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Turmeric for High Blood Pressure

blood pressure

Like so many of the “missing millions” with high blood pressure, 39-year-old Susan Tripp had no idea she had the condition until she started seeing kaleidoscope-like stars in her vision while rushing to drop her youngest off at daycare one day.

“It was a time in my life during which I was incredibly stressed,” she recalled. “Three kids in elementary school, a calendar full of extracurriculars, a house with what was starting to feel like an unsustainable mortgage, a divorce in progress, and a full-time job managing a small software engineering firm,” she continued, “and never mind all the cooking, cleaning, and homework. In retrospect, I was a ticking time bomb.”

She was stunned when the nurse told her later that morning that her blood pressure was 170/105, compared to a healthy blood pressure of 120/80. She didn’t understand how she could have developed Stage II hypertension with no other symptoms up until this point. Unfortunately, she was not alone.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 11 million U.S. adults have high blood pressure and don’t know it, even those who see a clinician regularly. And a recent study concurs: millions of people with undiagnosed hypertension are “hiding in plain sight.”

After working with her doctor to find the right combination of medication and lifestyle changes to get her high blood pressure under control, Susan decided to take additional steps when it came to taking charge of her own health. Although she had recently discovered a family history of cardiovascular problems, she knew there was more she could do from her side. Over the next few months, she cleaned up her diet, took up yoga, placed a premium on high-quality sleep, and began exploring what she called, “the amazing world of natural health.”

It wasn’t long before she started seeing the benefits of turmeric everywhere she looked, and it’s no wonder. With its faintly aromatic and spicy odor and pungent, bitter taste, turmeric is best known in the culinary field as a major component of curry powder (Yance, 2013). As one of the most heavily-researched natural products in the world, turmeric has been shown to help with everything from adrenal health to Zika, and nearly every health condition in-between - including, Susan was happy to learn, blood pressure.

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure, simply put, is the pressure of blood pushing against your arteries, which are the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body. High blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) occurs when the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries is consistently too high. The key word here, though, is consistently.

As the CDC points out, it is perfectly normal for your blood pressure to rise and fall throughout the day. However, it can damage your heart and cause health problems if it stays high for too long.

Over time, the force and friction of high blood pressure damages the delicate tissues inside the arteries and can ultimately lead to conditions ranging from arrhythmia, heart attack, stroke, or even – as Susan’s doctor told her when she mentioned the “stars” she was seeing – complete loss of vision.

Effects of Turmeric (Curcumin) on High Blood Pressure

Turmeric comes from the root of Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. Turmeric contains many substances, but one group, curcuminoids, have been shown to have the greatest health-promoting benefits. Bright yellow curcumin, in particular, has been well-studied and is known for its positive effects on cardiovascular function.

For example, it is lipid lowering; elevates HDL cholesterol (the good kind) while lowering VLDL and LDL cholesterol (the bad kind); improves blood flow as much as exercise; is antiatherosclerotic (meaning it actively works against the clogging of blood vessels); and inhibits platelet aggregation, plaque formation, and lipid oxidation. All of this, in turn, spells very good news for our blood vessels and for helping us to maintain a healthy blood pressure.

A 2019 systematic review analyzed 11 studies with a total of 734 participants. The results showed that systolic blood pressure was lowered in the people who supplemented with turmeric/curcumin for longer than 12 weeks indicating that turmeric may help to lower blood pressure when it’s taken for a long duration.

What is Turmeric Extract?

Turmeric has multiple uses and has been used for centuries in Indian traditional medicine (Ayurveda) and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), as well as an inexpensive and everyday spice. It is used to flavor delicious food, as a food preservative, and as a coloring agent in items as diverse as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, yellow mustard, and hair dyes.

However, to unleash turmeric’s full power, it is helpful to know that using turmeric on its own as a spice in the kitchen is nowhere near as powerful as taking it in more concentrated form such as in a turmeric extract, which contains 95% curcuminoids vs. the 3-5% curcuminoids found in the turmeric powder we keep on our spice rack.

The Link Between Chronic Inflammation and High Blood Pressure

When a medical professional talks about inflammation, they are usually referring to the process our body undergoes as it fights against things that are harming it such as injuries, infections, or toxins as it attempts to heal itself.

Think back, for example, to the last time you got a bad splinter by sliding your hand over a wooden handrail. As part of the very natural and necessary process of inflammation, your immune system released antibodies and proteins, as well as drastically increased blood flow to the damaged area, in a cascade of events that can last for several hours to several days, depending on the severity of the splinter. This is known as acute inflammation and will, if everything goes as it should, cease once our immune system has gotten the inflammation under control.

skin with splinter and wound healing.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, happens when this process lingers on and our body is left in a constant state of high alert. This can happen with autoimmune disorders, untreated causes of acute inflammation, long-term exposure to toxins, or even a history of bad food choices. Over time, chronic inflammation will have a detrimental effect on your tissues and organs, including your cardiovascular system, and can lead to such things as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

What are the Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Turmeric Extract?

Turmeric extract, due to its high concentration of curcumin, exhibits a broad range of beneficial activities and is a potent anti-inflammatory agent, fighting inflammation at the molecular level by inhibiting an inflammatory signaling molecule called NF-kB. In fact, it is so powerful that it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs, without the annoying side effects.

Blocking of NF-kB is one mechanism among others, such as lowering histamine levels and decreasing the activation of harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS), that may explain why curcumin has anti-cancer and anti-viral properties along with powerful regulatory effects throughout the immune system.

You can learn more about the tumor-inhibiting effects of curcumin and the promising research on turmeric and cancer by reading this article:

Turmeric for Cancer: Potential Benefits

Antioxidant Effects on High Blood Pressure

Antioxidants are molecules which fight and neutralize free radicals in our body. Free radicals are compounds that can cause harm if they build up in high levels but, fortunately, our bodies have their own built-in mechanisms for keeping them under control.

Antioxidants are also found in food, especially colorful fruits and vegetables and in plant-based whole foods in general. Several vitamins – such as C and E, for example – are known to be powerful antioxidants in their own right, as are flavonoids, a diverse group of phytonutrients (plant chemicals) found in almost all fruits and vegetables.

A growing body of evidence suggests that ingestion of antioxidants can play an important role in preventing or treating high blood pressure and even reversing heart disease, currently the nation’s No. 1 killer.

Turmeric Extract (Curcumin) is a Potent Antioxidant

Perhaps not surprisingly, curcumin has been demonstrated to protect against free radical damage because it is a potent antioxidant. Researchers have found that extracts of turmeric and its curcumin component exhibit strong antioxidant activity, comparable to that of vitamins C and E.

Curcumin has been shown to increase glutathione levels, a beneficial antioxidant in plants and animals with a preventative role in reducing cellular damage caused by increased reactive oxygen species (ROS). Through these mechanisms, curcumin helps to boost your body’s natural defense systems to neutralize harmful free radicals that damage cells.

What are the Additional Benefits of Turmeric Extract?

As if that weren’t enough, turmeric extract has been shown to alleviate stiff and achy joints, fight cancer, improve brain function, fight viruses, detoxify heavy metals, prevent diabetes, improve skin, and even block the progression of multiple sclerosis, among many other things.

There are over 30,000 references to curcumin in the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) PMC database with numerous placebo-controlled studies investigating the benefits of curcumin.

You can learn more about the benefits of curcumin/Turmeric Extract by reading all the research-based articles in our Learning Center here:

Access our Turmeric Learning Center

What are Potential Side Effects of Turmeric?

According to WebMD, turmeric usually does not cause serious side effects. Mild side effects, especially when taken in higher doses, can sometimes happen and include stomach upset, nausea, dizziness, or diarrhea.

Note, however, that although turmeric appears to be generally safe and effective for a wide range of ailments and diseases, several potentially dangerous side effects can occur. For example, people with bleeding problems or clotting disorders, especially those on “blood thinning” medications such as warfarin, are strongly advised to exercise caution when it comes to turmeric supplementation because taking turmeric may slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bruising and bleeding. In a similar vein, anyone with an upcoming surgery scheduled should not take turmeric supplements for at least two weeks before the procedure.

In addition, people who are pregnant or who have gallbladder problems, diabetes, GERD, hormone-sensitive cancers, iron deficiency, or male infertility can experience unwanted side effects from taking turmeric.

In general, because we don’t always know when we have an underlying health problem that could be complicated by a dietary supplement, it is recommended that anyone wanting to start turmeric supplementation do so only after discussing it with their physician.

You can learn more about the side effects of Turmeric supplements by reading this comprehensive article:

What are the side effects of Turmeric Supplements?

One Major Concern with Turmeric Powder

In spite of all its wonderful uses in the kitchen, there can be a (human-made) dark side to the use of turmeric powder when cooking. It has long been known that financially-motivated adulteration of spices is a public health concern. However, until fairly recently, these activities were thought to be primarily restricted to their country of origin, such as the addition of lead oxide to ground paprika in Hungary, or the addition of lead chromate, which is a vibrant yellow, to turmeric in India and Bangladesh.

Researchers at Stanford University found that, often unaware of the dangers, some spice processors in Bangladesh were using an industrial lead chromate pigment to imbue turmeric with the bright yellow color prized for curries and other traditional dishes. This practice, in turn, led to excessive lead concentrations in the blood of Bangladeshi adults and children alike, including many pregnant women.

Sadly, researchers have now found that turmeric containing excessive amounts of lead could be available for purchase in the United States. In fact, as of 2011, thirteen brands of lead-contaminated turmeric had been recalled in the U.S., including at a farmers’ market in Georgia. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to work towards enhanced spice safety regulations, it is important to keep in mind that the potential for undetected contamination exists.

Long banned from all food products and many consumer products including children’s toys, lead is known to be a potent neurotoxin unsafe for ingestion in any quantity. Among other things, lead increases the risk of heart and brain disease in adults while lowering IQ and interfering with normal brain development in children.

While some lead in soil can be naturally occurring, much of it comes from industrial uses and environmental contamination, according to the FDA. Regardless of how it gets into the soil, this means that lead is sometimes present in small quantities in a number of common foods.

However, the FDA monitors and regulates the levels of lead in certain foods, foodwares, cosmetics, and dietary supplements because of its potential to cause serious health problems.

Although most intentional uses of lead have been banned in the United States for quite some time, lead is still often used in products made in other countries, and the FDA doesn’t always catch the ones that make their way into our food supply.

Fortunately, turmeric extract undergoes a multi-step extraction process that isolates the curcuminoids from the rest of turmeric plant which also eliminate impurities making it less likely to be contaminated by lead compared to raw turmeric powder.

What to Look for When Choosing a Turmeric Supplement

First, check the supplement facts label

With the overwhelming number of choices out there, keep in mind that not all turmeric products were created equally and how much active compound they contain will directly affect whether or not it will help with your blood pressure.

While many turmeric supplements only have 50-100 mgs of turmeric extract per capsule, the typical profile of curcuminoid-loaded Active Atoms Turmeric Extract is 86% curcumin, 6% desmethoxycurcumin, and 3% bisdemethoxycurcumin, a high-potency formula designed to give you better results.

Put another way, Active Atoms contains fully 95% curcuminoids, meaning that 95% of this supplement contains the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich active ingredients in turmeric.

If you look closely at the labels on the turmeric supplements sold on Amazon and in stores, you’ll see that they do not provide you with the right amount of extract. These turmeric supplement companies fill their capsules with turmeric powder which is cheaper, less effective, and may contain more impurities than turmeric extract; yet these companies trick people with misleading or entirely false advertising by hiding the actual amount of turmeric extract in a proprietary blend or claiming high amounts of turmeric powder which doesn’t provide much benefit.

You can learn how to avoid getting tricked by five top-selling turmeric supplements on Amazon by reading this article:

Misleading claims about Turmeric – 5 examples and how to read labels

As we have seen, turmeric contains a number of active phytochemicals, the most noteworthy being curcumin. Curcumin is available in turmeric at a concentration of only 3-5%. This means that if you see a supplement with 100 mgs of turmeric powder listed on the label, there are only 3-4 mgs of curcumin, but researchers have found that the optimal amount of pure curcumin is a good bit higher than that.

In fact, researchers studying the benefits of curcumin generally conduct trials with medicinal doses upwards of 1,500 mgs per day vs. the amounts one would normally get by using it as a spice while cooking.

In contrast, Active Atoms contains 750 mgs of turmeric extract – 712.5 mgs of curcuminoids – in just ONE capsule, making it the highest potency turmeric on the market today. This means that you would have to take 15 capsules from many turmeric brands just to get the same amount of turmeric extract contained in a single capsule of Active Atoms.

Next, check for absorption

It is important to note that turmeric powder, on its own, is poorly absorbed by the body. Its effects appear to be enhanced, however, by the addition of the proteolytic enzyme bromelain and by black pepper extract. As a result, many supplement manufacturers add one or both of these compounds to their turmeric formulations; in particular, the piperine found in black pepper is a popular additive.

As clinical master herbalist Donald Yance points out in his highly-esteemed book Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism, the “warming spiciness of black pepper (Piper nigrum) is attributed to the chemical compound piperine, which is a profound bioenhancer of curcumin and other natural compounds.” This means that it improves the bioavailability of these compounds, making them much more likely to be effectively absorbed when you consume them.

Active Atoms contains BioPerine®, a patented extract obtained from black pepper fruits standardized minimum to 95% piperine that has been shown to increase the absorption of turmeric by 2,000%!

Taking curcumin with some form of fat further enhances its bioavailability.

Finally, check for lead testing

Finally, and this is crucial, check your turmeric supplement to be sure that contamination is not a problem. Active Atoms capsules are regularly sent to an independent lab to test for lead, but not all supplement companies do this.

Unlike other companies, we provide full transparency by showing you the lest testing report on the home page of our website.

The Takeaway

Among turmeric’s myriad benefits is its ability to promote cardiovascular health. If you have high blood pressure or simply would like to prevent it, consult your doctor about supplementing with curcumin. In fact, never start supplementing with any nutraceutical until you’ve run it by a trusted healthcare professional first. The importance of ruling out undetected underlying and subclinical health problems cannot be overstated.

And never forget that your most powerful defense against chronic illness is the one that is most wholly within your power: living a healthy lifestyle. A high-quality diet, lots of movement, fresh air, natural sunlight, plenty of relaxation, restful sleep, and a solid stress-management activity like yoga, meditation, taking up an instrument, or even coloring every day in one of those detailed coloring books is your best bet for leading a long and happy life.

When choosing a turmeric supplement, look for at least 500 mgs of turmeric extract per capsule, BioPerine®, and lead testing. Active Atoms Turmeric Extract meets and exceeds all that criteria making it the best turmeric supplement available for maximum therapeutic benefits. Try it risk-free today. We offer a 100-day money-back guarantee and excellent customer service.

About Dr. Marc Robinson, PT, DPT, Cert. MDT