Question: My husband takes Carvedilol and Valturna for his high blood pressure, can he drink Hibiscus Tea. I heard it lowers the pressure a few points.
Answer: If it lowers his pressure a few points, will that be a problem? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? If it is a problem, then the answer is no, he should not drink hibiscus tea. If it’s not a problem, then the answer is yes, he can drink hibiscus tea. Further, if the hibiscus tea really does lower his pressure a few points, then the question might be “can I reduce the medication dosage by putting him on a regimen of hibiscus tea and other pressure reducing supplements, such as hawthorn, garlic, coQ10, omega-3 oils, etc?”
Hibiscus Tea has been used traditionally, for various purposes, including a purported blood pressure lowering action. “Due to their soothing (demulcent) and astringent properties, the flowers and leaves have been traditionally used to treat conditions such as cancer and gallbladder attacks, to lower blood pressure, to relieve dry coughs, and topically to treat skin afflictions.”
If you are taking medication to control blood pressure, do you need to exert caution when considering taking an herb (or a vitamin, food or any lifestyle modification for that matter) that may exert the same action as the drug? Of course. Regardless of what health problem or medication we are talking about, common sense would tell us that adding an additional agent that would have an additive therapeutic action is a potential problem. You don’t want to lower blood pressure too much. You don’t want to lower cholesterol too far. You don’t want to thin the blood too much. You don’t want to take too many sleeping pills, or two many drugs, herbs, and foods that all have sedative actions for fear of overdosing. All of this should be pretty obvious.
At least, it should be. Why then is it the source of so much concern and so many questions? The reason is that to a great extent conventional medicine has tried to scare everyone into thinking that nutritional supplements represent a significant potential for interactions of this type. There are two things you need to keep in mind:
First, consider this. If an herb like hibiscus was powerful enough to significantly lower blood pressure, why not use it instead of the drug? The fact is, they do not consider it’s effect on blood pressure to be significant. In my experience, this is the view of most herbalists as well. There are many supplements available that can have a significant effect on blood pressure, but hibiscus is not generally considered one of them.
If anyone on blood pressure medication did want to try such supplements, the best advice is to alert your physician so that you can be monitored. Wouldn’t it be great if they worked, and the pressure dropped–he could reduce your dosage of the drugs!
I wonder how many folks would ask the same question if they decided to begin an exercise regimen, or to lose weight, or take up meditation and yoga, or to make dietary changes such as reducing salt and/or increasing their intake of fruits and vegetables. After all, each of these changes can have a significant impact on blood pressure. Do we call our doctors and ask if it’s ok to start eating more tomatoes because a double blind study showed that supplementation with a tomato extract “significantly lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, compared with a placebo, in people with hypertension?”
Second, the real problem is change. Whether we are talking about blood pressure medication, blood thinner medication, sedatives, and most other types of therapeutic supplements, the main thing to keep in mind is that you do not want to make any major changes without alerting your physician. If you are taking omega-3 fish oil supplements, garlic, vitamin E and ginkgo biloba, for example, and you are also under a doctor’s care, taking blood thinning medication, everything should be fine–unless you suddenly decide to stop all of your supplements. Or unless you suddenly decide to triple the dose of supplements. If you are on blood pressure medication, and you have also been taking hibiscus tea, hawthorn, coQ10 and fish oil, everything is fine. Your readings have been monitored, and are stable. But if for some reason you decide to stop taking the supplements, you should tell you doctor. Perhaps the dosage of medication will have to be adjusted.
Just use common sense with these types of questions. On the one hand, I guess it is nice that people attribute such powerful actions to supplements that they worry about them as if they were drugs when it comes to side effects and interactions. On the other hand, let’s not forget that these are not drugs–they are food supplements.
In the case of blood pressure, what is nice is that the patient can easily monitor it themselves. There are many types of “home” blood pressure test kits available, and it is something I strongly suggest you get. There are several reasons for this. It allows you to take frequent and regular readings, so that you know exactly whether or not anything is effecting the pressure. And the readings in the doctor’s office are not always accurate. Higher readings due to stress and anxiety in the doctor’s office (“white coat hypertension”) is a well-recognized problem.