In Chinese Medicine, many of the symptoms of high blood pressure, such as pounding headaches, dizziness, and pressure behind the eyes are often related to a pattern of Liver Yang Rising or Liver Heat. It is important to see a physician for proper diagnosis and supervision of high blood pressure, but acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine may also be useful for managing your condition. Certain herbs have been shown to have an anti-hypertensive effect. Certain other herbs have been shown to be useful for controlling cholesterol levels and improving cardiovascular function. Acupuncture has been shown to have a general relaxing effect which can be useful in stress related or essential hypertension. In addition, certain points are commonly used in the treatment of patterns that relate to high blood pressure.
One commonly used herb for symptoms and patterns related to high blood pressure is Tian Ma or gastrodia rhizome. Research in China has shown it to be useful in the treatment of symptoms related to high blood pressure such as dizziness, numbness of extremities, tinnitus, headaches, and pain behind the eyes. It may have a sedative and tranquillizing effect. It has been shown to have usefulness for renal hypertension and essential hypertension. Another useful herb is Ye Ju Hua or chrysanthemum flower, which has been shown to have a prolonged effect of lowering blood pressure through peripheral vessel dilation. It has also been shown to increase blood flow to the heart. Another herb that is used to clear Liver Heat and is commonly used to treat eye problems that may be beneficial for high blood pressure is Xia Ku Cao or prunella. Chinese research has shown that it has a moderate vasodilating effect. These herbs are often used in combination by practitioners of Oriental Medicine in the treatment of patterns related to high blood pressure.
Other herbs may be useful for improving heart and circulatory function. They may also help reduce cholesterol. Shan Zha, or hawthorn berries, have been shown to reduce cholesterol when taken for six weeks or more. It is often used in China to improve circulation and to treat angina pectoris. Another herb that is commonly used in China for cardiovascular problems is Dan Shen, or Salvia. It has also been shown to reduce cholesterol. It also may improve microcirculation in the body. In China, pills of Dan Shen are used in the treatment of angina and in the treatment of coronary heart disease. It also may help promote repair and regeneration of tissues by increasing the body’s metabolism.
Certain acupuncture points are also known to be useful in the treatment of patterns related to high blood pressure. Large Intestine 4 is a point that many people know can help to control headaches. It is on the back side of the hand in between the thumb and index finger. It is also commonly used point for blood pressure related patterns. Another point at the vertex of the head, Du 20, is also commonly used. An acupuncturist or Chinese herbalist always takes an inventory of symptoms, along with looking at a person’s tongue and feeling a person’s pulse in order to determine the specific combination of points and herbs that a person needs. Different people with high blood pressure are treated differently depending on the pattern they present.
During my time in China, I did clinical rounds in the cardiology department at the Chengdu Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital. Modern drugs and diagnostic equipment were used hand in hand with Chinese herbs and acupuncture in order to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, angina pectoris, cardiac arrhythmias, heart enlargement, and stroke. I even saw Chinese herbs, such as Dan Shen, being given in intravenous and in injectable form. The conditions were diagnosed using modern science and traditional Chinese diagnosis. Drugs were used for symptom control and for emergencies. As people’s condition improved with the use of Chinese herbs and acupuncture, their doctors slowly adjusted the dosage of drugs that they received. The results I saw were better than either form of medicine could have achieved alone. We do not have the benefit of experiencing such a deep synthesis of modern medicine and ancient techniques yet in the West. Nevertheless, I believe that as people learn more about the benefits of Asian medicine, we may someday come close to achieving a more integrated system of care in the West that will be more clinically effective, more cost effective, and result in fewer side effects.