Beta blockers: Calming, relaxing and anti-stress medications

Beta blockers are used in treatment of heart disease, by preventing stress hormones such as adrenalin, from acting on beta receptors. These receptors are located all over the body, including the heart.

They block beta 1 and beta 2 receptors but they don't act on beta receptors located in the fat cells. By blocking the effect of fight or flight hormones, the drug lowers blood pressure and heart rate, while inducing relaxation.


Beta-blockers are used for treating wide array of heart related problems as well as few other conditions.

  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pain-angina
  • Arrhythmia
  • Heart failure
  • Tremor
  • Certain adrenal tumors
  • The medication is also helpful in preventing further heart attacks and death after a heart attack. Since the drug eases tension and reduces effects of stress hormones, it is also used in treating anxiety, hyperthyroidism, stress induced migraines, restlessness and insomnia.


    Beta blockers are relatively safe, when used under supervision of the doctor but like any drug, they too can have side effects, such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nightmares and hallucinations
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Dry mouth, eyes, and skin
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Besides these main symptoms, person can also expirience breathing problems, vomiting, weaker sex drive, vision problems, joint pain, depression, rash, sleep disturbances, bloating, fatigue, hair loss, impared glucose metabolism and muscle cramps.

    Also, if individual is very sensitive to the drug or if he takes higher dose, then more serious side effect may emerge. This includes arrhythmia, heart failure, chest pain, heart attack and even death.


    Beta blockers can interact with many other drugs as well as some supplements. This includes:

  • Other drugs that lower blood pressure. Using both of them can dangerously lower blood pressure.
  • Diabetes medicines and insulin shots
  • Anti-depression medicines
  • Asthma medicines
  • Relaxing herbs such St.John's Wort and Kava Kava, Adaptogens, GABA, Phosphatidylserine, Mucuna(contains L-Dopa) and other herbs and supplements that can affect nervous system
  • Also, caffeine rich beverages and products containing aluminum can interact with these drugs.


    While beta-blockers work by blocking stress receptors and can cause side effect, in my personal opinion, it is much better to treat the cause, instead of just block it.

    In this case, adaptogens such as rhodiola can work wonders to lower stress, by controling the production of adrenaline and cortisol, at the source, instead of blocking it with the drugs at the end, the receptors. 


    Besides being used to treat heart disease, these drugs are also occasionally used by musicians and other performers to avoid "stage fright".

    Some people who take them for a long period of time need to up the dose since the body can get used to them, which makes them less effective.

    Also, you can't suddenly stop taking beta blockers. You have to do it gradually to avoid the side effects, associated with the withdrawal.

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