Keeping the blood flowing
Okay, you don't have to be a super athlete to support proper blood flow. Just follow our tips below. (1)
The two main contributing factors to high blood pressure are stress and poor diet--both damage the lining of the blood vessels making them more narrow and thus more difficult for the blood to flow. However, a poor diet can also affect the viscosity, or the thickness of the blood which also factors into how well our blood flows.
So, as they say "An ounce of prevention...."
If you can avoid doing the following, then your heart and your circulation will be much happier and healthier.
Avoid sitting for long periods of time. Circulation only works if one is physically moving as there is no pump to get the blood going back to the heart. Therefore it’s best to get up and move around frequently to help our circulation work better.
Avoid binge drinking (alcohol). While one glass of wine or alcohol per day is fine, but binge drinking has been shown to be associated with a higher risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease) mortality. (2)
Avoid eating simple sugars and refined carbohydrates (white sugar, white flour, corn sugars) Too much sugar can damage the endothelium (the thin layer of cells that surrounds the blood vessels) and make the blood thicker, or more viscous.
Avoid eating too much “table” salt (this salt has other minerals stripped out of it) Sodium is an important mineral and it helps to regulate blood pressure and blood flow. Eating too much “bad” salt can also make the blood more viscous, and thus not flow properly. Stick with a more natural salt.
Look at herbs for support
Ginger and prickly ash for circulation
Horsechestnut seed for venous support
Gingko extract for helping to reduce the viscosity of the blood
Ginger (Zingiber officinale). This root is nothing short of amazing. It helps relieve gas, it has anti-inflammatory properties, it can help reduce spasms AND it is a “warming” herb that acts as a peripheral circulatory stimulant. So whether you suffer from cold hands and feet, or simply want to help your circulatory system, ginger is a great choice. I keep a bottle of ground ginger handy while I’m cooking (same with turmeric and paprika), but I also love ginger tea. The easiest way is to prepare ginger is this: Buy the root (rhizome), organic if you can and thoroughly wash it and let it dry. Then slice it thinly and put it all in a freezer bag (don’t forget to label it with the date). It will literally keep for years! Then, when you want a lovely tea, that’s heart and joint healthy, just put a couple of pieces in a pot with water, bring it to a boil and let simmer for about 15 minutes. When it’s done, turn off the heat. Now you can add other herbs like peppermint, lavender, fennel, etc. Just throw them in, stir and put the lid back on. Let the herbal tea sit for about 10 minutes. Of course you can always add a dollop of raw honey if you like it a little sweet.
Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum). The seed of the horsechestnut has been used traditionally for many complaints which surround venous congestion, especially where there is a dull ache and/or a sensation of heaviness. In one pharmacologic study, horsechestnut extract caused contraction of venous vales, increased venous pressure and flow and increased lymphatic flow in isolated tissue samples. (3)
Prickly ash (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis, americanum). Like ginger, prickly ash is a warming herb that acts as a peripheral circulatory stimulant. The taste is very mild whereas ginger’s is pungent. Here the bark of the tree is used. If making a tea, just add the bark to boiling water, turn off the heat and let it steep. I like to add other herbs as well (just like I do for the ginger). You can also buy tinctures of prickly ash (tinctures are herbs macerated in alcohol and then strained out). This is a great way to get herbs into you quickly. Just put a dropper-full under your tongue and you can immediately feel the warmth of the herb. Check out companies like Mountain Rose Herbs (www.mountainroseherbs.com).
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba). Just to be clear, although the ginkgo tree has been around a very long time, there is little known use of this tree in traditional medicine. Discoveries/studies surrounding ginkgo have been done on a concentrated extract which is what I will reference here. In numerous studies, both pharmacological and clinical studies, ginkgo extract has been used to help the following issues:
Cerebral insufficiency (memory, cognition impairment, dizziness), multi-infarct (vascular) dementia, tinnitus of vascular origin, peripheral arterial occlusive disease, and disorders resulting from reduced retinal blood flow and senile macular degeneration (4). The ginkgo flavone glycosides and several terpenoids seem to be the active constituents in ginkgo extract. The standard does is 3-4mls per day. NOTE: ginkgo should be used with caution if you are taking an anticoagulant or an antiplatelet medication!
(1). This is not a recommendation to stop any medication. In addition, those people on blood thinners must consult their physician before taking any herbal medicine.
(2) Life course socioeconomic position, alcohol drinking patterns in midlife, and cardiovascular mortality: Analysis of Norwegian population-based health surveys. Degerud E1, Ariansen I1, Ystrom E1,2,3, Graff-Iversen S1, Høiseth G1,4, Mørland J1,5, Davey Smith G6, Næss Ø1,7. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29293492
(3) A clinical Guide to Bledning Liquid Herbs, Kerry Bone
(4) Re: Intravenous Ginkgo Extract Improves Coronary Blood Flow and Ratio of Endothelial Vasoactive Substances in Coronary Artery Disease Patients; Wu Y-Z, Li S-Q, Zu X-G, Du J, Wang F-F. Ginkgo biloba extract improves coronary artery circulation in patients with coronary artery disease: contribution of plasma nitric oxide and endothelin-1. Phytother Res. June 2008;22(6): 734-739.