Hydrochlorothiazide belongs to a class of drugs known as diuretics that are prescribed to combat fluid retention and to lower blood pressure. The drug is also widely used to treat congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart works less efficiently, causing the buildup of fluid in the lungs and elsewhere in the body. Alternative remedies, some without the adverse side effects of hydrochlorothiazide, are available. However, consult your doctor before beginning any self-treatment regimen.
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Botanist James A. Duke, Ph.D., singles out hawthorn for high honors in “Dr. Duke’s Essential Herbs.” The herb has a wide array of medicinal properties, including its ability to flush excess fluids from the body. These diuretic properties make hawthorn particularly useful in the treatment of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, according to Duke. Excess fluids in the body exert greater pressure on blood vessels, resulting in elevated blood pressure. Remove the excess fluids, and blood pressure drops. If the heart’s function has been impaired through previous damage from a heart attack or the accumulation of atherosclerotic plaque in the blood vessels, the normal excretion of fluids from the body is compromised, causing an unhealthy buildup referred to as edema. Duke says that hawthorn contains at least nine anti-edemic compounds. Don’t take hawthorn or any other herbal remedy until you have consulted a medical professional.
The parsley plant, the leaves of which are used as a culinary garnish, has helpful diuretic properties. Michael Castleman, author of “The New Healing Herbs,” points out that Germany’s Commission E, the equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has approved parsley as a diuretic. He also notes that parsley oil contains two powerful diuretic compounds--apiol and myristicin--that also serve as mild laxatives and uterine stimulants. The best source for parsley oil is the plant’s seeds, according to Castleman. Consult your doctor before taking this or any other natural alternative to hydrochlorothiazide.
Foods and Beverages
If you’d like to get some nourishment while bolstering your body’s ability to excrete excess fluids, there are plenty of foods that have diuretic properties. Joan Swirsky and Diane Sackett Nannery, authors of “Coping with Lymphedema,” suggest you try any of the following: asparagus, black beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, corn, cucumber, eggplant, grapes, lettuce, melon, mustard greens, onions, peanuts, peas, potatoes, spinach, squash, watermelon and wheat. Other potent natural diuretics are beverages containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea and cola drinks, according to Andrew Weil, M.D., a pioneer in integrative medicine.
Combination Prescription Drugs
One of the adverse side effects of hydrochlorothiazide is the drug’s tendency to flush out vital electrolytes, most notably potassium, along with excess fluids. To counter this characteristic of the drug, pharmaceutical companies sometimes combine hydrochlorothiazide with other diuretic medications, such as triamterene, that protect the body against excessive potassium loss. Together, they combat fluid retention without robbing the body of essential electrolytes.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- MedlinePlus: Hydrochlorothiazide
- “Dr. Duke’s Essential Herbs”; James A. Duke; 2000
- “The New Healing Herbs: The Classic Guide to Nature’s Best Medicines”; Michael Castleman; 2001
- “Coping with Lymphedema”; Joan Swirsky and Diane Sackett Nannery; 1998
- Weil: Q and A Library: Natural Diuretics for Fighting Fluid Retention?
- Mayo Clinic: High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Diuretics
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Herbs at a Glance: Hawthorn
- Texas Heart Institute: Heart Information Center: Diuretics