Can This Italian Herb Help Lower High Blood Pressure? What Science Says

Your arteries sustain a lot of stress every moment, shuttling blood from your heart to the rest of your body. They need a lot of elasticity to sustain this pressure from day to day, and high blood pressure can cause your arteries to lose this elasticity and create small tears. Combined with high cholesterol, the damage from untreated high blood pressure can narrow your arteries, causing even more pressure on your heart and arteries to move blood through your body.

Unfortunately, high blood pressure doesn't come with symptoms, so it's important to get your blood pressure checked often especially if you have other risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, or diabetes. If you have high blood pressure, you know that you'll need to choose foods low in sodium and high in potassium.

You probably need to let go of the salt shaker, since a teaspoon of salt has more sodium than what's recommended to be your daily limit. It's also 50% more over the limit for sodium if you have high blood pressure. You can try seasoning your foods with basil instead. A tablespoon of dried basil provides 118 milligrams of potassium to the 3.4 milligrams of sodium, making it a great seasoning alternative to salt. Yet basil has other compounds that can help lower high blood pressure.

How basil might lower blood pressure

Even if you grow basil in your backyard, a cup of fresh basil leaves still won't provide you with a significant source of vitamins and minerals aside from vitamin K (83% of your daily value). Vitamin K helps your blood to clot. You'll get a little vitamin C and A, some B vitamins, beta carotene, iron, potassium, and calcium. Dried basil might be a good source of fiber, providing almost 2 grams per tablespoon. It's also a good source of iron with 4 milligrams and provides 64% of vitamin K.

Basil has phenolic and flavonoid compounds such as quercetin and epicatechin that make this spice healthy, according to a 2023 article in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies. Researchers isolated specific peptides in basil and found they have antioxidant and ACE-inhibiting properties. ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) plays a role in constricting your blood vessels, and people with high blood pressure are prescribed ACE inhibitors to relax their blood vessels. Basil might have the same effect on high blood pressure, but you might need to turn to other forms of the herb for this effect.

Forms of basil that might reduce blood pressure

You could turn to dried basil capsules as an adjunct to your blood pressure medication, according to a 2021 study in MicroMedicine. People on blood pressure medication who took a 128-milligram capsule of basil had lowered their systolic and diastolic blood pressure more than the control group that just took blood pressure medication. The researchers noticed these drops in blood pressure after just a week. A 2017 study in UERM Health Sciences Journal found a similar effect using basil tea.

Even inhaling basil essential oil might lower your blood pressure. A 2022 article in the Journal of Food Science had rats inhale basil essential oil and noticed their systolic blood pressure dropped by 15% in 12 weeks. Inhaling basil essential oil also lowered their LDL cholesterol and increased their HDL cholesterol.

A 2018 article in Nutrition Today looked at how the different forms of basil might improve health. Different types of basil have shown potential for controlling blood sugar, improving cholesterol levels, and lowering BMI. Some studies have used basil's dried seeds, which have a substantial amount of fiber. Other studies have used basil to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression while improving memory and cognition. Inhaling basil might also help you be more alert when you're at work, and basil extract might improve your oral health by reducing some harmful bacteria.