light that can relieve and lighten your mood.
A Few Home Remedies
Juice 3-4 garlic cloves, 10-12 basil leaves, and a quarter cup of wheat grass. Drink before meals, once a day.
Mix 1 teaspoon of onion juice with an equal amount of honey. Take once a day for 1 week, and monitor.
Mix 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and 2 teaspoons of honey in warm water. Take one to three times daily, before meals.
Hibiscus tea can help to lower blood pressure and improve circulation
Linden – Lime blossoms – gently lowers blood pressure and eases palpitations. Drink as a tea.
Hawthorn berries are a great heart tonic which address many heart issues, including helping to lowers high blood pressure and even out heart-rate variability
Motherwort is another herb that gently lowers blood pressure and eases palpitations. Especially good during menopause
Salvia, a type of sage, is very good to help cool and move the blood
Roses and rose essences relax the heart and heart muscle. Burn incense and oils.