Minoxidil for High Blood Pressure Treatment

Minoxidil Causes Blood Vessels to Relax and Widen

A Minoxidil drug molecule.
A Minoxidil drug molecule. LAGUNA DESIGN/Getty Images

Those of us afraid of going bald, or simply possessing the desire to keep the thinning hair we have, may have turned to Minoxidil for treatment against further hair loss.

But did you know Minoxidil — a popular over-the-counter treatment — was originally developed in the 1970s to treat high blood pressure? A vasodilator, minoxidil remains a viable and important option for some patients and works by relaxing blood vessels to lower blood pressure.

How Does Minoxidil Lower Blood Pressure?

Minoxidil is a vasodilator. It works by causing blood vessels to relax and widen, which lowers the pressure necessary to push blood through them. Specifically, minoxidil doesn't act directly on the blood vessels. Rather, it stimulates the action of a particular enzyme which produces chemicals that encourage the relaxation of blood vessels. Minoxidil is related to a compound called nitric oxide, which plays an important role in blood vessel tone and has been linked to erectile dysfunction and overall longevity.

Brand Names for Minoxidil Products

Minoxidil is a generic drug, which means that it is available and marketed simply under the name "minoxidil." Within the United States, minoxidil is also available as brand name Loniten. There are other formulations of minoxidil available in other parts of the world, but patients in the United States will most likely encounter minoxidil under its generic branding.

Side Effects 

The most common side effects of minoxidil to treat high blood pressure are rapid, moderate weight gain (less than 5 pounds) and rapid heartbeat. If you gain more than 5 pounds after starting minoxidil, or your heart rate rises by more than 15 to 20 beats per minute (at rest), you should see your doctor.

Other side effects may include:

The accumulation of fluid (swelling, edema) sometimes caused by minoxidil can be a problem if you have a weak heart or known heart disease. Tell your doctor if you notice swelling in your hands, feet, or ankles.

Is Minoxidil The Right Treatment for You?

Only you and your doctor can decide on a proper medication for treatment of high blood pressure. Be sure to notify your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, and supply the names of any medications (prescription or over-the-counter) and supplements you are taking.