Podcast 129: Accessible Herbalism for High Blood Pressure & High Cholesterol
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two very common cardiovascular issues that you can safely improve with herbs. You can reduce your risk and improve your resilience with inexpensive medicinal plants and foods. These safe, abundant herbs can help release stress-induced tension, reduce fluid retention, and protect against the inner damage that drives cholesterol up. With a little more (or different) movement in your day, and a little more sleep at night, they’ll work even better!
This is part 1 in our Accessible Herbalism series! We’re sharing strategies for safely improving some of the most common health concerns, especially for marginalized communities. We want to empower people to take action in support of their own health and the health of their neighbors. The safe, accessible tools of holistic herbalism can fill in the gaps left by uneven access and lack of affordability of conventional care. Working with easy-to-find, inexpensive herbs, with low risk of adverse effects and drug interactions, is something anyone can do to improve their health.
We’re building a community health collective organizing tool out of this material as we go through the series. You can learn more about the project and find all the collected resources here:
As always, please subscribe, rate, & review our podcast wherever you listen, so others can find it more easily. Thank you!!
Our theme music is “Wings” by Nicolai Heidlas.
Hi, I’m Katja.
And I’m Ryn.
And we’re here at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.
And on the internet everywhere, thanks to the power of the podcast, and the YouTube, and the whole internet, basically. Which is great, because that helps us to reach you and lots of people that we might not otherwise be able to talk to. And we’re really hyped about that, especially given this next series of podcast episodes that we’ve got planned.
Oh my goodness, you guys. I’m so excited. I am so excited. So this is the first part in a series of strategies to safely improve some of the most common health concerns, especially ones that we see in under-resourced areas. So the purpose of this series is to create knowledge that will empower communities to start to take action to support their own health. In many cases, there simply isn’t accessible medical care available. And in other cases, the medical care that is available is so understaffed and so stretched to the limit that it’s difficult for people to get quality care. Even though there are people who want to provide it, they’re just so overworked that they can’t see everyone.
Yeah. So we want to provide some safe, accessible tools and some skills that will help to fill in the gap there. So this is not medical advice, right? Because we’re not doctors. And, you know, we tell you that every week and we’re going to do it again. So it’s not medical advice, but it is safe, accessible self care strategies that can improve health outcomes. And we believe that all people have a right to accessible and high quality healthcare.
Yes. Whether it is tools and skills to take care of your own health so that you don’t need conventional medicine, but also access to conventional medicine when that is necessary. We think that everybody has a right to that. So our plan with this series is to work with a relatively small number of easy to get and inexpensive herbs. So you’re going to notice the same herbs coming up again in different places. And that’s okay. As we go through, you might be thinking, Oh wait, I know another herb who can really help with that. And there are. There are so many plants who can help with the different types of things that we’re going to be talking about. The ones that we’ve chosen are inexpensive, they’re effective, and for the most part they’re widely accessible. Also we’ve chosen herbs that are generally safe and generally don’t have interactions with medications unless we’ve specifically made a note of an interaction that you need to be aware of.
Yeah. And we’ll be making an effort in the series to make those notes every single time, just so that it’s really clear. Yeah. So you can get more information on this project as it unfolds. If you go over to commonwealthherbs.com/mutualaid, all one word, mutual aid. And that’ll get you there.
Yes. Also a printable version of this work is going to be available at the end of this series, along with information about how to start a community health collective and all the different types of tools that you’re going to need to do that. And we’re making this work available for free to all people, because we want everyone to have these skills. So if you’d like to support this work, you can do that also at commonwealthherbs.com/mutualaid. And you’ll also find a sort of table of contents of the different issues that we’re going to be covering over the next two months, maybe a little bit longer.
Yeah. For a little while. All right. So we’ll get into today’s topic in just a moment, but first we want to give you our weekly reclaimer, where we remind you that we are not doctors. We are herbalists and holistic health educators.
The ideas discussed in this podcast do not constitute medical advice, no state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the United States. So these discussions are for educational purposes only. Everybody’s body is different. So the things that we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you, but we hope that they’ll give you some good information and some stuff to research further.
Yeah. And we want to remind you that good health is your own personal responsibility. And what we mean by that primarily is that the final decision when considering any course of therapy, whether it’s discussed on the internet or prescribed by a physician, is always yours. Okay.
All right. Well today’s topic is cardiovascular health. And we’re going to cover two of the most common and also most work-with-able issues in cardiovascular health. And that’s high blood pressure and high cholesterol. There are a lot of safe ways to work with these. And if we start working on them in that early phase, then we can head off bigger problems that might be coming down the line.
Helping High Blood Pressure
Yeah. That was really key actually. That the best time to start taking herbs is before you have a serious problem, you know. If you know that there’s a health risk in your family or in your community. If you know that you had issues with part of your health in the past, that’s something to take care of in a proactive way, you know? And again, one of the things about this, about this series in particular, but really the way that Katja and I work with herbs generally, is that we choose herbs that are quite safe in every context possible. Herbs that you can take, even if you don’t have a health problem right now, but that can strengthen your body, that can help you to become more resilient, and can sustain health in a lot of ways. Not just as medicine, but as food and as superfood and as herbs. You know, we think of them in in their own right, you know, in a lot of ways. So you can introduce herbs into your life. And you can protect your heart that way. Yes. So let’s start with high blood pressure. So high blood pressure is when the blood is putting too much pressure on the walls of the blood vessels, your veins, your arteries, all the tubes that the blood is flowing through inside of your body. And you can imagine this kind of like a garden hose, right? If you cover up the end of the garden hose while it’s got the water coming out, if you cover up the end with your thumb, then the water builds up pressure in the hose. And instead of flowing out normally, it will spray out with a lot of force, right? So you can imagine blood building up pressure in your own blood vessels in a similar kind of a way.
And there are several ways actually, that this can happen. There are different types of things that can cause this problem. But two are sort of the most common and very universal. And if we can reduce these two things, then we will have a huge impact. And again, this is not medicine. We are not trying to cure the problem. We are trying to get tools in the hands of people to be able to improve the situation and to make significant progress in the situation. So if we just address these two main causes, it’s going to be stress and salty foods. If we deal with these two things, then we can make a huge health impact.
Yeah. All right. So let’s start with stress. When you have stress, you get tense. And you probably didn’t need me to tell you that. You’ve had the experience of having a stressful day and feeling the pain in the neck or the lower back or wherever you carry it, you know? But this is also happening inside of the body, inside of your blood vessels. The blood vessels themselves can become tense. And when they tense up, they constrict. Think of like a band of muscle wrapped around the blood vessel. And that muscle, it can either tighten up and constrict and make a smaller bore, or it can relax and have a wider tube for things to flow through. So when they constrict they get narrower, and it’s associated with tension. And this is why high blood pressure is often called hypertension.
Right. Just like you feel that tension in your neck up here. And you can say, wow, I have a lot of tension. It is the same with those muscles around the arteries. They constrict and cause too much tension, so that is hypertension. And that hypertension makes your blood vessels narrower. It builds up more pressure.
Because it’s the same amount of blood in there. Right. It still has to move that same amount through, but now it just needs to go with more pressure to get through. Right? So you’re trying to fit the same amount of blood into a smaller area. Like if you try to put on a pair of pants that’s just too small.
Right. There’s the same amount of you. And you’re trying to get into a smaller pair of pants. There’s some pressure there.
There’s squeezing and yeah. So that can lead to problems. So yeah, it is that direct connection. And this is going to apply with any kind of stress, right. It doesn’t have to be, you know, one particular type of stressful situation. So whether it’s stress about money, or it’s stress about work, or it’s stress about family, or it’s stress about your health, or any of the many things that can cause stress for us. They all result in the same kind of effect.
Yes. So obviously a great solution would be to have no more stress. But that is not something that is within our power, right? There are a lot of stressful things in this world and we can’t escape. Maybe you can escape some of them, but we can’t escape all of them. But there are herbs who can help and there are some holistic strategies, some steps you can take in your life that can also help. So let’s start off with the herbs who can help. Yeah.
De-Stressing with Chamomile and Centering with Tulsi
First let’s talk about chamomile. So first thing to know about chamomile is that it’s okay to take it in tea bags. No problem. And let that stand in for all of the herbs that we talk about as we go along. That it doesn’t have to be the most perfect organic, you know, shade, grown, whatever’s appropriate. That would be great. And where that’s accessible, where that’s available, where it’s affordable, go for it. But if it’s not, don’t write off the herbs that you do have access to just because they’re less than perfect.
Yes. You can absolutely go to the grocery store, and buy a box of chamomile tea in tea bags. And it is still going to help you. So don’t turn your nose up at that. That is absolutely still medicine.
Yeah. So chamomile tea, it can help to relax. It can help to relax your muscles. It can help to relax the feeling of stress in your body and in your mind. And that’s going to have those direct impacts on the amount of tension in your whole system, including your blood.
Yeah. In order to get this effect, you can drink three to four cups a day of chamomile tea. Now, if you love chamomile tea, you can have more. That’s totally fine. But if you try to do at least three to four cups a day, that is going to really help throughout the whole day and over time to relax the muscles and the nerves in your body. And it’s fine if you want to drink it hot, or if you want to drink it cold. So you can brew it up, and then put it in the refrigerator or put some ice in it. That’s also totally fine.
It’s okay to sweeten it a little bit. If you want to, you can put a little honey in there. Some people like to put a little lemon into their chamomile tea.
Oh, that’s so nice. Yeah.
And you can absolutely feel free to put other so-called flavoring herbs in there, like peppermint or hibiscus. Those plants secretly do have lots of medicinal benefits, you know. And some of them we’ll be mentioning later on in this episode. But feel free to do those kinds of things as well to make your tea enjoyable. Because the only herbs that work for you are the ones that you actually take. So, don’t struggle through with something and be like, ah, I gotta take this cause it’s good for me. Now chamomile is a pretty low bar for that. It’s a fairly tasty tea, it’s a fairly familiar flavor. Lots of people have had this already in their life. So the bar there is pretty low. But just as a general idea, when you’re working with herbs make them enjoyable, make them delightful. That counts a lot for medicine too.
Now it’s a really good idea if you’re working with chamomile to help you manage stress, to drink some chamomile tea every day, to be consistent with this. Don’t just do it on the days that you feel stressed. Really do it every day. Because the reality is, if you’ve got high blood pressure, your body is telling you that you have been under stress for a long time. And there is probably a fairly high level of stress that you just accept as normal in your life. And so we want to not just reduce the stress on a day that feels extra stressful for you. But we want to reduce that normal high level and bring that down as much as we can. If we can’t get rid of the things that make you feel stressed out, then at least we can provide something that will help to relax the muscles, relax the tension. So we do want to work with this every day.
Yeah. Let’s talk about tulsi next. This plant is also called holy basil. Same herb. Yeah. So with tulsi, again, it’s totally okay if it’s in tea bags. There are some really good quality tulsi tea bags out there that are pretty widely available.
Yeah. You can get them at a lot of the grocery stores. And you can also get them online, but a lot of grocery stores, do you have tulsi or holy basil tea available?
Yeah. It’s becoming more popular. And in this case it’s a very good thing. Tulsi is a really fantastic herb. It helps with a lot of different things in the body, actually. It supports health in a number of ways. For this topic, you know, tulsi particularly helps you to cope with stress and it reduces inflammation in the body. And when it comes to the high blood pressure, the tension pattern is a problem. The accompanying problem is an increased amount of inflammation inside of the body, in large part due to that tension and the impairment of free flow of blood that results from it. So tulsi is helping to put a check or to quiet down some excessive inflammation. And again, it also helps you to cope with stress more efficiently. Tulsi is in a category of herbs we call adaptogens, and that means that they help your body adapt to changing circumstances, including stressful circumstances, much more easily. One of the great things about tulsi is that it helps us to make a transition from a response to something stressful. Like if something scary happens or there’s a loud noise, or you weren’t looking and you almost stepped into the street. Whatever that gives you that stressful moment, you need that kind of reaction to survive as a human in the world. Right? But we don’t want to be having that reaction to every email we get, and every news story we see, and all of those things through today. So we need to be able to come back down to a place of calm and, again, relaxation or calm centeredness. And tulsi helps us to make that transition more easily to go from a place of agitation and anxiety and alert to defend yourself, to recognize that the threat has passed. That I’m in a relatively safe space right now. That I can release that tension that is a self protection mechanism.
Yeah. Now, if you are taking medication for diabetes, then it’s important, if you’re going to work with tulsi, that you test your glucose levels daily. Because tulsi can also improve diabetes enough that you might need to monitor and make sure that your dose of your diabetes medication is still correct. And we’re going to talk more about that when we talk about diabetes and prediabetes. But for now, just to mention that if you’re going to work with tulsi every day, it is important to just be on top of testing your blood glucose levels at least once a day. Just to make sure that you don’t need to make an adjustment with your diabetes medication. If you do need to make that adjustment, then make sure that you make an appointment with your doctor right away so that he knows or she knows that you need to have that adjustment made.
Yeah. What you would be seeing would be that your blood sugar readings were getting too low.
Or that they were improving, right. Maybe you were having them pretty high and they were starting to come down and you’re saying, wow, this is good. My number is starting to come down. If you see that and you see it consistently happening, that’s when you want to just give your doctor a call and let them know that your numbers are changing, and that you should be checked to make sure your dose for your medication is still correct. But if you’re not diabetes medication, or even if you are, but you’re going to test regularly, you can drink again, three or four cups of tulsi tea a day. And again, it is great to do this every day. Because we want to be working every day on bringing those tension levels down, so that we can relax the tension in the blood vessels, relax the tension on the heart, and bring that blood pressure level down. You know, also you can switch back and forth. One day, you could drink chamomile. The next day you could drink tulsi. Or you could mix your chamomile and your tulsi together. That is completely fine and also quite delicious. Now you also do not have to make each cup individually. If you want, and especially it’s really hot today, and so this appeals to me a lot today. If you want, you can, in the morning, just boil up, or at some point in the day that’s convenient for you, boil up a kettle of water. And put three or four tea bags into a quart size Mason jar. And then put the hot water on, let it brew. If you want to put it in the refrigerator afterwards, that’s totally fine to make it cold. But now you have your whole quart that you’re going to drink for the day. And you can just pour some whenever you want it, or put it into a water bottle, take it with you for the day. But that way you don’t have to make it every single time that you want to drink it. And especially because lives are busy, there’s so much to do. There’s kids to run after there’s work to be done. You’ve got to go to your job. If you have all of it made at one time, and now you can just take it with you wherever you go, then you know you’re going to drink it through the day. You don’t get to the end of the day and say, Oh, I meant to have my tea today and I didn’t do it.
Move More & Increase Sleep
Okay. All right. So chamomile and tulsi are really helpful herbs for high blood pressure, but there’s some other things that we can talk about that are also going to help here aside from the herbs. So the first one that I would highlight would be movement. And this doesn’t have to mean going to a gym. This doesn’t have to mean lifting weights per se. We’re talking about movements in the most general sense here. So that that would include exercise, but it would also include playing with the kids, taking the dog for a walk, doing chores in the house or in the yard. Just walking if your commute involves a long walk, you know. Like all of that counts as movement time. So you want to take a little moment and kind of observe yourself through your day. And think about how much time do I spend sitting in one place or standing in one posture, leaning against the same counter, whatever it may be, right? Because movement helps the body to release stress, to release tension. Think about if you wake up in the morning and you’re feeling kind of stiff. And all right, you need to get moving, get that blood flowing a little bit. If you could go for a walk or if you could, you know, do some yoga or some ground movement or whatever feels good to you, then you start to loosen up. You start to feel a little more freedom. You know, maybe your joints stop cracking after a little while and feel like your blood is flowing a little better. Because it is, right? Because it is. And so when we move the whole body, that actually does help to reduce blood pressure quite substantially. Because when you move more of your muscles, you draw blood into into the periphery of your body. If you take a walk, you bring the blood down into your legs and circle it back up all the way through. Your arms are swinging. It’s moving down into your hands and everything. If you go walking in the winter time, you can feel your body warm up after awhile. After the first mile or so, you’re like, okay, I’m feeling a little warmer now. This is good, because the blood is flowing out to more places in your body. But that means that it’s not kind of collected or all stuck in the middle where it tends to settle in when we’re being sedentary, when we’re sitting down. So the movement here, it’s both that kind of physical effects of helping the blood to flow, reducing pressure that way, improving distribution. But also movement helps to relieve stress. It can help to just relieve feelings of stress and anxiety and tension just to get out there and to move around a bit.
You can just, you know, if you don’t move a lot right now and you think, boy, exercising seems intimidating. If you just go for a walk, a 10 minute walk three times in the day, already that is going to make an improvement. Or choose something that you really enjoy, like maybe dancing, and dance every day. If you have a job where you have to move your body a lot, in that case, you may come home and be very sore at the end of the day. And you might think, I do not want to go for a walk. That’s actually fine. Don’t go for a walk. You just worked really hard all day. In that case though, some stretches might really help you. If there’s a particular part in your body that you use a lot in your job, like if you use your hands a lot to do some kind of grabbing movement for example, then stretch your hands open. Do the opposite kind of stretching. If you bend over a lot in your job, then try to stretch the backs of your legs when you get home, or maybe twist back and forth in your, in your chair so that you look behind you in either direction. Any kind of stretching, that’s going to help you to relax the muscles that you worked hard all day. Because again, our whole point here is that we want to relax the tension. If your muscles are hurting and they’re all tensed up, then that’s the opposite of what we’re trying to do. So if you have a job where you have to sit still most of the day, then we want to go for a walk, go dancing, do something enjoyable. If you have a job where you have to move your body a lot, and you’re sore at the end of the day, then we want to do some stretching to try to relieve the tight muscles.
Yeah. And in every case, we are trying to look for those periods of either sedentary time or repetitive motion time, and try to break those up. So you know, when you’re at work, then the amount of breaks you get is not always up to you. But if you can, if you do have breaks, take them. Move in a different way from whatever it was. So if you had been sedentary while you’re on the job, then when it’s break time or when it’s not work time, get up, take, take walks, move around, stretch a little bit. Even just for five minutes in between tasks or something like that. If you’re getting that kind of repetitive motion, then if you get a break or it’s lunchtime or whatever, then trying, like you said, to find the opposite kind of movement to bring it out in the other direction. That can be really helpful. But just again, wherever possible, looking to break up periods of sedentary time or repetitive motion time. To have it be different, have it changed? And that helps a ton.
All right. One other thing that you can do in your life to help deal with stress is to sleep. Sleep is a time that your body is actually clearing stress out. There are hormones that happen when you have stress and they get broken down and removed from the body when you are sleeping. So if you are able to do it, try to get at least eight hours of sleep a night. That can be hard sometimes, especially if you have to work a night shift. It can be hard if you have small children. But do the best that you can to sleep more. Whatever that is, try to get to eight hours. Even if you can get a little more than eight hours, that’s excellent. Whatever amount of sleep that you’re getting now, just see, can you rearrange some stuff in your life so that you could sleep half an hour more or an hour more. Maybe that means watching a little bit less television before you go to bed. And maybe that’s a hard trade off to make because that’s how you’re relaxing from your stressful day. But experiment with it, experiment with different changes that you can make in your life that will allow you to be in the bed a little bit longer, to allow your body to sleep a little bit longer. Because that is the time that you’re clearing out that stress from your body, kind of giving your body a chance to reset and start over.
Reduce Salty & Processed Foods
Okay. So stress was one of the big drivers for high blood pressure. The other one that we wanted to talk about today is salty processed foods. Yeah. And so with this, there’s a couple of different ways that that these things can lead to the heightened pressure in the body. So one is that salty foods like this, they cause your body to retain water. And that means that your body overall has more stuff inside it, more fluid inside it. Instead of peeing out as much water as you normally would instead now you’re keeping a lot more of that water inside of the system. And so more water in the body puts more pressure, not just on your blood vessels, but on everything, you know?
Yeah. You know, sometimes you feel really bloated in the belly. And your belly actually sticks out a little bit from that bloating. Or sometimes your fingers maybe swell up, especially if it’s hot outside, or your ankles swell up a little bit. That’s because you’re holding onto water. And that extra water is pushing against things in your body because it needs somewhere to be. It’s trying to make some space for itself.
The other piece going on here is that these kind of salty, processed foods, they also induce inflammation. They cause inflammation in the body. They’re generally made with ingredients that can cause wounds or damage on the insides of the blood vessels. And then when that happens, you need to make a kind of a scab to heal it and y,ou make those with cholesterol. And we’re going to talk more about that in a little moment. But that means, though, that you’ve got a spot in the blood vessel, in the tube there that’s more narrow, right? Because the scab kind of thing, it takes up some space. So that causes pressure just like if you were to take a garden hose and kind of squeeze it a little bit. That’s going to cause an increase in the pressure right there at that spot.
All right. So, first some actions that you can take to reduce the damage that salty and processed foods are having in your body. And the first one is try not to eat those foods. That’s hard because they are delicious and sometimes they are also what’s available. So things like chips and cookies and pretzels, or fast food like french fries and McDonald’s or whatever.
Or the canned stew that I ate for many years in college.
Yes, exactly. Exactly. So these things are very available. They’re often cheap. And they’re kind of delicious. Part of the reason that they’re delicious is actually because they are putting chemicals in that trick your taste buds into thinking that they are delicious. And those chemicals actually are a little bit addictive, and that’s why you want more and more of these foods. So it’s hard to give them up, but the other hand they are causing damage in the body. So if you can reduce the amount, it doesn’t mean don’t ever eat a potato chip again. But if you can reduce the amount of these foods that you eat, then that’s going to help a lot. You can choose unsalted options, or if there’s a low sodium option, you can choose that as well.
Yeah. That would be a little improvement.
It’ll be a little bit better. Yeah.
For sure. The other big thing to do there is to add more vegetables to your diet and in whatever way you can. Any kind of veggie that you like, fruits as well. You want to get those into your life as much as possible.
Yeah. It really doesn’t matter. If the vegetable you like is broccoli, eat a bunch of broccoli. You don’t have to suffer through a vegetable that’s not delicious to you. Any vegetable is good.
It is good to get multiple colors. If you can get some orange and some green and some purple and some red into your vegetable platter array there, then that is actually good for you. Because each of those color compounds is going to be delivering different anti-inflammatory plant chemicals into your body. Good things that help your body to keep inflammation low. Some of them even do help to directly reduce the blood pressure. So yeah, anytime that we can choose vegetables, fruits that’s a good thing.
Yes. Also, it’s fine if you get frozen vegetables, that is no problem. Frozen vegetables are great. You know, you hear a lot that you should have fresh vegetables because that’s the best. Maybe it’s the best, but frozen vegetables are fantastic. They’re easier to get. They’re easier to prepare. They’re less expensive. So you don’t have to fuss and make sure that you have fresh vegetables. It is completely fine to get frozen or to get frozen berries, whatever.
Diuresis (& More) with Dandelion & Parsley Leaf
It’s a lot easier to not waste, you know, when it comes to that, because you can just thaw out or heat a serving or whatever you need for tonight and then keep the rest frozen. So that is often a great way to go there. Okay. Well, let’s talk about a couple of herbs that are, that are really helpful for this aspect, and the first one is going to be dandelion.
Yeah. And this is dandelion leaf, which you can have as tea in a tea bag, or you can go out if you have dandelions that are growing around you and the ground that they’re growing in is reasonably clean. They didn’t spray it with anything. Then you can just pick the dandelions right there and eat them. You can make tea out of dandelions that you pick yourself or you can eat t,hem like salad, and now it’s a vegetable. Either one is going to be fine. Either option is going to be fine.
Yeah. And when we’re looking specifically at this effect for for the diuretic impact that the dandelion has, we are looking at the leaf for that in particular. So you may find at the store that there’s dandelion root tea bags and dandelion leaf tea bags.
You want the leaf.
So for this one, we want the leaf. The root is a great medicine. We’re going to be talking about it probably in future episodes, for sure. But for this purpose, we’re looking at the leaf. And the leaf here works like a diuretic or what a lot of people will call a water pill. It helps your body to get rid of extra water, extra fluid that isn’t really helping. That you don’t need in the system. And that is, again, that water retention can cause the pressure to raise in your system. So with the dandelion leaf, we eliminate excess water. That reduces the amount of stuff. It reduces the amount of pressure. Yeah. The nice thing is that dandelion also is feeding you at the same time, it’s delivering you a bunch of vitamins and minerals. And so you’re getting good stuff that helps to fight inflammation, helps to normalize function inside of the body while you’re also getting rid of that excess water.
Yes. So again, we’re looking at drinking three to four cups a day of this tea. And in this case, it is good if you let it sit for a long time. Let it brew for at least an hour, but even like four hours would be really great. If you’re working with dandelion leaf tea bags, then put in two if you can afford it. If you want to make a whole quart at a time, then put in at least four tea bags into that whole quart, and let it sit for a little bit longer. The reason that we let this tea sit a little longer is because there’s a lot of vitamins and minerals in the dandelion leaf. And we want to make sure there’s enough time to get all of it out. You’ll see, as you let that tea sit there and brew for awhile in the beginning, it won’t be very dark. But as it goes on, it’s going to get dark brown. And the darker that it gets, that’s the more stuff that is coming out of that tea, out of the leaves that are actually in the teabags. Or if you have actual leaves, you’re getting more of it out of the leaves and into the water so that you can drink it and have that for yourself.
And you know, when you eat the dandelion leaves, then you get everything. Because your digestion is going to access all of those vitamins and minerals and other good nutrients in there for you.
Yeah. In fact, if you make your tea out of fresh leaves or dried leaves, either one, you can even eat them after you’ve made tea out of them. Okay. They’re a little soggy and like over boiled spinach. But if you’re really trying to get the most out of it, then just swallow them right down, because then there’s nothing that you’re leaving out. Right? You’re getting everything that was in the water, and anything that didn’t come out into the water and is still in the leaf itself. If you just eat that, now you have that too. You didn’t waste any part at all.
Yeah. For sure. Okay. Now if you’re already taking a diuretic medication, or if you’re taking a water pill already, then you’re not going to want to add a dandelion leaf tea on top of that.
But just because you already have that action happening and we don’t want to put twice that amount into your body.
Yeah. It would still be fine to eat dandelion leaves in your salad though. That’s always a good idea really.
So the other plant that we’re going to talk about here is parsley leaf. And parsley is also a diuretic. It also is going to help you get rid of that extra water. And it also has lots of minerals and vitamins. They have a lot of shared actions, parsley and dandelion. And parsley you can find most grocery stores. And it’s not usually very expensive. So even if you’re looking and you have to be careful with your budget for fresh vegetables, usually you can get a whole bunch of parsley for 50 cents or a dollar. So that is good. And it’ll last you for a couple of days. You can work with the leaves in that bunch and you can work with the stems too. Just chop every little bit of it right up to the end. That’s totally fine.
Yeah, for sure. So again, you know, this is going to have that diuretic effect, the vitamin and mineral content. Get rid of the extra water. Eat it in salad, eat in anything that you cook. That’s all good. You can chop it up super small and mix it into something and hardly even know it’s there. Like if you put it into spaghetti sauce or into chili or something like that, you won’t hardly even know it’s there at all, but you will still be getting those benefits.
Right. Some people don’t really like the flavor of parsley. And if that’s you, don’t say: Oh, well then I’m not even going to try it. You will be so surprised if you chop it up really small. And I really do. I just take scissors and I just chop little bits of it off. You really don’t taste it, especially if it’s in something like chili.
You know, cilantro is quite similar. Cilantro is maybe more divisive in terms of flavor.
Yes. Some people love it and some people don’t.
Yeah. But it has very similar qualities and actions to parsley. So if that’s one you like then you can work with that in the same basic way. You can make a tea with parsley if you want to as well. And with that, it may have a bit more of its aromatic quality. So that’s a quality where if you were to chop parsley and take a smell right there, there’s a distinctive sense that’s not quite sharp, but moving in that direction,
It smells like parsley. It has a strong smell.
Yeah. There’s a stimulating feeling that goes along with it. And when you make parsley into tea, or even if you just eat fresh bunches of it, you get more of that sensation and more of those chemicals, than you do when it’s been cooked. As you cook, a lot of them will kind of evaporate off. Taking it fresh that way, or making a tea with that parsley while it’s still fresh like that, that’s going to actually give it a little bit of a disinfectant action for the urinary system. So for people who are prone to UTI, then this could also be a helpful herb to introduce. So we’ll have a whole future episode on UTI, but just as a little preview, parsley is a good friend.
So if you are wanting to work with parsley, again, we’re going to do this every day, because we’re trying to lower that pressure and keep it low. That means we have to do this every day. And so we’re going to look for like a quarter cup of chopped parsley a day would be great. Or if you’re going to make it into tea like you did with the dandelion, then three or four cups of the tea. And you could switch back and forth between dandelion and parsley, depending on what’s available to you or just flavor, what you feel like in the day. Now, parsley is another herb that has effects on blood sugar levels. And that’s great. And we’re going to talk about it more when we talk about diabetes and prediabetes, but if you are taking medication for diabetes, this is another herb where it’s important to test your glucose levels daily, because parsley can improve your health. If you have diabetes, it can improve this situation enough that your doctor might need to change your dose of your diabetes medication. So if you’re going to start working with parsley every day, and if you are taking diabetes medication, then it’s a good idea to just test and make sure if you see those numbers coming down, that’s very good news. But if they keep coming down, you do need to give your doctor a call. Let them know and make sure that you don’t need an adjustment in your medication.
Move More & Stop Smoking
Okay. Other things that can help, moving more or moving differently, depending on what your life is like, what your work is like. So it can be difficult to get rid of excess water, especially down in the legs, but walking helps a lot. Walking physically helps to circulate, to pump those fluids and get them moving again. When you walk, your muscles can squeeze that water up from your legs up to your bladder so that you can pee it out. It’s okay if you walk slowly. It’s okay if you walk short distances. It’s okay if you walk around your house, like inside the house, maybe outside the building, whatever. Any kind of walking or gentle movement like that is going to be very helpful. But the idea here is to try to do it at least three times in the day. And that helps to break up those long periods of sedentary sitting and everything. My favorite way to do this, the way I advise people to if it’s at all workable for you is to get in the habit of taking a little walk after each meal. It’s a great way to remember to do it because it just becomes like, okay, I eat. And then I go for a little walk and that’s just my pattern. But it also helps your digestion, you know, and it does help with blood sugar regulation. And it helps with a lot of things, really. So having a brief five minutes away from home, five minutes back, 10 minutes total walk, three times a day. That would do a lot. It would do a lot.
Now, if you are one of those people where you work on your feet all day and you are moving all day long, and so you don’t want to add more walking to that, then you could lay flat on the floor and put your feet up on the wall. And that actually gives a nice, very gentle stretch. And it helps. You’re allowing gravity to move that extra water down out of the legs. So you can lay that way and listen to some music. Lay that way and let your kids tell you what they did today. Lay that way and just be very quiet and not do anything for anyone. Those things are fine. And lay down with your feet on the wall for five minutes, 10 minutes, what’s comfortable for you. Try to do it a few times a day just to make sure that you’re giving all that fluid a chance to come down.
Yeah. All right. Another big thing here you’ve probably heard before is that quitting smoking especially tobacco is very helpful if you’ve got high blood pressure. It’s difficult, right? But herbs can help. Tulsi in particular can really help out a lot with that. Remember that herb is also called holy basil. But tulsi helps to reduce cravings, not just for tobacco or nicotine, but for sugar cravings and other kinds as well. It really does help us to get a handle on that. And it boosts your mood at the same time. So tulsi can really help a lot as you’re going through the process of cutting down or quitting smoking. And again, it’s fine in teabags. If you’re drinking three or four cups of tulsi tea a day, that should really make a difference in your inner feeling, your ability to do this transition. And you can also take it as often as you need to support yourself as you go through that process. As we’ve mentioned before, if you are going to work with tulsi in larger, consistent doses, like the three or four cups a day or a quart of tea per day, then that can have an impact on your blood sugar levels. And if you are a medicated diabetic, if your taking medications to help manage diabetes, then you’re going to need to check your blood sugar frequently as you work with tulsi in those normal doses, those effective doses. You’re going to need to check your blood sugar levels frequently in order to make sure that they’re staying in the right place, or moving in the right direction, so that you’re able to make adjustments with your doctor as things go along. All right. So those are some strategies to reduce high blood pressure.
Help High Cholesterol with Oil Choices & Fatty Fish
Now another very common problem with cardiovascular health is high cholesterol levels. So we want to give you some tools to work with that as well. First of all, let’s talk a little bit about what cholesterol is. Cholesterol is made in your body, and it does a lot of things for you, actually. It’s not actually bad. It helps you to heal wounds. It helps your brain to function, and it’s how you make a lot of your hormones. But when you have too much cholesterol, then that usually means that there are some problems in your body.
Yeah. The cholesterol itself is a result of those problems.
Right. You were talking earlier about how cholesterol can form a scab to help heal wounds in the arteries themselves. So in this case, the cholesterol isn’t bad. The damage in the blood vessel is what’s bad. The cholesterol is just trying to help you heal it. But it still gets in the way, especially if you need a lot of it. Especially if you have a lot of that kind of damage, then building up those scabs, building up those cholesterol patches that are trying to help heal, that’s going to cause more pressure in the blood vessels.
Right. Yeah. And so, the most common cause of that kind of internal damage is from eating foods that themselves are damaging. So this is going to lead right into some of our first actions to take to try to try to bring cholesterol levels into a more balanced place. So the first thing to do then is to reduce processed food from your diet as much as you can. So that includes things like chips and cookies and pretzels. It also includes fast food and honestly, most restaurant food. Most restaurants are in the business of selling flavor and enjoyment. And that’s importnat and we thank them for it. But it’s not exactly the same thing as optimal nutrition.
Right. It is not what grandma used to make.
Yeah. the biggest issue with restaurant food, and also, honestly, with processed and packaged food, has to do with the oils that they use to cook with. Particularly when we’re talking about cholesterol, these oils, and we’re thinking there about soy oil, corn oil, canola, cotton seed, and sort of generic vegetable oil, those cause inflammation. And they cause damage inside the body, and especially in the blood vessels. They’re the biggest driver of your cholesterol going up. So if we can reduce the amount of them that we eat, then that can make a big difference. And starting at home is great. If you can use olive oil or coconut oil or palm oil when you cook at home instead, that’s fantastic and a really great thing to do. But you have to recognize that your processed food, like stuff that comes in a package, or the food you get at restaurants, that’s usually prepared or cooked or contains those problematic oils in it. And that’s usually where most of us are getting them from.
So it’s a great idea if you’re able to cook your own food. And to focus on those healthier oils, olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, even butter would be better. So that’s one change you can make at home. And again, if possible, add more vegetables to your diet. Vegetables, berries. These are, in themselves, not just are they healthier in terms of food, but they are also providing your body with tools that will reduce inflammation, will heal that damage. And again, it is fine to get frozen vegetables or frozen berries. They’re often more affordable and you’re not going to waste as much. It’s totally fine.
Yeah. One other food thing that can make a huge difference here would be to introduce into the diet some small, usually very cheap, fatty fishes. So I’m thinking there of sardines, herring, anchovies, things like that, you know, like little fish that come in a can. But they have really good fat profile in them. They have the omega3 fats, those anti-inflammatory fats that we really want. And the omega3 are beneficial. You may have heard of omega3 already, right? One of the reasons they’re so beneficial for us is that they kind of balance out the inflammatory fats or the bad fats that we were just talking about. And so if you can eat, you know, a can or eat a serving of sardines or anchovies or herring fish. If you can do that a few times a week, that will go a really long way toward providing your body with healthy fats. So yeah, that’s a really great way.
Yes. Plus you get food out of it.
Right? There’s protein, there’s calcium. There’s a whole bunch of mineral content in there. It’s good all around.
Garlic, Parsley, & Hibiscus
All right. There are herbs who can help too. Because the reality is, of course, you cannot avoid these foods all of the time, these foods that cause some damage. And so there are herbs who can help your body to heal that damage more effectively. And the first one we want to talk about is garlic. If you work with garlic, then garlic is going to help repair a lot of that damage so that you don’t need to make as much cholesterol. So that means your cholesterol level will be lower simply because you don’t have to produce so much. Garlic is easy to work with. You can just add it to your dinner or you can also make garlic pickles and then just eat one or two of them a day.
Garlic pickles are super easy to make.
Yes. So all you’re going to do is get a bunch of garlic. Peel every clove of garlic. You can cut them in half if you want to, but you don’t have to. And put them in a jar. And then you’re going to fill that jar with apple cider vinegar. And if you like, if you like sweeter pickles, you can put a little bit of honey in there too. And you’re just going to let them sit for at least two weeks. Now, during this process, there will probably be a day where they turn a little bit blue. And you look at them and you say: Oh my goodness, why are they turning blue? That’s normal. That’s just a chemical reaction that’s happening, and it’s totally fine. It will only happen for a day or two and then it’ll go away, but it’s not mold or anything like that. Eventually they may turn a little bit brown, because they’re absorbing in the vinegar. And the vinegar has a brown color, so it’s going to give the garlic pickles a little bit of that brown color too. That’s also fine. But once you have let them sit for about two weeks, you can shake them every now and then. You can put mustard seed in there if you like, or a little dill if you like, whatever you like for your pickle recipes. And then you can just take one clove a day and eat it up like a pickle, or two if you really like them.
Yeah. And I think you mentioned, but we use apple cider vinegar for this instead of like white vinegar. I mean, you could do it with balsamic if you want to. If you’ve got that.
Honestly you could do it with white vinegar too, if you have to, but apple cider vinegar has other health benefits. So since we need to get some vinegar, why not get the one that has some health benefits so that the whole thing is better for you.
That’s the way, right. Now look, you can also eat garlic in other ways. You can make these pickles, and that’s a super handy, convenient way. It really reduces the bite or the heat of the garlic and makes it a lot more tolerable, especially if your stomach’s a little touchy. But if you like it, then you can just crush some garlic and put that onto your food. You can eat cooked garlic. When it comes to these benefits for cardiovascular health, really any way that you get garlic into you is going to help out. You don’t have to be super picky about optimizing it or anything like that.
It doesn’t have to be raw. It’s okay.
Garlic powder, it does still help, not quite as much though. Really the best benefits here are coming from, like bring home the actual garlic bulbs, chop them up, prepare them. Maybe you make pickles, maybe you just put them into dinner. However you take them, that’s the best way to go.
Yes. Now, if you are taking blood thinners, garlic might cause you to bleed more easily. So if you’re taking blood thinners, you can ask your doctor if it’s okay for you to eat garlic, or you can just be aware and watch. And if you do notice that you bleed more easily, than you can ask about it. Most people say that it’s still safe to eat some garlic in your dinner. But if you have a question about it, definitely just check in with your doctor. They’re going to know because they know what garlic is. So they won’t think you’re weird or anything like that. But just, if you are taking blood thinners, you can ask about it to be sure about what’s right for you and your body. But otherwise eat it up, eat as much garlic as you like. If you’re trying to get the effect on your cholesterol level, than at least have one or two cloves of garlic every day.
Okay. so parsley, we had mentioned when we’re talking about blood pressure, but it can also help with cholesterol issues. And there it’s helping to repair some of the damage that’s done in those blood vessel walls, so that you don’t need to make the cholesterol to cover over those damaged areas. So that means that eating parsley can reduce your cholesterol levels. And then, again, it has those vitamins and those minerals and those aromatic plant constituents that are helping us in other ways. So lots of benefits coming in through here. You can eat your parsley in salad. You can put it into any food that you cook. As we said earlier, if you don’t love the flavor, then just chop it up, mix it into chili or spaghetti sauce or something like that. And you’ll hardly even know it’s there. If you do like it, then you can just eat a whole bunch of it, just bite right in. That’s totally fine. You can make tea. But the target we’re looking for medicinal effects is to be consuming a quarter cup or so of chopped parsley each day.
And then just remember that if you are diabetic and you’re taking medication for diabetes, remember that parsley can have a really strong benefit for diabetes. And what that means is that you need to test your blood sugar levels every day. If you see your blood sugar levels coming down, that’s actually great news. But we need to make sure that your doctor knows about that so that if you need to make adjustments to your medication, that can happen. If you’re not taking any kind of medication for diabetes, then this is just a wonderful benefit for you. And we’ll definitely talk more about this when we talk about diabetes and prediabetes.
Yeah, you betcha. All alright. One more herb we wanted to highlight here is hibiscus. And hibiscus is an herb that’s actually very helpful for lowering cholesterol. It has a number of different effects that contribute to that. For one thing, it has a lot of vitamins. It has a lot of antioxidants. In fact, some of its most powerful antioxidants are also the pigments that give hibiscus the red color to the flower and the part of the flower that we work with. So those antioxidants, you may have heard that before, those are compounds that reduce inflammation inside of the body. And they also help to heal damage where that has taken place. So hibiscus helps to heal the damage. That means that you don’t need to recruit more cholesterol and make those scabs or those patches. And so your cholesterol level goes down. Pretty fantastic.
You can drink hibiscus as tea. It will make a very red tea. And, you know, some people call hibiscus roselle or sorrel. Now there’s another plant called sorrel that is like a small green plant. And that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the red flowers, the flower calyx. But in a lot of places, they call it sorrel. Or in some places they call it Jamaica flower, or even just Jamaica. So whatever you call it, this bright red tea is actually really delicious. It’s got a sour flavor. So if you want to sweeten it, it’s best to sweeten with honey instead of sugar, because sugar is going to cause more damage in the body. And we would like to avoid that. So instead let’s sweeten with honey, if you can. Or don’t sweeten it at all, if you can get used to that sour flavor, that’s even better. A lot of people also like to make hibiscus into jam or they just eat the calyx. It’s not actually the flower petals that we work with. It is the fruit. It’s called a calyx and it sort of looks like a closed up flower, but it’s actually the fruit that comes after the flower petals have fallen off. And it’s bright red and you can get that dried sometimes. And it’s fun to just eat that too, kind of like a dried fruit, like sort of leathery.
Yeah. If you do make the hibiscus tea you can also put in some other sour things, like a bit of lemon or lime is good in there and complements that flavor well. So yeah, but a very helpful herb, and again, one that a lot of folks are already working with and may not have realized that it’s helping there on a medicinal level too. Now for medicinal effects, we are looking for more than a cup of day, you know. Our usual range here is like three or four cups or mugs of tea in a given day. And again, it can be hot, it can be iced. Either way is totally fine.
And you can drink as much of it as you like. If you really love red tea, go crazy. And you can make a big batch of it in the morning or the night before, whatever’s convenient. And then keep it in the refrigerator or put it in your water bottle and take it with you. That is also totally fine. Whatever will make it easiest for you to drink a lot of it.
Repeat: Move More and Increase Sleep
All right. So garlic, parsley, hibiscus helping out with that cholesterol issue. So then other things that help out: guess what, movement. And you’re sensing a theme here, I believe. Yes? But moving your body more improves your circulation. And the better the blood flows throughout the body, the easier it is to repair some damage quickly before it can become a serious problem. Moving more also makes your heart stronger, and it also makes your blood vessels stronger, right? Because they become more resilient, more able to flex, more able to change shape and operate at a bunch of different levels of tension in a healthy way without suffering damage from that.
Without getting sort of stuck in that place of hypertension, of too much tension.
Yeah. They have that resilience, that flexibility. And again, that helps to prevent high cholesterol from turning into a bigger, more serious problem. So same kind of idea. We’re looking to get five or 15 minutes or somewhere in between a few times a day at least. To take a walk or to dance around or to do some stretching or to chase your kids around the house like an animal. I don’t know. Anything like that, some kind of movement you can do to get that blood flowing and get things moving around, get you breathing a little, that’s going to be good.
You know, when I was growing up, we always had spray bottles filled with water. My mom didn’t like Windex or anything like that. She liked to just have a spray bottle with plain water around to wipe things up with or to dust. And one day it was really hot and she sprayed us, and that just sort of became a thing. And then every so often we would chase each other around the house with spray bottles. And it was really fun and funny. And so if you are home with the kids or whatever, and you need a little help remembering to run around the house a few times every day, then just get a spray bottle filled with water and start it as a family joke. And just, you know, somebody sprays somebody and now we’re all running around the house. And it can be fun. The time that you spend moving in a day doesn’t have to be boring or miserable, or doing the same thing over and over again, like just picking up the same weight or whatever. It doesn’t have to be on a stair machine. It can be fun things that make everybody laugh. And I think that a spray bottle full of water could be a helpful tool here.
Yeah. Why not? All right. So after you’ve done a bunch of more movement in your day or a different movement in your day, then you may want to sleep some more. And that would be another benefit there too. Right? So like we said, sleep is the time when your body’s doing its best repair work and its recovery work. And it’s solving all of those problems internally. So if you’ve got high cholesterol, remember that’s a sign that there’s damage in the body that needs to be repaired. And sleep is the key time for that to actually happen. So if you can get eight hours of sleep a night, fantastic. If you can get even more, better. Take those opportunities when they come around. And give your body that time to repair as much damage as possible.
Yeah. Always remembering that cholesterol itself is not bad. But when you have high cholesterol, that is your body saying there’s a lot of damage in here. And I’m having to make a lot of cholesterol to fix this damage. And we don’t care how much cholesterol we have exactly. What we care about is how much damage do we have. And so we’re taking that cholesterol number as a signal from the body saying I have a lot of damage that needs to be repaired. And we do our best repair work when we’re sleeping. So even though it’s hard to squeeze more time to sleep into a day, it really will make a big difference in your body’s ability to heal that damage.
For sure. All right. Well, so there are some simple things that you can do to work on cardiovascular health issues, to work on the high blood pressure, to work on elevated cholesterol levels. And so we’ll be continuing this series next week, and for a little while, as we go along.
Next week we’re going to talk about type two diabetes and also about pre-diabetes. In fact, we’re even going to talk about suspected diabetes. So if you have people in your family who have it, and you’re thinking, I don’t want to get that, we’re going to give strategies for self care that will help you improve your situation regardless of where you fall in those categories. So that’s coming next week. And until then take care of each other. Look out for one another. Try to find some ways every day that you can do something nice for your body.
And drink some tea.
Drink some tea. Yes.
Talk to you next time.
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