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Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014
Health & Fitness

Eggplant stars in improbable blood pressure remedy


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Home remedies rarely get scientific attention or respect. The lack of double-blind trials means that it can be difficult to determine whether a specific suggestion will be helpful.

Sometimes we get enough testimonials about a remedy, though, that we conclude it may be worth investigating. One of these is a slightly odd recipe purported to lower high blood pressure.

Several years ago, a reader asked us the following question: “Have you ever heard of this remedy for high blood pressure? Wash but don’t peel a medium eggplant. Dice it into 1-inch cubes.

“Place the cubes in a glass gallon jug and cover the eggplant with distilled water. Put the jug in the fridge for four days.

“Drink one ounce of the water per day, taking your blood pressure daily. After a week or so, the eggplant will begin to disintegrate; discard the cubes but keep drinking the ounce of water daily.

“Be sure to check your blood pressure, as it may begin to drop dramatically. Once your blood pressure is at a good level, you will need to experiment to determine how often to drink the eggplant water. It may be every other day or less often.”

At first we were skeptical. How could eggplant water do anything? But a search of the medical literature revealed that there just might be something to this remedy after all. Researchers have discovered that eggplants contain ingredients that affect ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme). This is the same enzyme blocked by popular blood pressure drugs such as captopril, lisinopril and ramipril (Bioresource Technology, May 2008).

So far as we know, there are no clinical trials testing the power of eggplant water to bring blood pressure under control. But we have heard from a number of readers who have done their own personal experiments.

Leni shared the following story: “This is an ancient remedy used in my country of origin (Cuba). I’ve known about it since childhood, as I would hear the adults talk about it. I have a friend who lowered her blood pressure by drinking eggplant water.

“I had totally forgotten about this natural way to control hypertension, cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as excess body weight and fat. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

“I’m glad I remembered it because I will start drinking this water every day. My people drink it as you would regular water, throughout the day. In other words, you can drink most or all of your daily water intake in the form of eggplant water. It’s also a natural diuretic. You’ll see how well you will feel.”

Not everyone has found this remedy helpful: “I tried this, but it didn’t lower my blood pressure. I drank at least a cup a day for three weeks, and there wasn’t any change at all in my pressure.”

We include many other nondrug approaches to getting blood pressure down to normal in our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (66 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. B-67, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

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Q: A few months ago, a gentleman wrote to you about having an increase in libido after using beet root juice. You told him that the beet root juice had much the same effect as if he were taking Cialis or Viagra: The juice allowed more blood to flow to the penis, enabling him to have better erections.

I am 81 years old, and my wife is 77 years old. We are still very amorous with each other and enjoy “petting.” We would like to go further, but I have a problem maintaining a firm erection, so it is not possible.

The cost of Viagra means it’s not a viable option. I would like to try beet root juice to see if it might improve the quality of our lives. My medications include simvastatin, levothyroxine and aspirin. I don’t know if they could cause some adverse sexual effects.

Answer: A surprising number of studies (16) have shown that beet root juice lowers blood pressure (Journal of Nutrition, June 2013). By stimulating the production of nitric oxide in blood vessels, this natural compound helps blood vessels relax and improves circulation.

Erectile-dysfunction (ED) drugs such as Cialis, Levitra and Viagra also work by stimulating nitric oxide production and improving blood flow to the penis. Beet root juice has not been studied as a way to treat ED.

Erectile dysfunction has been reported as a side effect of statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs such as simvastatin. Although the causal connection is controversial, such drugs do appear to lower testosterone levels (Journal of Sexual Medicine, April 2010).

Q: I think I have worn out several remote controls hitting the mute button on many loud drug commercials. But I have to say I am alive today because of hearing them.

I was given a new blood pressure medicine. Within an hour of taking the pill, it was affecting my speech. I called the pharmacy to see if it could be the drug and was told to call 911 immediately. I could not finish talking to the 911 operator since I was gasping for air as my throat was closing down.

If it had not been for continually hearing long lists of side effects recited on the commercials, I might have waited too long to make that call.

A. Thank you for sharing your scary experience. We all can use the reminder that drugs may have serious side effects that need emergency action.

Certain blood pressure medicines (ACE inhibitors such as captopril, lisinopril and ramipril, for example) can cause a sudden serious swelling of lips, tongue and throat. This angioedema requires immediate medical attention.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them via their Web site, www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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