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What Are the Different Types of Natural Vasodilators?

By Rebecca Harkin
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Vasodilatation is the expanding of blood vessels, which reduces the blood pressure or force the heart needs to apply to circulate blood throughout the body. Nitric oxide is a strong vasodilator acting directly to relax the lining of the blood vessels. The most effective way to supplement nitric oxide is by eating foods rich in natural vasodilators, including nitrates, flavonoids, and L-arginine. Another natural substance that provides this benefit is 3-n-butylphthalide, which is thought to play a role in controlling the production of prostaglandins, complex fat molecules with many physiological and regulatory roles, one of which is to relax blood vessels.

A strong natural vasodilator is nitrate, found in high concentrations in beets, spinach, and lettuce. After eating these vegetables, the saliva acts to convert the nitrate to nitrite. In the stomach, gastric acid produces nitric oxide from the nitrite. Nitric oxide signals the lining of the blood vessels to relax, and thereby expand or dilate.

Flavonoids acts as a key component in the production of nitric oxide. As a natural dilator, they augment the activity of nitric oxide synthase, an enzyme produced by the cells lining the blood vessels. The nitric oxide synthase is the catalyst in the production of nitric oxide. Flavonoids improve vasodilation by boosting the efficiency of nitric oxide synthase, and thereby increasing the production of nitric oxide. Foods rich in these compounds are spinach, kale, broccoli, dark chocolate, and hawthorn.

L-arginine is an essential amino acid used in the production of nitric oxide. Some research suggests that dietary augmentation of this amino acid may increase the synthesis of nitric oxide. Meats such as fish and chicken, eggs, milk, cheese, and various nuts, such as walnuts, cashews, and almonds, are good sources of L-arginine.

The chemical 3-n-butylphthalide is thought to increase vasodilation by modulating the production of prostaglandins, but the exact method through which this process occurs is not completely understood. Some types of prostaglandins act to dilate peripheral blood vessels, or blood vessels located in the extremities. Increased availability of 3-n-butylphthalide may improve the release of prostaglandins and help dilate these blood vessels. Celery is a good source of this chemical.

Eating a reasonable amount of nitrates, flavonoids, L-arginine, and 3-n-butylphthalide is safe and should not interfere with prescription medication. These natural vasodilators should never be used in place of prescription vasodilators unless such a change is discussed with a medical professional. In some cases, they may help to control minor blood pressure problems or may allow for a reduced dose of a prescription medication.

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Discussion Comments
By anon993863 — On Dec 22, 2015

This article only covered one vasodilator - nitric oxide. Are there no others?

By Laotionne — On Sep 04, 2014

Vasodilatation works differently in different people. This is why not everyone has the same natural blood pressure, and readings that are high for one person might be normal for another person. My readings are always higher than the 120 over 80.

By Drentel — On Sep 04, 2014

@mobilian33 - I agree that hypertension can be a family condition, but just because your blood pressure is high doesn't mean it has to stay that way unless you take blood pressure medication. My blood pressure was high enough that my doctor put me on prescription pills, but eventually I changed the way I was living my life and I was able stop taking the pills and still keep my blood pressure where it needed to be.

For me the keys were learning to relax and stop worrying about work all of the time. I got back to exercising regularly like I had done when I was younger, and I changed my diet so that I was eating foods that would help lower my blood pressure, and I stopped eating so much of the bad foods.

By mobilian33 — On Sep 03, 2014

High blood often runs in certain families. That's why when you go to the doctor they ask you if your parents had problems with high blood pressure. However, I think this probably has more to do with the habits people in the same family have and not so much to do with anything they have inherited from other family members because of genes.

I grew in a family where my mama cooked a lot of fried fatty foods because that was what she had learned from her mama and she had learned that same thing from her mama and so on down the line for a long way back. So it's no wonder that I have high blood pressure and have to take medication. Once you get off to a bad start you can count on having to take high blood pressure medication for most of your life.

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