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Acupuncture for High Blood Pressure

Posted Jun 22 2009 10:59am 1 Comment

High blood pressure (also called hypertension) is a very common health concern.  In this country, 65 million people, or about 1/4 of Americans, are estimated to have high blood pressure.

In the early stages, hypertension is typically asymptomatic; people usually find out they have high blood pressure during a routine physical check-up.  Doctors are adamant about treating it, and with good reason – having high blood pressure greatly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.

Often, lifestyle changes are sufficient to control high blood pressure.  Helpful changes include losing weight, increasing exercise, decreasing salt intake, and practicing relaxation techniques.  If these measures do not control blood pressure, a number of different medications may be prescribed.

Unfortunately, the medications used to control blood pressure often have unpleasant side effects, such as headache, dizziness, fatigue, constipation, and problems with sexual functioning.  Many people have a hard time taking medications consistently when they don’t like the side effects – especially if they were not having any symptoms from the hypertension itself.

And, for many people, medication on its own does not solve the problem.  Only 58% of people being treated for blood pressure actually have it under control.

Using acupuncture and herbal medicine for high blood pressure can help at all stages of the disease.

  • In the early stages, treatment with Chinese medicine can help you avoid going on blood pressure medications.
  • Those who are already on medications may be able, under their doctor’s supervision, to reduce or eliminate their medication.
  • In more difficult or advanced cases, the combination of Western and Chinese medicine may do a better job of controlling blood pressure than either one alone — with great benefits for your health and safety.
  • Finally, acupuncture can help control some of the side effects of necessary medications.

Treating hypertension with Chinese medicine is relatively new, since they didn’t have blood pressure cuffs 2000 years ago.  Chinese medicine relies on analyzing sypmtoms of a disease, along with looking at the tongue, pulse, and other signs.  In an asymptomatic condition like hypertension, none of this data is available.

Over the last few decades, Chinese physicians, acupuncturists, and herbalists have been able to observe which patterns of disharmony are most often associated with high blood pressure, develop new theory about how blood pressure works in the body, and use these observations to draw on a huge body of knowledge about bringing the body back into balance.

Often, the pattern underlying hypertension is related to other physical complaints.  These may be symptoms commonly associated with hypertension, such as headache, dizziness and irritability.  I have also found, when treating complaints such as digestive problems or menstrual disorders, that patients’ blood pressure readings improve, even without directly addressing this issue, simply by bringing the body into better balance.

There is extensive literature from Asia and Russia suggesting that acupuncture is effective in lowering blood pressure.  A current study at Mass General Hosipital shows very promising results, though the results are not yet complete or published.  For more information on the study, go to the ABC news website at

A number of Chinese herbs have also been shown to lower blood pressure.  These herbs can be easily worked into a formula for any other health condition you may be treating, or can be part of a formula specifically targeting blood pressure.  Several hypertension formulas are also available in an easy-to-take pill form.

If you have concerns about your blood pressure, let your practitioner know so you can address this as part of your ongoing treatment.

Comments (1)
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I'd be interested to see the article!  I agree, the "right circumstances" might well include good diet and exercise habits and stress reduction.  I certainly recommend these kinds of changes to patients when I'm treating their blood pressure (as do doctors prescribing medication).  It might also mean something specific about the type of hypertension the person has, or the schedule of treatment.  In any case, it's good to have evidence that acupuncture is a viable alternative for people who don't respond well to blood pressure medications, or don't want to take them.  Thanks for the info!

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