Can You Buy High Blood Pressure Medication Over The Counter

Untreated high blood pressure is a huge health problem. Not controlling your blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, vision problems, and a host of other problems.

However, sometimes it can be challenging to get the medical care you need. Because of this, some people look for over-the-counter (OTC) medications that they can use to lower their blood pressure without needing to consult a doctor.

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Are there any high blood pressure medicines that can be bought over-the-counter?

The short answer is: No. There are no FDA-approved medicines to treat high blood pressure that do not require a prescription. This is for a very good reason. Attempting to self-medicate high blood pressure without medical supervision runs the risk of sending your blood pressure too low, which can result in dizziness, fainting, and falls that can lead to injury. Additionally, severe low blood pressure could send your body into shock which can be life-threatening.

Self-medicating for hypertension could also have dangerous consequences due to interactions with medications that you are already taking, or worsen any existing health issues.

However, there are some supplements that may lower blood pressure, and it might be tempting to try taking them if you can't get to a doctor or can't afford a more expensive prescription.

Supplements for high blood pressure

A number of supplements claim to lower blood pressure, and some of them are actually backed by scientific evidence.

Over-the-counter diuretics

As diuretics are a first-line treatment for high blood pressure, you might well be tempted to purchase an over-the-counter diuretic or water pill. These can be very cheap, but the fact is that they are the wrong kind of diuretic or the wrong dose. There is a maximum dose allowed in over-the-counter diuretics, many of which are advertised as being able to reduce bloating and menstrual symptoms. These pills are not regulated by the FDA, so the dosage may not be clear.

Frankly, OTC diuretics are not going to be strong enough to have a significant effect on your blood pressure, and taking a higher dose to compensate could result in an overdose,¹ which can lead to dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance such as hypokalemia; if severe, this could cause paralysis or cardiac arrest, and hyponatremia, which can lead to brain swelling and possibly coma or death. There are also often dietary changes recommended for the long-term use of diuretics.

Herbal supplements

The following herbal supplements²or plants appear to have some impact on blood pressure:

  1. Aged garlic extract

  2. Beetroot juice

  3. Cocoa flavonoids (which does not mean go out and eat a bunch of chocolate!)

  4. King of bitter (a herb used in traditional Asian medicine to treat colds and fever)

  5. Celery seed extract

  6. Chinese goldthread (another herb from traditional Asian medicine)

  7. Saffron

  8. Hibiscus

  9. Black cumin

  10. Ginger

  11. Coriander³

Some plants may have an impact, but not enough trials have been done to prove it. However, self-medicating with these herbs can cause issues. For example, if you are being treated with anticoagulants, you may want to limit your garlic consumption or discuss it with your doctor before taking concentrated garlic extracts, as garlic has some blood-thinning properties.⁴ However, some⁵ studies⁶ have found no evidence of increased risk of hemorrhage when taken with an anticoagulant.

It is always better to be on the safe side, so do your research and talk to your doctor before including any high concentrations of herbs or food extracts. Natural does not always mean safe and herbs can interact with drugs and each other.

Vitamins and high blood pressure

Vitamin C has been shown⁷ to lower blood pressure. Additionally, many of us are vitamin C deficient, so taking a supplement (or, better yet, increasing your intake of foods high in vitamin C) is unlikely to cause any harm. The same goes for vitamin D.⁸ However, if you do see a doctor, make sure they know you are taking vitamin supplements and what dosage.

Deficiencies in folate and riboflavin are also shown to have a potential impact.

Other nutrients

Some other nutrients⁹ have also been shown to have a positive impact on blood pressure. They include:

Calcium

Though only while pregnant. Calcium deficiency is common in pregnancy.

Chelated magnesium

This means pretty much any magnesium supplement, but avoid ones labeled as laxatives and be aware that it is possible to overdose on magnesium, which can cause nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

Melatonin

Taking melatonin improves sleep quality, and this can help bring your blood pressure down at night.

Fish peptides

Not fish oil. Fish peptides¹⁰ are made from fish collagen and can help you get specific nutrients that are good for your heart.

Isoflavones¹¹

These are made from soy and appear to lower blood pressure in hypertensive individuals while having no impact on the normal blood pressure of non-hypertensive individuals.

L-arginine

This is an amino acid that we typically make enough of naturally, but is also found in nuts, fish, red meat, soy, whole grains, beans, and dairy products.

Lycopene

Lycopene is a type of carotenoid found in red-colored fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes and watermelon, and it is showing strong promise for treating hypertension. A large-scale systematic review of ten clinical trials¹² concluded that taking Lycopene supplements of around 15mg can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, with significant results in the reduction of systolic blood pressure in those recording above 130mmHg. However, it doesn’t have much impact on diastolic pressure if it’s normal, meaning it only lowers diastolic blood pressure when it is elevated above 80mmHg. 

Potassium

Increasing potassium intake from foods or supplements was found to lower blood pressure in individuals with hypertension. It is found in a variety of foods including nuts and bananas, however, if you suffer from any renal disease, it is important to be cautious about the amount of potassium you consume, and always discuss it with your doctor first.

Pycnogenol¹³

This comes from the bark of the French maritime pine and has been shown to have some properties that aid in lowering blood pressure in hypertensive patients.

In general, it is important to know that these supplements are not always regulated and you can’t always be sure that you will get what you expect. Most of these nutrients are found in certain foods, and a healthy, balanced diet is often better than seeking out supplements. However, if you have issues with absorption from food or have some deficiencies, then supplements could be a great way to ensure that you are getting your daily needs of these nutrients.

What can I do if I can't get to a doctor?

So, what can you do if you know you have high blood pressure but can't get to a doctor right away? You should absolutely seek medical attention as soon as is feasible.

In the meantime, most doctors will recommend lifestyle changes to control blood pressure, and there are some steps you can take yourself. The most important are to quit smoking if you smoke, reduce your alcohol consumption, and reduce your intake of salt, which most of us consume too much of. Switch to low sodium products, stop adding salt at the table, and try to wean your palate off of the typical American high-sodium diet.

The lowdown

There are no FDA-approved medications that can be bought over the counter to treat high blood pressure. Over-the-counter diuretics are not likely to help with your blood pressure.

While there are supplements, herbs, and nutraceuticals that can help, trying to self-medicate with these without regular monitoring can cause problems, and as these supplements are not fully regulated, you never really know the dosage.

If you are trying to get your blood pressure down without access to a doctor, your best option is to work towards eating a healthier diet that incorporates, in a balanced way, many of the nutrients and foods that are listed above, exercising, quitting smoking, and cutting down your consumption of salt. Then seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Have you considered clinical trials for High blood pressure?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for High blood pressure, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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