Should You Take Garlic to Fight High Blood Pressure?
I have been a lifelong fan of garlic for several reasons, including its reported ability to lower blood pressure and boost the immune system. Although I don’t have hypertension, I know many people who do and so I’m interested in whether one should take garlic to lower blood pressure.
A new meta-analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension tackles this question. One reason this new study is important is that it attempts to clarify the contradictory results from previous studies and meta-analyses. Since high blood pressure is such a pervasive and serious problem and the drugs prescribed to treat it can be expensive and associated with side effects, finding an effective, natural treatment option would be a great relief for many people.
Meta-analysis of garlic for hypertension
A total of 18 randomized controlled trials drawn from 1946 to November 2013 were evaluated. The studies used garlic powder, garlic oil, and aged garlic extract, although the majority (14) used garlic powder. Doses ranged from 300 mg to 960 mg daily (one study used 2,400 mg), and the amount of allicin provided by these doses ranged from about 1.8 to 5.4 mg.
The majority of the trials lasted 12 weeks or longer. Most of the trials involved some participants who had normal blood pressure.
Overall, the reviewers found that use of garlic resulted in a 3.75 mmHg decline in systolic blood pressure and a 3.39 mmHg decline in diastolic blood pressure when compared with controls. When the reviewers evaluated only those with high blood pressure, the average decline in systolic blood pressure was 4.4 mmHg.
Why does garlic help lower blood pressure? Experts believe that one of its active ingredients, allicin, has antioxidant abilities that help fight damaging effects of oxidative stress on blood vessels and the ability to inhibit angiotension converting enzymes, which are involved in hypertension.
Allicin is not found in fresh garlic. However, when you crush or chop garlic, it releases an enzyme called alliinase, which triggers the formation of allicin. Once allicin is formed, it quickly breaks down to form various organosulfur compounds.
Garlic and other natural ways to lower blood pressure
Is it worth taking garlic to lower blood pressure since the declines do not seem dramatic? That is up to you and your healthcare provider. Garlic is just one natural way to help bring your blood pressure down, and it can be used along with other methods to fight hypertension, with your doctor’s guidance.
Following DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), for example, reportedly can lower systolic blood pressure by 11.2 mmHg and diastolic pressure by 7.5 mmHg among adults with high blood pressure. Regular moderate to vigorous exercise for 30 to 45 minutes per day has been shown to lower systolic blood pressure by 3.84 mmHg and diastolic by 2.58 mmHg, while losing 11 pounds may cause a decline of 4.44 mmHg systolic and 3.57 mmHg diastolic.
Garlic supplements may provide an effective way to help lower blood pressure and should be discussed with your doctor as a complement to other methods, or as a sole option, depending on your needs and any restrictions. In addition to its anti-hypertensive properties, garlic also has been shown to support the immune system, protect the heart, battle resistant bacteria, lower cholesterol, and even fight cancer.
Also read about how to lower blood pressure naturally
Epstein DE et al. Determinants and consequences of adherence to the dietary approaches to stop hypertension diet in African-American and white adults with high blood pressure: results from the ENCORE trial. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2012 Nov; 112(11): 1763-73
Wang H-P et al. Effect of garlic on blood pressure: a meta-analysis. The Journal of Clinical Hypertension 2015 Jan 5 online