Hypertension or high blood pressure (HBP) is a chronic condition in which blood pressure is elevated above its normal range of 120 mm Hg of systolic pressure or above 80 mm Hg of diastolic pressure.
HBP is often asymptomatic and requires blood pressure readings in order to be identified. However, it can cause nose bleeding, headaches, a red or flushed face, dizziness, fatigue, nervousness, insomnia, blurred vision, fluid retention, and shortness of breath (Marieb & Hoehn, 2013).
The causes of HBP are varied. Primary hypertension can be caused by hereditary factors or genetic predisposition; a diet that involves high consumption of salt, saturated fat, and cholesterol, or a deficiency in consumption of potassium, calcium, and magnesium; obesity; older age (more likely to appear after age 40); diabetes mellitus; impaired kidney function; arteriosclerosis; general toxemia; glandular disturbances; excessive consumption of stimulants such as tea, coffee, or others; stressful events; and/or smoking.
Secondary hypertension causes are more easily identifiable, as this condition is linked to specific conditions such as obstructed renal arteries, kidney disease, kidney malfunction, narrowed arteries, and endocrine disorders (hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, and others) (Marieb & Hoehn, 2013).
Treatment for HBP involves lifestyle changes, although other types of support, such as the use of aromatherapy, can be beneficial. Here are 3 essential oils that can aid with HBP.
1. Lavender Lavandula angustifolia
In a study conducted on 40 patients who had just undergone open-heart surgery, lavender was successfully used to lower blood pressure. The patients were given a 2% dilution of essential oil placed in a cotton swab, and after breathing it in for 10 minutes, they experienced not only a drop in blood pressure, but also in heart rate (Salamati, Mashouf, & Mojab, 2017). A reduction in heart rate is significant as it indicates that lavender has a positive effect on reducing how fast and hard the heart works to pumps blood through our bodies, which invariably supports blood pressure reduction.
Another study conducted on 83 people suffering from HBP saw that those participants who inhaled a mixture of lavender, ylang ylang Cananga odorata, marjoram Origanum marjorana, and neroli Citrus aurantium, experienced a significant decrease in blood pressure (Kim, Kim, Seong, Hur, Lim, & Lee, 2012). This study included a mixture of essential oils and led me to look more closely look at one of them in particular, namely Ylang Ylang.
2. Ylang Ylang Cananga odorata
In addition to the above, several other studies have indicated that Ylang Ylang has been used to lower HBP. In a review of the uses of Ylang Ylang essential oil, one study indicated that after sniffing the essential oil, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure was reduced. It also reduced heart rate and stress (Tan et al., 2015). Stress reduction affects blood pressure, as it indicates a reduction in autonomic nervous system activity. The autonomic nervous system is the part of our body that goes into action when we enter the fight-or-flight response that engages when we are stressed. This response causes an increase in blood pressure. Thus, a reduction in stress may also cause a reduction in blood pressure.
A second study found similar results and indicated that blood pressure reduced after inhaling Ylang Ylang essential oil. In addition, the study found that it decreased autonomic nervous system activity and alertness, thus inducing relaxation (Tan et al., 2015).
Still a third study corroborated the same results of Ylang Ylang essential oil’s effect of decreasing blood pressure after being inhaled, in addition to confirming its sedative and relaxing effects (Tan et al., 2015).
3. Bergamot Citrus bergamia
Fifty-four elementary school teachers in Taiwan received a 2% dilution of bergamot essential oil spray for 10 minutes. Blood pressure readings were taken 5 minutes before and after the use of the spray, and results showed that blood pressure dropped, in addition to heart rate and anxiety (Chang & Shen, 2011).
Essential oils are not the only options that support HBP, and in fact it is important to incorporate lifestyle changes to any program involving hypertension relief. Primary hypertension can be supported by lowering intake of salt, fat, and cholesterol; increasing daily exercise (even 20 minutes of walking per day can make an impact); losing weight; increasing consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables; avoiding excess coffee, tea, and alcohol intake; not smoking; consuming more polyunsaturated fatty acids; and managing stress. For stress management, it is advisable to engage in relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and breathing techniques. Additional medication may be required.
Herb protocols can also be incorporated, including the use of black cohosh Actaea racemosa, buckwheat Fagopyrum esculentum, garlic Allium sativum, peppermint Mentha x piperita, and valerian Valeriana officinalis, amongst others. Diuretic herbs including dandelionTaraxacum officinale, cleavers Galium aparine, and parsley Petroselinum crispum can also be beneficial in lowering blood pressure. It is recommended to seek the advice of a healthcare professional before beginning any herbal protocol.
Secondary hypertension can be managed through the above lifestyle changes but may require additional medication or treatment.
This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of AromaCulture Magazine and has been adapted for use here with permission from the publisher.
Chang, K. M. & Shen, D. W. (2011). Aromatherapy benefits autonomic nervous system regulation for elementary school faculty in Taiwan. Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine, 2011, 946537. doi:10.1155/2011/946537
Kim, I., Kim, C., Seong, K., Hur, M., Lim, H. M., & Lee, M. S. (2012). Essential oil inhalation on blood pressure and salivary cortisol levels in prehypertensive and hypertensive subjects. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012(984203), 1-9. doi:10.1155/2012/984203
Marieb, E.T., & Hoehn, K. (2013). Human Anatomy & Physiology (9thed.). Glenview, IL: Pearson Education.
Salamati, A., Mashouf, S., & Mojab, F. (2017). Effect of inhalation of lavender essential oil on vital signs in open heart surgery ICU. Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, 16(1), 404-409.
Tan, L. T. H., Lee, L. H., Yin, W. F., Chan, C. K., Kadir, H. A., Chan, K. G., & Goh, B. H. (2015). Traditional uses, phytochemistry, and bioactives of Cananga odorata(Ylang-ylang). Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine, 2015, 896314. doi:10.1155/2015/896314