Are There Natural Beta-Blockers?
Beta-blockers are a type of medication commonly used to treat high blood pressure, irregular heart beat, anxiety, and other conditions.
Beta-blockers stop the effects of epinephrine (adrenaline), and this causes the heart to beat slower and lowers your blood pressure.
Some foods, herbs, and supplements can also act as natural “beta-blockers” by helping to lower blood pressure naturally.
We explore 11 natural beta-blockers and the risks of using these natural alternatives.What do beta-blockers treat?
Beta-blockers may be prescribed to treat many medical conditions such as:
- High blood pressure (hypertension). Beta-blockers slow down the heart rate and block the hormones that cause the heart to pump faster.
- Heart attack. Beta-blockers are used after a heart attack to help slow the activity of the heart.
- Heart failure and chest pain. Beta-blockers are prescribed for heart failure because they reduce the hormones that cause heart failure symptoms.
- Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). Although beta-blockers aren’t the first-choice medication, they can help to slow the heart down during an arrhythmia.
- Hyperthyroidism. Beta-blockers may be prescribed to slow down the heart rate caused by an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).
- Anxiety. Beta-blockers may be prescribed off-label for anxiety to help reduce the short-term effects of adrenaline released in the body due to anxiety.
- Migraine. Beta-blockers can help control some of the triggers that can lead to migraine. This may include high blood pressure and hormones like adrenaline. Research shows that beta-blockers are an effective treatment option for migraine headaches.
11 natural beta-blocker options
Several foods, herbs, and supplements may act as “natural beta-blockers,” functioning in the body as beta-blockers typically do by helping to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, relieve anxiety, and more.
Many fruits, vegetables, and plant-based foods contain antioxidants, which play a crucial role in the prevention of inflammatory conditions and may lower blood pressure as well.
Research has shown that eating foods containing antioxidants, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, may reduce blood pressure levels.
L-arginine is an amino acid that helps produce nitric oxide (NO), which can cause blood vessels to enlarge and may help lower blood pressure.
Research has shown that increased L-arginine levels can also reduce hypertension in rats. Sources of L-arginine include:
- meat and poultry
- nuts and seeds
- leafy vegetables
Adequate levels of potassium in the diet can help to keep blood pressure levels low.
Many people can get more than enough potassium from a well-balanced diet. Low-fat dairy products, fish, bananas, and potatoes are a few good sources of potassium.
4. Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic has a long history of use as a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It’s been studied for many conditions, including high blood pressure and heart disease.
Many studies have shown that garlic can significantly reduce blood pressure. It also has similar benefits for other conditions that beta-blockers treat, such as heart disease.
5. Hawthorn (Crataegus sp.)
A traditional Chinese herb, hawthorn is used to treat cardiovascular diseases.
Research suggests that hawthorn may have a positive effect on blood pressure and heart rhythm, and may even be able to help manage the symptoms of heart failure.
6. Indian snakeroot (Rauwolfia serpentina)
A traditional herbal supplement for the treatment of hypertension, Rauwolfia contains tryptophan derivatives called indole alkaloids.
This herb may help lower blood pressure by reducing the body’s ability to absorb the neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, which contributes to the body’s fight-or-flight response.
7. Red yeast rice (Monascus purpureus)
A popular herbal supplement for cardiovascular disease, red yeast rice contains substances called monacolins. One in particular, Monacolin K, works much like a statin (a drug that lowers cholesterol) and is the most well-studied compound in red yeast rice.
In one clinical trial from 2015, researchers found that a mixture of red yeast rice and olive oil was able to improve lipid profiles in participants with metabolic syndrome.
Consult with your doctor before taking red yeast rice since it may have side effects similar to those caused by statin drugs. Also, researchers found that the levels of monacolins in red yeast rice can vary, so there’s no way to be sure how much monacolin is in any individual red yeast rice supplement.
8. Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)
Barberry is a traditional herbal medicine that’s been used to treat inflammatory and cardiovascular conditions.
In animal studies, barberry lowered blood pressure by reducing certain inflammatory markers. Since inflammation has been linked to hypertension, barberry may help to lower blood pressure levels.
9. Omega-3 fatty acids
These fatty acids are types of polyunsaturated fatty acids that have been researched extensively for their role in heart health, among other health benefits.
These “healthy fats” may reduce blood pressure, blood clots, plaque deposits, and inflammation.
One review showed that 16 studies found EPA and DHA (2 main types of omega-3s) to be effective in improving cardiovascular function. Omega-3 fatty acids may also help to reduce anxiety symptoms, as well.
10. CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10)
This important compound plays a role in energy production and antioxidant protection. Low levels of CoQ10 have been linked to various diseases, including heart disease.
One animal study from 2016 found that CoQ10 supplementation could potentially improve blood pressure in hypertensive rats.
An essential mineral necessary for metabolic processes such as muscle contraction and nervous system regulation, research has found that low magnesium levels may lead to high blood pressure.
Magnesium supplementation may also help to lower anxiety levels.
Are there risks to trying natural beta-blockers?
Many of the foods that function as natural beta-blockers do so by reducing blood pressure and promoting heart health.
There are very few risks to eating more fruits, vegetables, and antioxidant-rich foods, so feel free to incorporate more of these into your diet.
Alternately, most vitamins and minerals can be safely consumed as part of a daily multivitamin. However, some herbal supplements may interact negatively with medications. It’s important to consult with your doctor before starting any vitamin or herbal supplement, especially if you’re taking prescription medications.
For your own safety, you should never stop taking your prescription beta-blockers or other treatments without the approval of your doctor.
Talk to your doctor about nutrition and lifestyle changes that can help to reduce your blood pressure naturally. Over time, you may both feel comfortable reducing or stopping your beta-blockers.
Beta-blockers are a commonly prescribed medication for conditions such as high blood pressure and anxiety. They function by reducing the effects of the fight-or-flight hormones on the heart.
Natural beta-blockers function in a similar manner by reducing blood pressure.
Many of these natural beta-blockers can also improve your overall heart health. Consider eating more of or supplementing with these natural options.
As with any new dietary changes, always consult your doctor first.