Blood Flow

By: Elna Botes van Schalkwyk

Blood circulation:
Blood Flow
What kinds of supplements and herbs might help the blood circulation? Anything that acts as a vasodilator—a substance that allows blood vessels to open up, widen or dilate—would be useful to improve circulation. Some of these substances are foods—cayenne pepper, for example, can be added to your food.

Cayenne is a traditionally known as a warming agent—and when the blood vessels are “warmed”, they dilate or open up. Most people have witnessed what happens to a person’s face when they have too much cayenne pepper! Very red, right? Too much is obviously not recommended, but adding a pinch of cayenne to your meals can help warm you gently.

Garlic and Onions are also great for the circulation. Personally, I love garlic and onions and add them to almost every meal! Raw onions and garlic are best as they contain greater amounts of allicin, the substance which appears to be most important for improving circulation. But, we all know why they are most often cooked! The allicins also function as a diuretic—meaning that they increase the amount of fluids that are excreted. This can help the swelling that is often a sign of poor circulation.

Rosemary is another great herb to use to increase the blood circulation. Fresh rosemary is best, but the dried herb can be used as well. Rosemary is great with lamb and poultry.

Other herbs and spices that you can add to food that will increase circulation are parsley and ginger. Ginger acts as a warming agent but is gentler than cayenne pepper. Many people avoid caffeine and use ginger as a morning “wake-up” beverage. As an added feature, ginger can help soothe and settle an upset stomach.

Foods rich in magnesium (artichokes, barley, oats, nuts, beans, pumpkin seeds, spinach, other leafy greens and tomatoes) can help you improve circulation and maintain a good blood pressure. Magnesium also calms and soothes. And, because modern agricultural practices have depleted magnesium from the soil, it is possible that many people are magnesium deficient and don’t know it!

Other Natural Substances to Improve Blood Circulation:
Arginine: Arginine is an amino acid. It has many functions, but one of its uses is as a precursor to nitric oxide, a very potent natural vasodilator. It can be used to treat high blood pressure also because as it dilates the blood vessels, the blood pressure naturally decreases—picture water rushing through a thin ½ inch tube versus a 3 inch pipe—which one will have the higher pressure?

Niacin is a B vitamin (B3) that can dilate the blood vessels and improve blood flow. It also helps to lower cholesterol. Be sure to use the “Flush-free” formula—the main side effect of niacin is an unpleasant facial flush.

Ginkgo biloba is a well-known herb that is useful in treating problems of blood circulation. The ginkgo tree is one of most aancient trees and its leaves have been used for centuries. It is also one of the best-studied herbs. It was studied for its effects on a condition called intermittent claudication , where poor circulation in the feet leads to pain while walking. It was shown in this study to be an effective treatment and increased blood circulation.

Hawthorne (Crataegus) has also been used for centuries to treat circulation and heart problems. Hawthorne berries and leaves contain anti-oxidants and quercitin, a substance that has been shown to minimize histamine release. Hawthorne can be used to increase circulation and lower blood pressure. Hawthorne should be used while under the care of an experienced health professional—interactions between hawthorne and other heart medications such as blood thinners (such as anti-coagulants, high blood pressure medications and anti-arrhythmic agents) can occur.

Essential Oils:
Essential oils can be most beneficial to boost blood circulation. Excellent essential oils to use are:
Geranium, Cardamon, Coriander seed, Ginger, Black pepper, Cypress, Juniper berry, Cypress, Eucalyptus, Fennel, Lemongrass, Spanish Sage, Lavender, Rose, Lemon, Thyme, Pine, Coriander, Rosemary (do NOT use Rosemary if suffering from a raised blood pressure).

Foods and drinks to avoid:
Fast foods, processed foods, refined foods, foods high in fat, foods high in sugar, foods high in salt, potatoes, pasta, white bread, rice, white flour, carbonated ‘soft’ drinks, caffeine based drinks (eg. tea and coffee), alcohol.

A number of supplements have been found to be effective in restoring and boosting blood circulation. These include:
Vitamin B Complex, Vitamin B3 (opens blood vessels on the surface of the skin), Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Niacin and Niacinamide (helps to open the blood vessels deep in the body), L–Arginine, Alpha-Lipoic, Garlic, Flavonoids, Magnesium, Zinc.

Simple exercise such as walking, yoga, swimming, stretching, weight lifting and movement in general are excellent to get the blood flowing and boost blood circulation.

Relaxation is an important part of overall health and wellness. Set aside relaxation time for yourself every day. Do not neglect yourself, as relaxation aids and heals your entire body.
Heat therapy – if your body can tolerate it:
Use a variety of heat therapies to help improve your circulation. Try using hot packs or castor oil packs, hot water bottles or electric heating pads to relieve any cramping and pain in the body and to help with your blood circulation. Applying heat to your body can quickly stimulate blood circulation naturally throughout the body.

Get a foot massage on a regular basis. Visit a local spa or salon and have someone massage the reflex point on the bottom of each foot. This helps to increase blood flow to the various organs in your body.