General Health

Natural Beta Blockers: 9 Possible Alternatives to Pharmaceuticals

Beta-adrenergic blocking agents, popularly known as beta-blockers, are a class of drugs that doctors mainly prescribe to patients with cardiovascular problems.

Chances are high; you have heard about beta-blockers before. Or maybe you, or someone you know, are taking these medications. 

The history of beta-blockers started decades ago. The biggest contribution to the development of beta-blockers, and some other medications, came from Sir James Black. In the 1960s, Dr. Black led a team of researchers who developed the first beta-blocker drug – propranolol. Propanolol was marketed as Inderal. Dr. James Black even subsequently won Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for his work on beta-blockers. 

Over the years, the research on beta-blockers has expanded immensely. Many beta-blockers are prescribed to patients nowadays. But the beta blocker-like properties don’t come from medications only.

Beta blockers-like effects may stem from some natural sources too. In this post, we are going to talk about natural beta blockers you may want to include in your diet. 

What Do Beta Blockers Treat?

Doctors usually prescribe beta-blockers to help patients manage cardiovascular symptoms, such as:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • Angina (chest pain)

  • Congestive heart failure

  • Coronary heart disease

  • Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)

  • Arterial fibrillation 

NOTE: doctors usually do not recommend beta-blockers as the first treatment for persons with high blood pressure. When it comes to hypertension, a doctor may prescribe beta-blockers only when other medications, such as a diuretic, prove to be ineffective.

Besides cardiovascular problems, beta-blockers may often aid management of:

  • Migraine

  • Glaucoma

  • Anxiety

  • Essential tremor

  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland)

Beta-blockers work by blocking the activity of nervous system hormones such as adrenaline. As they block adrenaline, beta-blockers prevent the activation of the “fight or flight” response. All of us have the “fight or flight” response in situations that cause physical or psychological stress. Hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline prepare the body’s muscles for exertion, the vital component of responding to danger. When the body produces excessive amounts of adrenaline, several symptoms may ensue. These symptoms include:

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • High blood pressure

  • Anxiety

  • Excessive sweating

  • Heart palpitations 

What beta-blockers do is that inhibiting the expression of these hormones and thereby lower stress on the heart. They also decrease the force of the heart muscle’s contractions. As a result, the action of beta-blockers removes the pressure off the blood vessels in the brain, heart, and throughout the body. 

It’s also useful to mention beta-blockers work to obstruct the production of angiotensin II. You see, angiotensin II is a hormone your kidneys produce. As beta-blockers act on the production of this hormone, the blood vessels widen and relax. That translates to improved blood flow.

Do Beta Blockers Have Side Effects?

You have beta receptors throughout the body, and they produce a wide spectrum of physiologic effects. When beta-blocker medications block these receptors, a person may experience various side effects. The most common adverse reactions include:

  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)

  • Bradycardia (slower than normal heart rate)

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness and/or weakness 

  • Nausea and/or vomiting

  • Constipation

Some patients may experience sexual difficulties such as erectile dysfunction.

Other side effects of beta-blockers may include:

  • Weight gain

  • Cold hands and feet

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Shortness of breath

  • Depression

  • Abdominal discomfort

  • Confusion

  • Memory loss 

  • Fluid retention

Persons with asthma may have more pronounced side effects and severe asthma attacks. 

Keep in mind the exact adverse reactions may depend on the type of beta-blockers prescribed. 

Beta-blockers may also affect cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They do so by elevating triglycerides and lowering HDL (good) cholesterol.

NOTE: You should not stop taking beta-blockers or altering the dosage on your own. That way, you would jeopardize heart health. If side effects occur, you should see your doctor. The healthcare provider will advise you on what to do.

Natural Beta Blockers

Let’s be honest; you never thought of beta-blockers as something you can find in foods or dietary supplements. Most people haven’t! Natural beta blockers are, basically, compounds and plants that may have the same role or function as beta-blocker medications. Seems confusing? For that reason, we are going to focus on natural beta-blockers below. 

1) L-Arginine

L-arginine is an amino acid whose main function is to release nitric oxide in the blood. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator meaning it dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow. In fact, vasodilating effects of nitric oxide help l-arginine lower blood pressure.

Evidence shows l-arginine takes part in several important physiological processes, many of which influence vascular function. Lack of l-arginine availability, changes in the metabolism of l-arginine, and deficiency in this amino acid can increase blood pressure and endothelial cell dysfunction. Supplementation with l-arginine can, therefore, decrease blood pressure, especially in salt-sensitive hypertension. That being said, l-arginine may not be equally effective in managing essential hypertension (high blood pressure that doesn’t have a secondary cause). 

Moreover, l-arginine can attenuate insulin resistance and decrease the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). The AGEs are harmful compounds formed when protein or fat combine with sugar in the bloodstream. These compounds can increase blood pressure, just like insulin resistance. 

Additionally, l-arginine can increase nitric oxide production, improve endothelial function, and reduce oxidative stress, all of which can help with hypertension management. 

Studies demonstrate a beneficial impact of acute and chronic supplementation with l-arginine on endothelial-derived nitric oxide production and endothelial function. As a result, this amino acid may reduce systolic blood pressure. A lot more research is necessary on l-arginine and its natural beta blocker role. 

You can obtain l-arginine from your diet. Some of the best sources of this amino acid include:

Nowadays, l-arginine supplements are widely available, especially in products for men. While it’s easy to go online (or the store) and buy l-arginine supplements, it’s useful to remember it may interact with certain drugs. Common drug interactions include:

  • Anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs (to reduce blood clotting)

  • Sildenafil (Viagra, for erectile dysfunction)

  • Blood pressure herbs, drugs, and supplements 

  • Diabetes drugs and supplements

  • Nitrates (for chest pain)

  • Water pills 

L-arginine is not recommended to persons who have recently had a heart attack. 

If you have cardiovascular disease, before you up the intake of l-arginine or buy a dietary supplement, you may want to consult your doctor. 

2) Potassium

Potassium is a mineral your body needs to function properly. This mineral is present in all tissues in the body, and it is necessary for proper cell function due to its role in maintaining the volume of the intracellular fluid. Since it is highly reactive in water, potassium is classified as an electrolyte.

Electrolytes conduct electrical impulses through the body. They take part in several functions, such as:

  • Blood pressure

  • pH balance

  • Normal water balance

  • Heart rhythm

  • Muscle contractions

  • Digestion

  • Nerve impulses

The body doesn’t produce potassium on its own. You need to consume it through diet. Proper levels of potassium in the body can lower blood pressure. A diet rich in potassium may decrease blood pressure by aiding the body’s removal of excess sodium. Remember, high sodium levels contribute to high blood pressure.

A review of 33 studies revealed the subjects with hypertension who increased potassium intake experienced a systolic blood pressure decrease by 3.49mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 1.96mmHg.

When we’re talking about the benefits of potassium, it’s also important to mention the following:

  • Regulates fluid balance 

  • Plays an essential role in activating nerve impulses throughout the nervous system. Nerve impulses regulate heartbeat, muscle contractions, reflexes, and other functions

  • May protect against stroke

  • May reduce water retention 

Adult men generally need 3400mg of potassium a day. On the other hand, adult women need about 2600mg of this mineral, whereas pregnant women need 2900mg and breastfeeding mothers 2800mg.

The best thing about potassium is that you can obtain recommended daily values from food. Some of the best sources of this mineral include:

  • Bananas

  • Apricots

  • Kiwis

  • Oranges

  • Pineapples

  • Leafy greens

  • Potatoes

  • Carrots

  • Lean meats

  • Whole grains 

  • Nuts and beans

NOTE: If you are taking beta-blockers, your doctor may recommend avoiding bananas and other high-potassium foods. Too much potassium in the body may lead to complications such as kidney failure and erratic heart rhythm. However, if you are not taking these medications and want to improve blood flow, introducing potassium-rich foods into your diet is a practical thing to do. 

3) Hawthorn

Hawthorn is a type of plant that contains chemicals used for its medicinal properties. Several parts of the plant are used in the preparation of natural medicines. This includes the flower, berries, and leaves that are part of the plant. 

Hawthorn extracts have gained a lot of attention in the department of cardiovascular disease. It is considered an effective alternative to pharmaceutical beta-blockers. The plant extracts have been used in the treatment of various cardiovascular conditions and complications over the past years. 

Some of the conditions that are treated with hawthorn berries, leaves, and flowers include:

  • Chest pain

  • An irregular heart rate

  • Congestive heart failure

  • High blood pressure

  • Low blood pressure

  • Atherosclerosis

  • High cholesterol levels

There are studies that have looked at the potential benefits that hawthorn offers patients with cardiovascular disease. In one study, researchers looked at previous papers that were published on this subject. The goal was to determine both the efficiency of hawthorn while also considering the safety profile. 

Researchers concluded that further studies are still needed. At the same time, the study does note that current evidence suggests that patients may experience positive effects when they take hawthorn extracts for cardiovascular conditions. 

The study notes that side-effects associated with hawthorn extracts are infrequent. When patients experience side-effects, they are usually mild. Furthermore, the study also found that even at higher doses of hawthorn plant extracts, the natural beta blocker still remains a safe option. 

Research currently suggests that there are specific pathways by which hawthorn may help the patient. These may include:

  • Widening of the blood vessels that are part of the circulatory system. 

  • Increase signal transmission between nerves.

  • Increasing blood supply that is pumped from the heart with every contraction.

4) Indian Snakeroot

In a study by the John Innes Centre, researchers revealed some secrets behind the Indian Snakeroot plant. For many years, the plant has been used in natural medicine. It has been used to promote calmness, an excellent option for people with anxiety. Whether the person had performance anxiety or another type of anxiety disorder, this plant seemed to yield positive effects. 

The study reported on the discovery of a specific chemical found in Indian Snakeroot. Researchers found that an oxidative enzyme was behind the potential benefits that have been associated with the plant. In the study, researchers also revealed that the Indian Snakeroot plant may yield more benefits than its positive effects on mental disorders.

The study explains that the new enzyme discovered in the Indian Snakeroot plant could be useful for an abnormal heart rhythm. The enzyme also showed the potential to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension

Furthermore, another chemical is mentioned in the study. Ajmaline is a type of alkaloid found in Indian Snakeroot that holds benefits for people with Brugada syndrome. This is a condition that leads to heart rhythm disruptions. The Indian Snakeroot plant also produced additional alkaloids. These chemicals are classified as monoterpene indole alkaloids. They include raubasine, yohimbine, and reserpine. 

5) Red Yeast Rice

Red yeast rice extract has also gained popularity among patients with certain heart conditions. The extract is often simply referred to as RYRE. It is a special extract from fermented rice. A specific yeast species is used in the fermentation process. The yeast is known as Monascus purpureus. For several centuries, red yeast extract has been used in Chinese natural medicine. The extract has also been a popular natural remedy in Asian countries. 

In addition to being used for medicinal purposes, red yeast rice has become a popular colorant in food and is sometimes also used as a preservative. 

The major benefit of red yeast rice extract lies in its ability to potentially reduce cholesterol levels in the body. High cholesterol is one of the most concerning factors when looking at cardiovascular risk factors. 

When total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels rise, cholesterol deposits start to collect in the walls of arteries and blood vessels. This can lead to clogged arteries. Over time, the deposits start to harden, which leads to the development of cardiovascular diseases. 

Red yeast rice contains monounsaturated fats. These are considered healthy fats, which may assist in raising HDL cholesterol. As HDL cholesterol increases, “bad” cholesterol is flushed from the blood vessels. Red yeast rice extract also contains isoflavones and sterols, which may yield additional benefits for the cardiovascular system. 

6) Barberry

Barberry is a type of fruit that grows on a plant known as the Berberis vulgaris. The plant resembles a shrub and does not grow too big. The berries are red in color. The Berberis vulgaris plant is considered native to the areas of Asia, Africa, and certain regions of Europe. 

These berries contain chemicals known as berberine. This is a potent antioxidant that has been shown to provide numerous benefits to the human body. Barberry extracts have been used since ancient times to help in the treatment of infections and skin problems. Some people have also used barberry as a means of treating digestive conditions. In addition to being an antioxidant, the berries also contain numerous nutrients. 

Some of the nutrients include iron, zinc, copper, manganese, and vitamin C. A quarter-cup serving of these berries contains 213% of the daily recommended vitamin C intake. 

Some studies have shown that barberries have a protective effect against metabolic syndrome. This is a term that relates to risks associated with both diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In one study, researchers offered a barberry supplement to a group of patients. The participants who took the supplement experienced an improvement in the following measurements:

These factors all contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome. Other studies have also shown that barberry effectively reduces cholesterol and triglyceride levels while also helping with the regulation of normal blood pressure. 

7) Omega-3 Fatty Acids

While carbs and protein often focus points of a diet, it is important to note that fats are also crucial. Some fats are bad, but there are certain fats that are essential for human survival. Omega-3 fatty acids are some of the most important healthy fats that a person should obtain. These fatty acids are classified as unsaturated fats. 

One of the most critical roles that omega-3 fatty acids play in the body is to help regulate inflammatory responses. When a person uses an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, inflammation in their body may decline. 

Inflammatory responses are associated with chronic diseases – including heart conditions, diabetes, and even obesity. Inflammation can also affect the blood vessels throughout the body. This causes damage to the blood vessel walls, which results in different types of cardiovascular diseases. The risk of a heart attack and stroke also increases with a significant level of inflammation.

By taking omega-3 fatty acids, either through diet or supplement, a person may experience a reduction in inflammation affecting their blood vessels. 

8) CoQ10

CoQ10 is also known as CoEnzyme Q10. This is a chemical that is found in the human body. It is a natural chemical that the body uses for various functions. The main activity of the CoQ10 enzyme relates to its antioxidant properties. This function helps to protect cells against damage. The enzyme plays a role in the metabolism processes too. 

Among those with heart diseases and other cardiovascular problems, supplementing a diet with CoQ10 could be useful. Some studies have suggested that CoQ10 may assist in reducing blood pressure levels. While the effects are considered mild, they can still be useful in patients with hypertension. 

Furthermore, CoQ10 also seems to have protective effects on the heart. By taking this supplement, it may be possible to improve symptoms associated with certain heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure. 

9) Magnesium

Some studies have shown that heart diseases are more common in people who have a low serum magnesium level in their bodies. Magnesium plays several roles in the human body. It is involved in the regulation of blood pressure, for example. When magnesium levels are low, then the patient may experience an increased blood pressure level

Other risk factors that have been associated with low magnesium levels in the body include:

  • A buildup of cholesterol in arteries

  • Hardening of the artery walls 

  • Soft tissues suffer calcification

  • Plaque starts to accumulate in blood vessels

There are different types of magnesium supplements that can be used. Magnesium sulfate is a common option that people use. Other forms include:

  • Magnesium gluconate

  • Magnesium hydroxide

  • Magnesium citrate

A patient needs to consider which form of magnesium would be most effective for them. The patient can consult with a doctor if they are unsure. The doctor would be able to determine the proper dosage and form of magnesium for the patient. 

Conclusion

Beta-blockers are effective in the treatment of various heart-related conditions. Unfortunately, many people experience side-effects while taking these prescription drugs. There are natural beta-blockers that can be used as alternatives. Numerous studies have proven that some natural compounds work effectively to improve the heart rate, reduce common cardiovascular disease symptoms, and protect the blood circulatory system. When treating cardiovascular with natural remedies, it is essential to consult a doctor. This will help to rule out potential interactions with other drugs the patient is taking. 

Sources

  1. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences. (2011) Evolution of B-blockers: from anti-anginal drugs to ligand-directed signalling. [online] Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tips.2011.02.010
  2. Cardiology Today. (2008) Fifty years of beta blockers: a revolution in CV pharmacotherapy. [online] Available at: https://www.healio.com/news/cardiology/20120225/fifty-years-of-beta-blockers-a-revolution-in-cv-pharmacotherapy
  3. Medical News Today. What you need to know about beta-blockers. [online] Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/173068
  4. Stat Pearls. (2020) Beta Blockers. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532906/
  5. The International Journal of Angiology. (2008) The antihypertensive effect of arginine. [online] Available at: https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0031-1278274
  6. The Journal of Nutrition. (2004) L-arginine and hypertension. [online] Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/134.10.2807S
  7. Pharmacognosy Review. (2010) Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) in the treatment of cardiovascular disease. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249900/
  8. WebMD. Hawthorn. [online] Available at: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-527/hawthorn
  9. John Innes Centre. (2018) Pulses raised as new study reveals secrets of the plant that keeps people calm. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180625192810.htm
  10. Dovepress. (2018) Barberry in the treatment of obesity and metabolic syndrome: possible mechanisms of action. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6233907/

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