HYPERTENSION (High Blood Pressure)

It is perfectly normal for the systolic blood pressure (the pressure of the blood as it is being pumped out of the heart) to increase during exertion or emotional stress, but in a healthy body it will return to normal quite quickly.

A continual state of raised blood pressure is potentially dangerous, even if no symptoms are felt, because of the strain that it imposes on the heart, blood vessels and kidneys. There is a delicate relationship between the kidneys and blood pressure, in that high blood pressure can damage the kidneys; but kidney disease which interferes with the flow of blood through the kidneys and the secretion of the hormone renin, which helps to maintain blood pressure at a normal level, can lead to raised blood pressure. A vicious circle may be created, and the latter stages of kidney disease, leading to high blood pressure, is virtually indistinguishable from high blood pressure, leading to disease of the kidneys. It is therefore extremely important for any aromatherapist treating raised blood pressure to ensure that the sufferer has been examined and diagnosed by a person with adequate medical training.

Continued high blood pressure places a strain on the heart. Initially, the heart muscle will enlarge to deal with the added workload, but may later be unable to keep up an adequate circulation (heart failure). One of the major risks involved in continued high blood pressure is that it increases the likelihood of the individual suffering a stroke or coronary thrombosis. It is often associated with atheroma (the forming of fatty deposits in the lining of the arteries) and arteriosclerosis (the thickening and hardening of the arterial walls).

Aromatherapy can help to lower blood pressure, although it is very necessary to make sure that changes in the diet and lifestyle are also made. Massage with one or more of the essential oils known to decrease blood pressure is the most important aspect of treatment, and it is significant that all these oils are also calming, soothing, and deeply relaxing, for the person with high blood pressure is often somebody who finds it hard to relax, who drives him or herself relentlessly, or is unduly stressed. An interesting parallel is found here between the words we use to describe the physical state 'pressure' and 'hyper (i.e. excessive) tension', and the mental/emotional state that is often involved.

Long-term studies in a London teaching hospital have shown that massage effectively reduces high blood pressure, and that this effect persists for a long time. When massage is given regularly, the effects are even more striking, and blood pressure may be lowered for several days after a massage.
The most important oils for use in these circumstances are Lavender, Marjoram, and Ylang Ylang. Ylang Ylang is valuable if there is shortness of breath or over-rapid breathing or heartbeat, which often accompany high blood pressure. All these oils are pleasing and enjoyable to use in massage oils, and also as bath oils for use between treatments.

It is essential to direct the aromatherapy treatment at a long-term change in the attitude of the sufferer towards his or her lifestyle and goals, rather than the mere removal of symptoms, and a pleasurable and de-stressing massage at regular intervals is a positive step in this direction. You can often vary the oils which directly act on high blood pressure by selecting other sedative, antidepressant and uplifting oils according to the individual's needs at a particular time. Camomile, Bergamot, Neroli, Rose and Frankincense are some of those you can use in this way.

Also use cleansing, detoxifying oils such as Fennel, Juniper and Lemon in conjunction with changes in diet to help maintain blood pressure at a healthy level; though the most important oil in this respect is Garlic, which should be taken as perles or tablets, and included in the diet as fresh garlic if acceptable. A reduction in animal fats is one of the most important changes to be made, as they are a major factor in atheroma. Salt intake should be considerably reduced, and stimulants such as tea, coffee and alcohol cut,to a minimum. If they can be cut out altogether for a short period, and maybe re-introduced into the diet in small amounts in the long term, it will certainly help recovery.

Gentle exercise is one of the best ways of helping to maintain the circulation in good health, so try to investigate a yoga class, since this will combine safe and gentle exercise with relaxation and possibly a period of meditation. Any of the systems of meditation can be a valuable way of learning to slow down and maintain a degree of calm in daily life.

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