13 Natural Beta Blockers To Try

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 697,000 Americans die each year of heart disease — one death every 34 seconds.

As Healthline explains, heart disease is actually an umbrella term for a number of conditions. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease and is caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries that supply the heart. Atherosclerosis is a more general term that describes this buildup and hardening of the arteries elsewhere in the body. Cardiomyopathy is another form of heart disease, in which the heart becomes weak and unable to function properly. Other forms of heart disease include congenital heart defects, arrhythmias, and infections. According to the CDC, high blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk factor for heart disease. An estimated 116 million Americans — roughly 47% of U.S. adults — have hypertension or are taking a medication (such as beta blockers) for hypertension. Blood pressure consists of two readings, measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). The first is systolic blood pressure, the pressure inside the arteries when the heart is contracting. The second is diastolic pressure, the pressure inside the arteries while the heart is relaxed in between beats. Individuals with blood pressure of 130/80 or higher have hypertension.

While medication is usually recommended for those with heart disease, some foods and supplements may work to naturally reduce blood pressure, correct arrhythmias, and improve heart health.

What are beta blockers?

There are a variety of prescription medications that can help manage high blood pressure through different mechanisms. As the American Heart Association explains, beta blockers, either alone or combined with diuretics or alpha-blockers, are among the most commonly prescribed. Others include ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers, central agonists, and peripheral adrenergic inhibitors. Beta blockers are also prescribed for other heart conditions, including irregular heartbeat, coronary artery disease, heart failure, and heart attack (via the Cleveland Clinic).

WebMD notes that the most commonly prescribed beta blockers include acebutolol (Sectral), bisoprolol (Zebeta), carteolol (Cartrol), labetalol (Normodyne), metoprolol (Lopressor), nebivolol (Bystolic), and penbutolol (Levatol). Beta blockers work by blocking the effects of adrenaline, one of the "fight-or-flight" hormones. This slows the heart and causes it to contract with less force. It also helps dilate blood vessels so that blood flows more easily. Common side effects while on beta blockers include low energy, dizziness, weight gain, and cold hands and feet. More serious but less common side effects include insomnia, depression, swelling in the hands or feet, and difficulty breathing. Beta blockers can also interact negatively with a variety of medications, including antidepressants, allergy shots, diabetes medications, and other blood pressure or heart medications. They're also generally not prescribed for people with asthma, COPD, or other conditions that affect breathing. They may not work as well for Black patients or older individuals, and must be used with caution in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Honey

In a 2011 study conducted on rodents and published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, researchers found that honey reduced the systolic blood pressure of diabetic rats. The study authors credited honey's antioxidant content for this drop in blood pressure. The quantity and variety of antioxidants in any individual honey depend on which flowers the bees fed from beforehand. As a 2002 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry concluded, "the antioxidant capacity of honey appeared to be a result of the combined activity of a wide range of compounds including phenolics, peptides, organic acids, enzymes, Maillard reaction products, and possibly other minor components."

Another study, published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity in 2012 and also conducted on diabetic rats, concluded that honey lowers blood pressure by reducing oxidative stress in the kidneys. These organs regulate blood pressure, so the inflammation and tissue damage caused by oxidative stress can send blood pressure skyrocketing.

Using honey to prevent and treat health problems is nothing new. As a 2011 paper published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine notes, honey has been used for its healing properties for thousands of years. Its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties made it an invaluable tool for treating infections and inflammation before the age of antibiotics and NSAIDs, and modern medicine is "rediscovering" just how useful honey can be.

Beets

You've heard that nitrates are the ingredient that makes bacon so bad for you, but did you know that there are other nitrates you should be trying to get more of in your diet? Unlike the synthetic nitrates used as preservatives in bacon and other cured meats, the natural nitrates found in beets and some other vegetables and fruits are beneficial for health (via Livestrong). The natural nitrates in beets and other whole foods break down into nitrites and nitric oxide when metabolized, and it's the nitric oxide that's been linked to many of beets' health benefits. Synthetic nitrates, on the other hand, break down into harmful compounds known as nitrosamines. WebMD reported on a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in which researchers examined the effect nitrates had on participants' blood pressure. They found that "average diastolic blood pressure ... was 3.7 mm Hg lower after three days of nitrate supplementation." Nitrates help keep blood vessels healthy and adequately dilated, thus reducing blood pressure.

There are plenty of other reasons to eat beets besides their positive impact on blood pressure. According to Healthline, beets offer plenty of fiber, as well as micronutrients like iron, folate, potassium, vitamin C, and manganese. Northwestern Medicine noted that betalains, the phytonutrients that give beets their deep red color, have antioxidant anti-inflammatory properties and help the body detoxify. Betalains may also reduce cancer risk and slow the growth of tumors.

Olive oil

Olive oil can combat heart disease by lowering blood pressure. In a 2020 literature review published in Nutrients, researchers concluded that consuming olive oil in quantities ranging from 10 to 60 ml daily consistently reduced systolic blood pressure and, to a lesser extent, also reduced diastolic blood pressure. These positive effects on blood pressure were particularly pronounced when individuals who'd already been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease began consuming olive oil. The paper's authors credited the high oleic acid and antioxidant polyphenol content of olive oil for these effects, and speculated that these compounds improved blood pressure by encouraging vasodilation (expansion of the arteries) and reducing inflammation. They cautioned, however, that olive oil isn't necessarily a magic bullet that can be used in isolation. Based on the studies they analyzed, they concluded that olive oil was only effective in reducing blood pressure when it was consumed as part of a healthy Mediterranean diet.

For centuries, olive oil has been an integral part of the Mediterranean diet, often touted as one of the healthiest and most sustainable ways of eating. Olive oil serves as the main source of fat in this diet and is a part of most meals (via UCSF). Olives contain 20–30% oil, and there are four different levels of olive oil quality. The best of the best is extra virgin olive oil, which is made from the first pressing of the olives and has the best taste (via Britannica).

Red wine

If you feel more relaxed after a glass of vino, it's not just the wine buzz; your body, including your blood vessels, is also relaxing on a physiological level. A 2019 study published in Circulation noted that resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant found in red wine, is a vasodilator. This means it causes blood vessels to enlarge, which in turn lowers blood pressure. And, if you've already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, drinking wine could lower your risk for serious complications such as heart attack or stroke that can result from your hypertension. A 2004 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that moderate wine drinkers with high systolic blood pressure were 23–37% less likely to die than individuals who were heavy wine drinkers or who preferred to drink beer.

Drinking too much and too often, however, can elevate blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, "having more than three drinks in one sitting temporarily raises your blood pressure, but repeated binge drinking can lead to long-term increases." When heavy drinkers dial their consumption back to a moderate level, they can expect to see a decrease in their systolic blood pressure of about 5.5 mmHg, while their diastolic blood pressure will drop an average of 4 mmHg.

Other potential benefits of red wine include reducing risk for type 2 diabetes, stroke, certain types of cancer, depression, and dementia (via Medical News Today). It's important, however, to only drink in moderation.

Potatoes

Some research suggests that eating potatoes could lower blood pressure. In 2021, News Medical reported on a study published in Nutrients that found that the high potassium content of potatoes may decrease systolic blood pressure. Dr. Connie Weaver, head researcher on the study, told News Medical: "While significant emphasis is often placed on reducing dietary sodium intakes to better control for blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk, that's only half of the story. Potassium plays just as an important role." She noted that eating potassium-rich potatoes caused study participants to retain less sodium than simply taking a potassium supplement.

But before you ditch your beta blockers for a plate full of spuds, you should know that research in this area has been mixed. WebMD reported on a 2016 study that found that those who ate baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes four or more times a week were 11% more likely to have high blood pressure compared to those who ate these foods less than once a month. Individuals who ate fried potatoes four or more times per week had a 17% greater risk for high blood pressure. But the true story may be more complicated than it appears at first glance. Clinical nutritionist Samantha Heller pointed out that Americans usually eat their potatoes loaded with salt and saturated fat (in the forms of butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon and frying oil), and it's these additions — not the potatoes themselves — that are responsible for spiking blood pressure.

Yogurt

In a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Hypertension, researchers tracked the dietary habits of more than 70,000 individuals with high blood pressure for a number of years to determine which factors may reduce risk for heart disease. They found that "higher intakes of yogurt were associated with a 30% reduction in risk of myocardial infarction [heart attack] among ... women and a 19% reduction in ... men." Individuals who ate more than two servings of yogurt a week were approximately 20% less likely to have major coronary heart disease (via Science Daily). And, for women at least, eating more than four servings of yogurt a week is correlated to reduced risk of dying from heart disease, according to a 2020 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Research published in 2021 in the International Dairy Journal upheld the link between increased yogurt intake and lower blood pressure. Dr. Alexandra Wade, one of the study authors, told Science Daily, "this is because dairy foods contain a range of micronutrients, including calcium, magnesium and potassium, all of which are involved in the regulation of blood pressure." She also noted that "yoghurt is especially interesting because it also contains bacteria that promote the release of proteins which lowers blood pressure." The researchers found that even small amounts of yogurt eaten regularly were enough to reduce blood pressure among participants.

Fish oil

When it comes to dietary supplements for heart health, fish oil is one of the most common. That's because fish oil is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids — specifically, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than 7% of adults regularly take a supplement that contains fish oil, omega-3s, or EPA and DHA. Because most people don't consume enough fatty fish to get significant amounts of EPA and DHA from their diet, adding fish oil supplements can be helpful. Health officials recommend healthy adults get between 500 mg of EPA and DHA daily, while those with heart disease or heart failure should aim for 800–1,000 mg (via WebMD).

As a 2018 paper published in Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology explains, EPA and DHA are able to combat inflammation, dilate blood vessels, control irregular heartbeats, lower blood pressure, and lower triglycerides — all of which can help manage heart disease. It's unclear, however, if fish oil can help prevent heart disease in healthy individuals. One meta-analysis published in Circulation in 2017 noted: "There are no reports from RCTs (randomized controlled trials) that have targeted exclusively the primary prevention of CHD [coronary heart disease], that is, the effects of omega-3 PUFA supplements in the general population of patients without prior CHD."

For vegetarians, algae oil supplements are an alternative to fish oil, although not all contain EPA (via the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health).

Garlic

In addition to warding off vampires, this pungent bulb has been shown to lower blood pressure. According to a 2015 paper published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, garlic has a longstanding reputation as an anti-hypertension herb because of it's ability to increase antioxidants in the body, fight free radical damage, and decrease nicotinamide-adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH). NADPH is a molecule that plays an important role in regulating blood pressure at a cellular level. Garlic also increases nitric oxide production, which relaxes blood vessels, and inhibits angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), which has a similar effect on blood vessels. Garlic increases levels of hydrogen sulfide in the body, which is also needed to properly regulate blood pressure. Most of garlic's anti-hypertensive properties, as well as its well-known antimicrobial abilities, are attributed to a compound in garlic called allicin.

Aged garlic extract appears to be the most useful form of garlic for lowering blood pressure. Although research into garlic's ability to reduce blood pressure has shown a wide range of results, some studies indicate that garlic may be able to reduce systolic blood pressure by as much as 17 mmHg. While garlic pills are a popular supplement for those with high blood pressure and certain forms of heart disease, taking garlic in high doses can cause side effects including abdominal swelling, heartburn, gas, and acid reflux. Individuals on blood thinners are advised not to take garlic supplements.

Hawthorn

According to a 2013 paper published in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the herb hawthorn may help manage many of the conditions beta blockers are prescribed to treat. Hawthorn, also known as maybush or whitehorn, has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive issues, insomnia, and asthma. Interest in hawthorn's ability to help with a number of cardiovascular conditions began in the late 1800s. It may be effective in treating agina (chest pain), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arrhythmias, and certain forms of congestive heart failure. Hawthorn berries can be made into jams, jelly, candies, or wine, while extracts of hawthorn can be bought as infusions, tinctures, and dietary supplements.

A 2015 paper published in Frontiers in Pharmacology explained that hawthorn's beneficial effects are due to "flavonoids (hyperoside, quercetin, rutin, and vitexin) and oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs, epicatechin, procyanidin, and procyanidin B-2)." The paper's authors reported on one study, conducted on individuals with mild hypertension, which found that 500 mg of hawthorn extract given daily for 10 weeks decreased diastolic blood pressure by 13.1 mmHg. In another study, hypertensive patients were given hawthorn extract daily for three months and achieved an average decrease in systolic blood pressure of 13 mmHg and in diastolic blood pressure of 8 mmHg. The paper's authors noted that hawthorn only appears to be helpful when taken at relatively high doses over an extended period of time.

Snakeroot

According to a 2015 paper published in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal, snakeroot (Rauwolfia serpentina) has been used in Indian folk medicine for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments, including malaria, fevers, and insect or snake bites. The Indian doctor Rustom Jal Vakil popularized the use of snakeroot for treating hypertension, and by the end of the 1940s, approximately 90% of Indian physicians were prescribing snakeroot to their hypertensive patients. Snakeroot first became popular in the United States in the 1950s.

Snakeroot's anti-hypertensive effects are credited to the more than 50 Indole alkaloids it contains. These nitrogen-containing compounds are found throughout the plant but are most concentrated in the root. Reserpine is the most widely studied of these indole alkaloids. It prevents neurotransmitters from binding to certain neurons and, as a result, slows the activity of the nervous system and causes blood vessels to relax. Studies have shown that snakeroot or reserpine extracts may reduce blood pressure by as much as 40 mmHg and is effective to at least some degree in almost all patients.

Today, standardized reserpine extracts are sold under the brand name Serpasil as an FDA-approved medication to treat hypertension (via RxList). Because of its effects on the neurotransmitters, high doses of reserpine have been associated with depression and anxiety. Reserpine may also cause edema (swelling), lethargy, and weight gain. Ironically, it may also cause cardiovascular problems, including agina (chest pain), slow heart rate, and premature ventricular contractions, a type of irregular heart rhythm.

Barberry

As Healthline explains, barberry (Berberis vulgaris) is a shrub native to certain parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Its tart red berries have been used for centuries in folk medicine to treat a variety of digestive issues, skin problems, and infections. The majority of barberry's beneficial effects are believed to stem from its antioxidant content, in particular the antioxidant berberine.

A 2017 paper published in the Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences noted that barberry can reduce blood pressure through a variety of pathways. It hinders the activity of the renin-angiotensin system and certain pro-inflammatory cytokines (types of immune cells), both of which are often overactive in individuals with hypertension. It also inhibits angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) and stimulates the release of nitric oxide in the blood, which relaxes blood vessels. Other cardiovascular benefits of barberry include its ability to improve cardiac output (the volume of blood that's move through the heart, which can decrease substantially for those with congestive heart failure). The paper's authors caution, however, that most research into barberry has been conducted on rats and dogs, so the impact this herb may have on high blood pressure or heart failure in humans is largely speculation. It's also important to note that in many of these animal studies, barberry was given at a relatively high dose relative to body weight and was given intravenously rather than orally.

Saffron

According to Bon Appétitt, saffron is derived from the stigmas of a flower called the saffron crocus (crocus sativus). First cultivated in Greece, today most saffron comes Greece, Iran, Morocco, and India. It gives dishes a rich yellow color and imparts a subtle and hard-to-describe flavor. And, as it turns out, this spice may be as healthy as it is delicious.

According to a 2015 paper published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, saffron has been shown in several studies (albeit on animals) to have the ability to lower blood pressure. This effect is likely due to a number of compounds found within saffron, including crocin, picrocrocin, safranal, and crocetin. These compounds increase nitric oxide production, block calcium channels, open potassium channels, and blocking beta adrenoceptors. The end result of all these physiological changes is more dilated, relaxed blood vessels and a slower heart rate. Saffron may even provide some protection against heart attacks caused by blocked arteries. Research into saffron's effects on blood pressure and heart rate in humans, however, is lacking.

Unfortunately, saffron isn't likely to replace beta blockers any time soon because of its sky-high price. According to Business Insider, it's the most expensive spice in the world — a pound of the stuff costs about $5,000. That's because it's an extremely labor-intensive spice to harvest, and it takes approximately 170,000 flowers to produce just one pound of saffron. The flowers only bloom for a six-week period each year and can only be harvested at certain times of day.

Hibiscus

According to the Cleveland Clinic, "for centuries, people have used hibiscus seeds, flowers, leaves and stems in food and traditional medicine." This tropical plant (also known as sorrel or roselle) has beautiful flowers and a tangy, sweet flavor. It's especially popular in Western Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. While it's possible to find herbal supplements containing hibiscus, the most popular (and, arguably, the tastiest) way to enjoy hibiscus is as a tea.

According to a 2015 paper published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, compounds in hibiscus reduce blood pressure by increasing nitric oxide production in the blood, opening potassium channels, blocking calcium channels, and acting as a diuretic. The paper's authors reported on one study in which participants with hypertension consumed 10 grams of hibiscus extract daily for four weeks. Afterwards, their systolic blood pressure had dropped an average of 15.32 mmHg and their diastolic blood pressure had dropped an average of 11.29 mmHg. In another study, individuals drank 240 ml of hibiscus tea three times a day for six weeks and experienced an average drop in systolic blood pressure of 7.2 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure of 3.1 mmHg.

While hibiscus and other herbs and foods may be helpful in lowering blood pressure, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health cautions that "the evidence that these products can lower blood pressure is limited ... No dietary supplement has been shown to have effects comparable to those of drugs used to treat hypertension."