The Silent Killer - Hypertension

By Ariana Estelle-Symons, Ph.D., Copyright 1997
From the
Kombucha Konnection Newsletter, March, 1997

A brief look at high blood pressure (Hypertension).

122 over 76??? Lucky you!! 150 over 95??? Hmmmm. 178 over 101???? Time to do something!!

If you have high blood pressure - you are not alone. An estimated sixty million Americans suffer from this condition. Hypertension is called the 'silent killer' because it damages many organs without ever causing pain, and the longer the condition exists, the greater the damage, and the increased risk of cardiac disease.

Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. It does not refer to being tense, nervous, or hyperactive. You can be a calm, relaxed person and still have high blood pressure. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms. In fact, many people have high blood pressure for years without even knowing it. That's why it's so dangerous.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the result of two forces. One is created by the heart as it pushes blood into the arteries and through the circulatory system. The other is the force of the arteries as they resist the blood flow.

A blood pressure reading contains two numbers. The first number, which is ordinarily the higher of the two, refers to the systolic pressure when the heart is contracting to pump the blood. The second number is the diastolic pressure, or the pressure when the heart is resting between beats.

Here is how the National Institutes of Health currently classify these numbers:

Systolic pressure (If diastolic pressure below 90)

Diastolic pressure

"White coat syndrome"

Everyone's blood pressure varies during the course of the day. As you'd expect, it's lower when you're resting or relaxed and higher after activity, especially a sudden burst of activity. Some people have what's referred to as 'white coat syndrome', which simply means that the experience of having their blood pressure taken in a doctor's office will boost their reading. For this reason, most prudent doctors will not prescribe pressure-lowering medication after the first high reading; they'll wait until they've seen a pattern of several high readings before thinking about medication.

Before you begin to worry about your blood pressure reading, be sure that you're getting a number that reflects your real pressure. Certain drugs can elevate your pressure. For example, phenylpropanolamine (PPA), an ingredient which is commonly found in many over-the-counter medications including cold remedies, decongestants, and appetite-suppressants, can elevate your pressure, as can caffeine. An alarmingly high reading can result from taking a decongestant and two cups of coffee an hour before a reading.

A lifestyle disease?

While no one know precisely what causes hypertension, it is known that it's primarily a lifestyle disease that's found almost entirely in developing nations. People who live in remote areas of the globe including parts of China, the Solomon Islands, and New Guinea, for example, show virtually no evidence of hypertension, nor do they have a rise in blood pressure as they age.

In 90-95 percent of the cases of high blood pressure, the cause is unknown. This type of high blood pressure is called essential hypertension. Fortunately, even though scientists don't fully understand the causes of high blood pressure, they've developed drugs that are effective over the long term in treating this disease. In the remaining cases, high blood pressure is a symptom of a recognizable underlying problem, such as a kidney abnormality, tumor of the adrenal gland or congenital defect of the aorta. When the root cause is corrected, blood pressure usually returns to normal. This type of high blood pressure is called secondary hypertension.

Who has high blood pressure?

Hypertension can occur in children or adults, but is particularly prevalent in blacks, middle-aged and elderly people, obese people, heavy drinkers and women who are taking oral contraceptives. Individuals with diabetes mellitus, gout or kidney disease have a higher frequency of hypertension.

Kids with high blood pressure?

According to the American Heart Association, children can have high blood pressure, even very young babies. The AHA recommends that all children have yearly blood pressure measurements. Early detection of high blood pressure will improve the health care of children. High blood pressure in children can be caused by other diseases - usually heart or kidney disease. This is called secondary hypertension. If the other diseases is successfully treated, blood pressure usually returns to normal. Some medicines can cause high blood pressure, but when they are discontinued, blood pressure usually returns to normal.

At one time doctors thought that most all high blood pressure in children was secondary (i.e.,caused by other disease). They now know this is not so. A small number of children have higher blood pressures than others for unknown reasons. These children are said to have primary or essential hypertension.

Research scientists do not know why some children have higher blood pressure than others. Children who are overweight usually have higher blood pressure than those who are not. Some children inherit the tendency from one or both parents who have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is more frequent and more severe in families of black Americans than in whites. The reasons are not fully understood.

What harm does it do?

Again, according to the AHA, elevated blood pressure indicates that the heart is working harder than normal, putting both the heart and the arteries under a greater strain. This may contribute to heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, damage to the eyes and atherosclerosis. If high blood pressure isn't treated, the heart may have to work progressively harder to pump enough blood and oxygen to the body's organs and tissues to meet their needs.

When the heart is forced to work harder than normal for an extended time, it tends to enlarge. A slightly enlarged heart may function well, but one that's significantly enlarged has a hard time meeting the demands put on it.

Arteries and arterioles also suffer the effects of elevated blood pressure. Over time they become scarred, hardened and less elastic. This may occur as people age, but elevated blood pressure speeds this process, probably because hypertension accelerates atherosclerosis. Arterial damage is bad because hardened or narrowed arteries may be unable to supply the amount of blood the body's organs need. And if the body's organs don't get enough oxygen and nutrients, they can't function properly. There's also the risk that a blood clot may lodge in an artery narrowed by atherosclerosis., depriving part of the body of its normal blood supply. The heart, brain and kidneys are particularly susceptible to damage by high blood pressure.

What helps?

There are more than 100 different blood pressure lowering medications that are presently available. The typical physician, practicing traditional Western Medicine will more than likely prescribe a medication that belongs to one of the following 5 groups:

Your doctor will encourage to take a close look at your lifestyle - and to eliminate the things in your life that contribute to your high blood pressure.

Does green tea lower blood pressure?

According to a study in Japan, a Dr. Hara discovered that green tea catechins slow/inhibit the action of an enzyme (ACE) that is an extremely strong vascular constrictor - the constriction of the blood vessels caused by the constrictor leads to high blood pressure. Green tea catechins impede the action of ACE. Of course, the study was done on rats - but then - aren't most studies? Rats were given a normal diet - then - when blood pressure was high, green tea catechins were introduced into their diet. The results were obvious in about 6 weeks with definite lowering of blood pressure.

Green tea is a health tonic - all by itself. In fact the catechins in green tea are 20 times more powerful than Vitamin E as an antioxidant. It will inhibit cancer growth, and some lab tests have proven that when green tea is given to diabetic mice, it lowers their blood sugar. Some research has shown that it deactivates some viruses, and has been known to deter the symptoms of food poisoning from contaminated food - plus the proven positive results when used to combat high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a myriad of other human ailments.

Letters, phone calls and the internet

(From people that are drinking Kombucha)

From: Martina in Houston

Dear Harmonic Harvest,

As promised, here's my update on our progress with Kombucha Tea. After six months, 'everything is coming up roses!'. Really, I am so surprised. If you recall, I was very much opposed to my husband drinking Kombucha Tea. Several times during the past couple of years, people had given us cultures, calling it Manchurian Mushroom. Not understanding anything about it, and being afraid of trying anything 'new', we threw them away. I love my husband so much, and now that our children are grown I was really looking forward to our 'golden years', however, it was beginning to look as though we would not have any. Charles is a pilot, and after many years of hard work, attained his goal of Captain for a major airline. Three years ago - he was grounded - because of his high blood pressure that just would not come down. Always such a healthy man, he was really shaken by this. It caused such despair for him to see his career and his dreams just disappear. He's had the problem for 15 years, but medication always did the trick. As a wife, I must interject here that some of the side-effects were devastating to our marriage. Of course, I am referring to impotence. Having an excellent health-care plan, he was able to see several specialists and had been prescribed the newest medications, but with some of the medications he had these side effects.

One day Charles decided to take another approach - and he's never looked back. He began with meditation and then began to visit a wonderful Chinese doctor. This was a big leap for us and proved to be expensive because this doctor is on the west coast. My husband met a man in his meditation class who referred him to her (the Chinese doctor) and we made several trips to the coast to work with her. She gave him several different types of herbal preparations (boy did they taste nasty) and advised him to stay on his regular medication until a drop in his blood pressure was evident. When he went back to M.D.Anderson for his checkup, there was a dramatic difference. 160/93. For him - that was really low! His doctor attributed this to his medication and when he was told about the Chinese doctor - he was NOT happy! He assured us that she was giving him 'worthless weeds' to drink. He did however, cut back on some of the medication. When we went back to California for his scheduled appointment with his Chinese doctor (she has asked me not to give her name), she gave him some different herbs (that smelled better) and asked him if he had heard of Kombucha Tea. We told her of our experience and that we threw them away. She laughed and said, 'no problem, the time was not right'. She gave us your address since you are so close to us, and you know the rest of the story.

Except for the really good part. He is down to one medication - and the dose is half what it was 4 months ago. He drinks about 12 to 14 ounces of KT a day, and has increased his exercise program to tennis, jogging, walking and swimming, instead of sitting in front of the TV feeling sorry for himself. He feels confident he'll be 'back in the air' by June, and the M.D.s agree with him. They of course attribute the drop in his blood pressure to their medication, however, what they don't know is that he was cutting back on it himself for a long time (which had me scared to death). We have both changed our lifestyle considerably and have changed our diet dramatically, although I doubt we will ever be vegetarians.

Yes, he's got me drinking KT also. I can't say that I really 'love' it like he does. He thinks it's really a tasty treat. I still mix mine with water to drink it. He chugs it down like he used to drink Pepsi (another deletion - along with the cigarettes). I will admit that I have more energy now and my arthritic knees don't give me the trouble they used to. Oh, I've lost 12 pounds, but that may be due to the amount of exercise we do now, and that may be because we have more energy. Whatever the reason, I'm happy about it. Since I was such a skeptic for so long about this strange looking little culture, I have to laugh now when we argue about whose turn it is to start a batch or to harvest a batch, or whose batch tastes better.

Can we give Kombucha ALL the credit? No, I don't think so. But I do believe it has played a major part in his improved health. Thanks for your time and all your information. We'll keep you updated.

Here are some posts from the 'Kombucha List' on the internet.

For those of you that are not familiar with the 'K List', it's a group of over 800 people from all over the world who brew and drink KT. There's lots of friendly discussion, and sometimes disagreements (see the post from 'Maurice' on the next page. It's an absolutely wonderful group and there's a great deal to learn there. To subscribe, simply send a blank email message to:

Here's a post from Darlene,
'My husband has high blood pressure and is a diabetic. Since drinking K-tea for 3 months now, the doctor has cut all his medications in half and he feels wonderful. He has more energy and has lost 15 pounds.'

Here's another (no name)
'Thought I would come out of lurk mode for a few minutes and tell you all about my experience with K-Tea. I have been drinking various amounts of KT for about a year. I have gotten other benefits from KT. (I) Am off blood pressure medication. Have more energy but perhaps that's psychological. Reduced cholesterol, but that returned quickly when I reduced consumption of KT.

Here's one from John
'I have been drinking the tea all winter and although I have never had sinus infections, I have not had a sniffle or a cold all winter. My blood pressure has also fallen from borderline high to normal.'

And one from Nancy
'My blood pressure is now 130/78. I was (not anymore) taking water pills prescribed by the doctor for 3 * years. My BP ranged from 150/110 to 140/88. It never got lower than 140/88 no matter how little salt I used and how often I walked. In two weeks, KT did for me what a doctor couldn't do in 2 * years. I almost worship the stuff. I have so much energy, I can't stop cleaning the house, staring at my tea growing and digging in the garden.'

From Bob:
'I've never had 'high' blood pressure, but people in my family have, including my dad. I just had mine checked recently and was surprised that at age 40, mine measured a wonderful 116/68. This is probably the lowest reading I've had in 10 years.

I do a number of things to stay healthy, including Chi Kung practice on a regular basis, a variety of herbs that I consume daily, and I drink K-Tea. I'd be reluctant to say that K-Tea is the main factor in my low blood pressure reading, but I believe that is surely contributed to it..

Dietary guidelines

From the American Heart Association

Natures therapy

In Europe and in Asia, where herbalism is generally more accepted than in the United States, physicians often prescribe herbs before turning to drugs. If your blood pressure is only borderline high, herbs may be the only treatment you will need (along with a few changes in your lifestyle).

Most medicinal herbs contain many natural compounds that play off one another, producing a wide variety of results. Medical science does not always understand how the compounds work together, or even exactly what they all are. In the book Medical Botany, the authors (Lewis & Lewis) state: "Nature is still mankind's greatest chemist, and many compounds that remain undiscovered in plants are beyond the imagination of even our best scientists."

Some herbs that regulate the body almost seem to have an inner intelligence, with the ability to perform many different functions, depending upon what the individual needs. For example, ginger can raise or lower blood pressure, depending on what needs to happen to bring an individual's blood pressure to a healthy level.

If stress is a way of life for you, stay as far away as you can from recreational drugs, coffee and tobacco. Consider nervous system sedatives such as valerian, skullcap, chamomile and California poppy to help keep you calm and to repair damage that may already have been done. According to an Italian study, the versatile herb Valerian calms people who are agitated, but stimulates those who feel fatigued. In Great Britain, Romania and Germany, Passionflower is a favorite anti-stress herb. Kava-Kava has gained in popularity, sometimes referred to as the 'litigation herb'. Personally I find that Kava-Kava lives up to it's reputation of promoting peace & harmony.

The following is a super herbal sedative:

Chill out tincture

Take 1/2 to 1 dropper full a day, and in case of trauma, up to 1 teaspoon an hour.

*However, if your blood pressure is high - don't try this as the Licorice or the Ginseng could elevate your pressure.


The lowly garlic clove - suddenly touted as the one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Simply adding garlic to a meal can keep your blood pressure lower for an entire day. In a study done in 1987, the average blood pressure of volunteers dropped significantly when they took a daily dose of garlic oil - the equivalent of one-third of an ounce of fresh garlic - over a four-week period. When onion oil was given to people who had high blood pressure, their blood pressure also fell. As an added benefit, their cholesterol was also reduced.


If you are a coffee and black tea drinker - consider switching to Green Tea. The Japanese neurologist Yoshikazu Sato, M.D., has found that green teal lowers high blood pressure. He believes that this may be why Japanese women who drink green tea experience only half as many deaths from stroke as those who don't, even though their diet contains large quantities of salt. The popularity of green tea in Japan may be one reason why the Japanese have less incidence of high blood pressure and heart disease than North Americans do.

The Japanese have another 'healthy heart secret' - they eat lots of kelp. If you visit Japan, you'll notice that this plant appears in almost every meal - they even make noodles out of kelp! Japanese researchers, who are highly interested in kelp's health benefits, have done many studies on how kelp and other seaweed's keep blood pressure down. The results of these studies have been reported in various Japanese medical journals. One way to eat your way to a healthy blood pressure is to use powdered kelp and garlic as seasoning in place of salt.

Since high blood pressure so often goes hand in hand with tension, the herbal tincture above can help. Also Skullcap, Lemon Balm, Linden and Motherwort. These herbs reduce stress and muscle tension and may help lower your blood pressure.

Herbal tea for high blood pressure

This combination can also be used in a tincture.

Aromatherapy and blood pressure

In the 1920's, the Italian psychiatrists Gatti and Cayola concluded that "the sense of smell has an enormous influence on the function of the central nervous system" They found that for their patients, the essential oils with the greatest sedating effects were citrus scents such as Melissa (Lemon balm), Neroli (orange blossom) and Petitgrain, as well as the fragrances of traditional herbal relaxants - chamomile, valerian and opopanax (similar to Myrrh) Recently, researchers have found that Neroli measurably lowers stress and blood pressure. There is actually a patent on a blend of Neroli, Valerian and Nutmeg with plans to market the product to ease stress in the workplace.

According to aroma therapists, when we smell certain fragrances, there is a change in certain brain waves.The scents that prove to have the greatest sedative effect are: (in order of effectiveness)

Massage (or Bath) Oil for High Blood Pressure

An Eastern point of view - - The nature of Yin and Yang

The Taoist tradition of China contains the world's longest ongoing record of scientific inquiry, spanning a period of at least 5,000 years. In the Taoist view, the Three Treasures upon which life depends are essence (jing), energy (chee), and spirit (shen). Essence refers to the physical body of blood and flesh, including all its basic material constituents, particularly the essential fluids such as hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters. Energy is the primal life force which suffuses every cell and tissue of the living body and activates its vital functions. Spirit encompasses all aspects of the mind, both human and primordial, including awareness and cognition, thought and feeling, will and intent. Together the Three Treasures (san bao), also known as the Three Marvels (san chee), function as a single organic unit.

Contrary to common misconceptions, yin and yang are not two different types of energy, but rather two complementary poles to the same basic energy, like the positive and negative poles of an electric current or a magnetic field. Yin and yang are reciprocal states of cyclic range, polar phases in the rhythmic transformations of energy. Depending on the phenomenon involved, the interplay of yin and yang shows in various ways: active and passive, overt and covert, expansive and contractive, radiant and concentrated, ascending and descending. These are phases of activity , not static entities. The concepts commonly used to represent yin and yang - such as male and female, hot and cold, night and day - are oversimplifications and can be misleading because they imply static states rather than dynamic processes. Nothing is absolutely yin or yang, and everything tends to seek a complementary opposite that strikes the most stable balance relative to itself.

When something obstructs the normal cyclic transformations of yin and yang and they are unable to establish and maintain relative balance, the extreme degree of one or the other causes abnormal conditions. In nature, extreme imbalances in the energies of sky and earth cause such abnormal phenomena as hurricanes, forest fires, floods, and earthquakes.

In humans, energy imbalances cause fevers, indigestion, headaches, high blood pressure, constipation, and other disorders, and if such conditions are not corrected they lead to degeneration and death.

The relative balance of yin and yang in humans is closely related to emotions, which unleash powerful energy currents that have profound physiological side effects. In English, the work 'emotion' is best understood as a contraction of the phrase 'energy in motion'. When you lose your temper, for example, you 'fume' and get 'steaming mad', an extreme yang condition. Your breath becomes short and fast, with stronger exhalations than inhalations. Since exhalation is the yang phase of breathing your body employs it to expel the excess yang accumulated by anger, thereby re-balancing internal energy. When you're sad, you feel 'down' and 'low' (yin directions), and your energy swings towards yin causing you to sigh, a yin breathing mode that deepens inhalation and shortens exhalation. This condition of extreme yin is thus balanced by assimilating extra energy from air, which raises the level of yang. Extreme emotions invariably upset the delicate balance of energies within the human system, and in Chinese medicine they are regarded as root causes of disease and degeneration.

Yin and yang provide Taoists with a convenient and accurate measure with which to calibrate and adjust their daily habits in order to guard the Three Treasures of life. During the cold yin conditions of winter, Taoists adjust their diets to include more warming yang foods. If a Taoist feels hot and feverish (yang), he will consume plenty of fruits and fluids (yin) to cool down his excess body heat.

Today, hypertension is a very common condition of yang excess often caused by chronic stress. An easy and effective antidote that requires neither drugs nor doctors is simply to practice a few minutes of deep abdominal breathing and sit in stillness and silence for awhile. This automatically switches the nervous system over from the active yang phase of the sympathetic circuit to the calming, restorative yin phase of the parasympathetic circuit.

This publication is copyrighted and the publication or portions thereof may not be used in any way without written
permission from the author. All rights reserved.


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