General characteristics

General characteristics

The term circulation refers to the movement of blood within the blood vessels around the body.
Blood is oxygenated in the lungs and then passed quickly to the heart to be pumped around the body in the arteries and on into the tiny capillaries that supply the cells and tissues. The arterial blood passes out of the capillary vessels and into the cells where nutrients are deposited and taken up by each and every individual cell. The cells produce waste which is passed back into the capillaries and on into the larger veins to be filtered and cleaned by the kidneys and liver and passed back to the lungs for carbon dioxide to be excreted and for the blood to be oxygenated once more. Each pass around the body happens within seconds.
The efficient and healthy movement of blood around the body is obviously vital to good health, if blood does not reach an area then it becomes starved of nutrition and clogged with waste.
Blood in the arterial system is pumped by the action of the heart and the strong muscular nature of the arterial walls. This pressure becomes less at the tiny capillary level in order for the work of supplying nutrients and gathering of wastes to take place. The job of the veins is to move the blood, against gravity often, back to the heart and lungs. With no muscular component in their walls, the veins rely on the regular contraction of the skeletal muscles surrounding them to act as a squeezing devise and to push the blood along. This is why physical exercise is so vital for a healthy circulation.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Foods that help to keep circulation flowing well include things like garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, chives and the like. They render the blood more fluid and less sticky.

Garlic is the wonder food for the circulation and can reduce the occurrence of sticky plaque formation. It is most potent when eaten raw but cooked has its benefits too. Crush it and add olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar to make a delicious and medicinal salad dressing or add to food at the end of cooking for a more potent flavour.

The warming spices like cayenne, ginger, horseradish, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper and mustard also thin the blood somewhat, reduce inflammation in the vessels, prevent blood stickiness and encourage the efficient movement of blood.

Cayenne or chili is especially beneficial to the entire circulatory system, including the heart. It encourages proper blood flow to all tissues. It is also rich in vitamins C and E and by using it with other herbs it will enhance their medicinal actions. Take up to a teaspoon in a little water or added to a herbal tea each day.

Oranges and citrus fruits and all the fruits rich in Vitamin C are also good for circulation as the bio-flavanoids they contain help to strengthen and maintain flexibility in the blood vessels.

Add beetroot and celery to a daily salad for their blood vessel opening abilities, increasing blood flow efficiently.

Vitamin E rich foods such as nuts and seeds and oily fish are very beneficial to improving circulation and possibly preventing unhealthy blood clotting.

All fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains, seeds, nuts and oily fish will benefit circulation due to their richness in anti-oxidants.

Smoking, lack of exercise, over consumption of rich meat and dairy meals and all processed and sugary junk foods should be kept to an absolute minimum if truly healthy circulation is required.

Make sure you are drinking enough fluids in the form of water, fresh juices and herbal teas.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

There are some herbs that are very good at improving blood flow that employ many different mechanisms to achieve their effect.
Rosemary, sage and ginkgo are particularly good at increasing blood flow to the head and brain but also improve all round circulation.
Cayenne has been mentioned in the diet section but it is worth noting that it not only improves circulation but balances blood pressure and prevents haemorrhage.
Yarrow, gotu kola and turmeric are all good for improving circulation. Yarrow also improves the condition of the veins.
Red clover thins the blood and prevents clumping and clotting. It can safely be used to thin blood instead of aspirin by mixing equal parts with meadowsweet tincture and taking a teaspoon of the mix once or twice daily. Red clover flowers improve circulation, improve elasticty of blood vessels and improve the health of the entire cardiovascular system.
Hawthorn berries & blossoms improve blood flow and in particular improve blood flow to the heart muscle itself making it a very valuable remedy. It is useful for treating angina and for using if you have had or are vulnerable to heart attack.
Daily nettle tea can improve circulation if taken regularly.
Prickly ash encourages the blood of blood into the furthest peripheries such as the hands and feet, crampbark, valerian and other such muscle relaxants for their relaxing and vessel widening (vasodilatory) action which promotes blood flow.
The bitter digestive herbs will also have an indirect effect on improving circulation by encouraging the removal of excess waste from the system and keeping the blood 'cleaner'. Herbs like gentian, holy thistle, centaury, yellow dock, wormwood, vervain and especially angelica root (which helps to get the blood and fluids moving) can be added in small amounts to a formula for improving circulation.
Figwort dilates blood vessels and promotes better circulation of blood.
Schisandra berries will relax blood vessels, thin the blood and improve all round cardiovascular health and promote good blood circulation.
Irish moss (a seaweed) thins the blood a little and helps clear the blood of excess fats.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Tension and stress in the body cause the blood vessels to contract and become narrower leading to impaired blood flow. If this happens regularly then organs and tissues will start to suffer. Become aware of what triggers your stress and take steps to reduce.
Regular, moderate exercise will help maintain healthy circulation and improve impaired circulation by moving blood around the body and helping to reduce stress levels.
Hydrotherapy in the form of alternating hot and cold water blasts or soaks will instantly open blood vessels and encourage efficient pumping and blood movement in the vessels. You can finish a shower by turning to cold for a few seconds, then back to hot, then cold etc for a few minutes for an all over circulation boost. If circulation is poor to the lower limbs for example, then you could just shower the affected parts with hot and cold water.

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