The constriction of blood vessels or vasoconstriction is the body’s natural way of increasing blood pressure. According to the pharmaceutical company Merck, when arteries constrict their walls become narrower. Therefore, the same amount of blood passes through a smaller space, which causes blood pressure to increase. Blood vessel constriction can be a response to stress. It can also be induced by certain herbs.
Types of Herbs
Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D. and director of the Institute for Traditional Medicine in Portland, Oregon, compiled a list of herbs that raise blood pressure in his article, "Safety Issues Affecting Herbs: Herbs that May Increase Blood Pressure." The complete list includes: Aniseed, St. Johns Wort, Capsicum, Parsley, Blue Cohosh, Vervain, Chaste Berry, Bayberry, Licorice, Ginger, Ginseng, Ephedra, Pau d’Arco, Coltsfoot, Gentian, Cola alkaloids, Broom alkaloids, Calamus amines, and guarana.
Foods that Contain Them
Many of these herbs are used in alternative medicine. However, some appear in common foods. Ginger is found in baked goods and many Asian dishes. It can also be added to marinades and salad dressings. Parsley is a common seasoning. It is often used to add color to restaurant dishes. If you’re dining out, ask if you can skip the parsley. If you’re cooking, try substituting parsley for another spice like basil or thyme. Licorice is typically easy to avoid as it's mainly found in candy and liquors.
Most of these herbs are available as supplements. Many of them can help alleviate other conditions. If you’re currently taking any of these herbal supplements, check with your health care provider to see if you’re at risk for high blood pressure. Ginseng and ephedra are also common ingredients in diet pills and energy drinks or supplements. If you consume any of these products, be sure to schedule regular blood pressure tests.
Some herbal teas are sold as a blend of several different herbs. Therefore, the ingredients might not be as obvious as say a particular brand of ginger tea. If you drink herbal tea, be sure to check product labels or ask the retailer exactly what is in them. Herbal teas like supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so you may also want to ask your health care provider if there are any dangers associated with regular consumption.
There are typically no symptoms of high or low blood pressure until a serious medical problem occurs. Therefore, your health care provider should regularly monitor your blood pressure. If you suffer from high blood pressure, you will want to avoid the previously mentioned herbs. On the other hand, if you suffer from low blood pressure, you may want to talk to your health care provider about natural, herbal options to increasing blood pressure.