Alpha-Blockers vs Beta-Blockers: What’s The Difference?

Alpha-blockers and beta-blockers are two types of medication designed to control smooth muscle contraction around the blood vessels, which can influence blood pressure levels, urinary function, and other health parameters.

They work on two variants of the same cell receptor. 

However, there are significant differences between the two. 

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at alpha-blockers vs beta-blockers and discuss the differences and similarities between them.

What are alpha-blockers?

Alpha-blockers are a type of drug that is used to treat a wide range of medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and benign prostatic hyperplasia. 

Examples of alpha-blockers include terazosin and doxazosin.

Alpha-blockers work by blocking the hormone adrenaline and the neurotransmitter norepinephrine without changing their levels in the body. 

This prevents the body from responding to stress or other triggers that can cause an increase in blood pressure.

They are more effective for blood pressure problems when combined with other medications, such as diuretics

But alpha-blockers can also be used to treat urinary symptoms caused by enlarged prostate glands and other conditions.

Alpha-blockers are typically taken orally, in the form of a pill, but can also be administered intravenously or topically.

What are beta-blockers?

Beta-blockers are a class of drugs that block the effect of the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). 

Examples of beta-blockers include propranolol, atenolol, and metoprolol.

They are used to treat a variety of conditions, including angina, hypertension, arrhythmia, and tachycardia. Beta-blockers can also treat anxiety, migraines, and other conditions.

Beta-blockers work by blocking beta-receptors located on the surface of cells in the heart, blood vessels, and other tissues. 

This prevents epinephrine from binding to these receptors, decreasing heart rate, blood pressure, and other physiological functions.

They are often used for treating conditions such as hypertension and arrhythmia and do not have the same effect on the smooth muscle of the urinary tract.

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Alpha-blockers vs beta-blockers

In this section, we discuss alpha-blockers vs beta-blockers and compare their uses, similarities, differences, effectiveness, side effects, and cost. 


Alpha-blockers are used to treat high blood pressure, anxiety disorders, benign prostatic hyperplasia, and other prostate enlargement problems. 

As mentioned above, they work by blocking the action of the sympathetic nervous system in alpha receptors, which are abundant in the urinary tract. 

But alpha-blockers are also used to treat intraoperative floppy iris syndrome, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, and other health conditions.

Beta-blockers, on the other hand, are used to treat hypertension, chest pain, migraines, and irregular heartbeats. 

These medications work by blocking the action of the sympathetic nervous system, too. 

Still, the main focus is beta-receptors, which are more abundant in the circulatory system. 

They may also prevent diseases by reducing high blood pressure, including angina and left ventricular hypertrophy.

Alpha-blockers are alpha-receptor antagonists typically recommended for those with hypertension and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). 

Beta-blockers, however, are usually preferred for people with coronary artery disease, angina, and other heart conditions. 

Alpha-blockers are also often used to treat menopausal symptoms in women, while beta-blockers are generally not recommended in this setting.


Alpha-blockers and beta-blockers are two medications that address the same hormone but target two different receptors. 

Alpha-blockers work by blocking alpha receptors, and beta-blockers block beta receptors. 

Both control the contraction of muscles, thus reducing blood pressure and preventing the development of certain cardiovascular diseases in the case of beta-blockers and relieving urinary symptoms in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia in the case of alpha-blockers.

But what is the difference between alpha-blockers vs beta-blockers?

Thus, alpha-blockers act by relaxing the smooth muscles of the urinary tract. That’s why they are used for prostate gland enlargement. 

They may also act on the heart, which helps to reduce the heart rate and the force of the heart’s contraction, but to a lesser degree.

Beta-blockers are much more effective on the heart tissue by blocking the beta-adrenergic receptors. 

They may also work on the smooth muscle of the urinary tract, but the effect is minimal or almost none.

Moreover, there are two types of beta-blockers. The difference between beta-1 vs beta-2 blockers (cardioselective vs non-cardioselective beta-blockers) is that beta-1 selective blockers work on the heart tissue only and do not have as much effect on the blood vessels and other tissues.


Alpha-blockers and beta-blockers are medications used to treat various heart and blood pressure disorders. 

Both blockers target specific receptors in the body to reduce the effect of hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline, which can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. 

Although both types of blockers work similarly, there are some distinct differences between them, as mentioned above.

So, the similarities include that both medications work on the interaction of adrenaline and noradrenaline in smooth muscle cells. 

They work on the same receptor but with different variants. Thus, they can both trigger similar effects but to different degrees. 

Another similarity is that beta-blockers and alpha-blockers are both inhibitors of the receptor they work on. 

They prevent alpha or beta-receptor activation, blocking the action of adrenaline and noradrenaline by competing on the available space in the receptor without turning the metabolic machinery on.


As mentioned above, alpha-blockers and beta-blockers differ in how they act on the heart and the body. 

Alpha-blockers work by blocking the alpha receptors in the body, while beta blockers target the beta receptors and work by blocking the action of certain hormones in the heart.

Beta-blockers are generally more effective than alpha-blockers in the treatment of certain cardiovascular disorders, such as hypertension, arrhythmias, and congestive heart failure. 

Alpha-blockers are more effective than beta-blockers in treating urinary symptoms such as slow urinary stream, urinary hesitancy, urgency, nocturia, or an increased urinary frequency in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer.

Side effects

Common side effects of beta-blockers include fatigue and insomnia. Beta-blockers also have a higher risk of serious side effects such as depression, decreased libido, and reduced exercise capacity.

Common side effects of alpha-blockers include fatigue, headaches, retrograde ejaculation and other types of abnormal ejaculation, orthostatic hypotension, dizziness, and impotence. 

They have fewer side effects than beta-blockers but can be less effective in treating cardiovascular disease.

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Alpha-blockers, such as doxazosin and tamsulosin, generally cost less than beta-blockers, such as atenolol and metoprolol. They also generally cause fewer side effects. 

The least expensive alpha-blocker is tamsulosin, which is also known as Flomax, and the retail price is around $9.

Beta-blockers, such as propranolol, are generally more expensive than alpha-blockers. They also tend to cause fewer side effects. 

The least costly beta blocker is metipranolol, also known as Optipranolol, and the retail price is around $25.

However, the price of alpha and beta blockers depends on many factors. For instance, they rely on the type of medication you need. 

The price also depends on which brand you choose or whether you buy the generic version of the medication.

How long do they take to work?

Patients taking alpha-blockers and beta-blockers will go through different periods to experience the full effects of the drug. 

Depending on your medication, the drug may take shorter or longer to take effect. Also, some alpha-blockers used for prostate swelling issues are long-acting, while others are short-acting.

Most beta-blockers will take one hour or two to take effect. When they do, they will lower blood pressure levels and reduce your heart rhythm. 

Alpha-blockers are different, and there are two variants. Short-acting alpha-blockers work very fast, but the effect wears off after a few hours. Long-acting alpha workers take time to start working, but their effect is extended for longer.

Natural alternatives to alpha-blockers and beta-blockers

Alpha-blockers and beta-blockers are both available as prescription medications. But there are also available some compound herbal supplements with natural herbs that work similarly to alpha and beta blockers.

Because of the risks associated with these medications, many doctors are now recommending natural remedies as an alternative treatment. 

These herbs often contain chemicals similar to alpha-blockers and beta-blockers but have no side effects. 

Some herbal remedies that relax smooth muscle around blood vessels or the urinary tract include:


Garlic is a popular culinary spice, but it is also a powerful medicinal herb that has been used for centuries for its health-promoting properties. 

It is known for its many therapeutic benefits, including its ability to fight urinary tract infections and reduce urinary symptoms and hypertension symptoms by lowering blood pressure levels.

It also has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions. 

Garlic is a rich source of vitamins and minerals and a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, which helps protect the body from circulatory diseases. 

It also contains a variety of phytonutrients, including allicin and ajoene, which have been studied for their potential to prevent and treat a wide range of health conditions.

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Hawthorne berries

Research has shown that taking Hawthorne berry supplements can help improve blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The active ingredients in Hawthorne berries, including flavonoids, quercetin, and gallic acid, are thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. 

In addition, Hawthorne berries are high in vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium, which can help support the circulatory system.

Hawthorne berry extract is believed to act as a diuretic, helping to flush toxins and bacteria out of the urinary tract. It is also thought to improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and boost the immune system. 

Additionally, Hawthorne berry extract can enhance the body’s ability to absorb and utilize nutrients. The flavonoids in Hawthorne berries are believed to improve the digestive system, helping to reduce bloating and other digestive symptoms.

Rye flower pollen extract

Rye flower pollen extract is a beneficial supplement that may help with various urinary tract symptoms and cardiovascular conditions. 

This extract contains antioxidants that may have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. 

It also includes many compounds that can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, making it a beneficial supplement for those at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Rye flower pollen extract may also help relieve symptoms of an enlarged prostate, bladder infections, and incontinence. 

It has been used in traditional medicine to treat kidney problems and may benefit those suffering from kidney disease or other chronic kidney conditions.

Saw palmetto berry

The Saw Palmetto Berry is a small, dark-colored berry that grows in the southeastern United States. 

Studies have found that Saw Palmetto Berry can be beneficial for urinary tract health, as it can help reduce urinary symptoms such as frequent urination or an overactive bladder.

Saw Palmetto Berry has been found to be effective in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostate inflammation, and other conditions characterized by an enlarged prostate. It has also been used to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.

Contrary to alpha-blockers, saw palmetto does not have the side effect of erectile dysfunction, does not interfere with libido, and won’t cause any sexual dysfunction.

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Can you take alpha and beta blockers together?

Since alpha and beta blockers can lower blood pressure, you may be tempted to take them simultaneously. 

However, you should not because alpha and beta blockers combined may cause serious side effects if not monitored by a doctor.

Combining alpha-blockers and beta-blockers can also cause dangerous changes in your heart rhythm. 

Since both alpha and beta blockers slow down the heart rate and lower your blood pressure, a combination can cause changes in your heart rhythm.

Combining alpha and beta blockers can also increase the possibility of certain side effects. 

For example, dizziness, fainting, and sudden loss of consciousness. In rare cases, combining alpha and beta blockers can also cause sudden cardiac death.

If you still have doubts, talk to your doctor about which one you should take first or whether there’s an alternative treatment for you.


In this article, we have discussed the differences between alpha-blockers vs beta-blockers. 

Alpha-blockers work on alpha receptors and have an effect on the urinary tract and the prostate muscle. Beta-blockers work on beta receptors and have an impact on vasoconstriction and the circulatory system.

Alpha-blockers are mainly used to relieve urinary symptoms in patients with prostate problems, but they may cause sexual dysfunction and other side effects. 

Beta-blockers are used to treat hypertension and other heart-related issues, but they may also trigger dizziness and orthostatic hypotension.

They are both prescription medications and should be prescribed by your healthcare provider. 

An alternative to that would be using over-the-counter remedies that work similarly to alpha-blockers (saw palmetto berry, rye pollen flower extract, garlic) and others that may have similar hypotensive effects (Hawthorne berries).

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  1. Nachawati, D., & Patel, J. B. (2022). Alpha Blockers. In StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.
  2. Farzam, K., & Jan, A. (2021). Beta blockers. In StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.
  3. Cloud, A., Vilcins, D., & McEwen, B. (2020). The effect of hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) on blood pressure: A systematic review. Advances in Integrative Medicine7(3), 167-175.
  4. Ried, K., Frank, O. R., Stocks, N. P., Fakler, P., & Sullivan, T. (2008). Effect of garlic on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC cardiovascular disorders8(1), 1-12.
  5. Cai, T., Verze, P., La Rocca, R., Anceschi, U., De Nunzio, C., & Mirone, V. (2017). The role of flower pollen extract in managing patients affected by chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome: a comprehensive analysis of all published clinical trials. BMC urology17(1), 1-8.
  6. Sarma, S. N., Siwach, D., Hasan, A., Mittal, P., & Paul, P. (2022). Systematic Review on Safety and Efficacy of Saw Palmetto as a Health Supplement for Prostate Health in Adult Males. Journal of Current Medical Research and Opinion5(06), 1252-1270.

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