Garlic - a blood pressure 'secret weapon'
Sydney - Australian scientists have found that a dietary supplement may help people who can't control their blood pressure with standard drugs.
The secret weapon is garlic, according to a study published in the scientific journal Maturitas.
In a 12-week trial involving 50 patients, Karin Ried and a team of colleagues at the University of Adelaide discovered that those who took four capsules a day of a supplement called aged garlic extract lowered their blood pressure by 10 points more than a group given a placebo.
The effect was only found in those who had a so-called systolic blood pressure of at least 140 - the usual cut-off value for high blood pressure - at the outset of the study.
Ried said that garlic taken in any other way, whether raw, fresh or in powdered form, doesn't have the same effect.
"When you cook fresh garlic the ingredient which is responsible for reducing blood pressure disappears," she said.
"I think the really important point to make is that aged garlic extract as a supplement is the secret weapon for blood pressure."
Garlic has long been thought to be good for the heart, and traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine practitioners have been promoting garlic for high blood pressure for centuries.
"Garlic has been used as a treatment to lower blood pressure in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years," said Sundari Ganesh, a practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine.
But Ried said their research was the first to assess the impact of aged garlic extract, adding that it was evaluated as an additional treatment to other high blood pressure medication - for instance beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart and kidney failure. The risk of disease increases as the level of blood pressure increases.
Around one billion people globally suffer from high blood pressure.