Everyone wants to be healthy, and what’s a better sign of that than good, strong blood circulation? Whether you feel like your circulation could use a boost, or if you’re heart and blood flow are fine and dandy and you just want to stay that way, you’re in luck! There are plenty of dietary supplements to improve circulation on the market to help you keep your blood pumping smoothly.
A supplement, according to the 1994 US Food and Drug Administration’s Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act is, “a product taken by mouth that contains a ‘dietary ingredient’ intended to supplement the diet”. Wilburn, et al. (2005) say supplements are defined to encompass everything from vitamins and minerals, to amino acids and enzymes, and even some herbal sources (p. 29).
Now that we’re on the same page about supplements, let’s talk about what’s coming up in this text. First, I layout five types of supplements to improve circulation, as defined by Dr. Brent Barlow in an article he contributed to Natural Health News. Next, I highlight five important supplements that are important for circulatory health. Finally, I found a couple of proprietary supplements that bear mentioning in an article about supplements to improve blood circulation.
Types of Blood Circulation Supplements
Dr. Brent Barlow (2011) says you should know what sort of aid your blood circulation needs before you select a supplement. In his article, he highlights the following categories:
- Blood vessel dilators – such as magnesium and l-arginine, which are further outlined below. These supplements work by widening the blood vessels and consequently lowering blood pressure.
- Lymphatic Circulatory stimulants – These are the sorts of botanical supplements that man has been ingesting for centuries for their health benefits. They work by increasing blood flow to the immune system. Barlow warns these are generally toxic in high doses.
- Anti-inflammatories – Circulatory problems frequently arise from inflammation around veins and arteries, constricting the flow of blood. Omega-3 fatty acids are a good example, as they block pathways to fat receptors that cause the body to release inflammatory enzymes.
- Anti-oxidants – Vitamins and minerals like A, C and E all combat free radicals and oxidation, which are causes for inflammation that constricts blood flow. By fighting free radicals and oxidation, anti-oxidants keep the interiors of arteries healthy, as well as preventing injuries.
- Blood flow stimulants – There are botanicals that have provided boosts to circulation for centuries. Supplements like tea, ginkgo and cayenne have been used by traditionalists for hundreds of years.
Next are a few examples of some supplements to improve circulation in a couple of the preceding categories. This list is by no means exhaustive of circulation-improving supplements. Also, please consult with your doctor before undertaking any sort of supplement regimen.
Ginkgo – Botanical Blood Flow Stimulant from a Prehistoric Source
Ginkgo, also known by its scientific name, ginkgo biloba, comes from the root of the ginkgo tree. The maidenhair tree, as it’s also called, survived since the Mesozoic era, about 251 million years ago. The ginkgo tree is considered sacred to Buddhists in China and Japan (Tiffney, 2014).
Ginkgo can be found in many forms in the vitamin aisle of your local grocery store, as a botanical supplement. It’s known for improving blood circulation to the brain, which improves memory function (Livestrong, 2013).
The extract of the ginkgo leaves is what’s used as a supplement to aid circulation. According to Barlow, ginkgo is a blood flow stimulant (2011). Wimpissinger, et al. (2007), said ginkgo extract “protects the endothelial cells in veins and increases the fluidity of blood […] and thus might optimize blood flow at the microcirculatory level” (p. 445). However, Wimpissinger, et al’s study concluded that a single administration of ginkgo extract had no clear effect on blood flow in the eyes.
To prove ginkgo’s effect on circulation to the brain, Mattes and Pawlik conducted a double-blind experiment on alertness and chemosensory functions (smell and taste) on subjects after they ate lunch. What they found was ginkgo, as a result of increasing blood flow to the brain, did increase alertness, but not chemosensory function (2004).
L-arginine – Blood pressure-lowering Amino Acid
This amino acid is a blood vessel dilator, meaning it opens up the blood vessels to increase circulation. Barlow says arginine can be taken heavily in supplements, either orally or intravenously, to increase circulation and to treat problems resultant from poor circulation (2011).
L-arginine is available in many over-the-counter supplements. WebMD says it is often paired with pain relievers to combat migraines, and given to senior sufferers of dementia and senility, to counter the symptoms (2009).
WebMD also says Dry nuts and legumes are rich in l-arginine, as are red meat, poultry and dairy products. Bodily functions transform l-arginine into nitric oxide, which opens blood vessels and lowers blood pressure, to improve circulation.
Wilburn, et al. (2005) say the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database doesn’t list l-arginine as an effective supplement for hypertension, but it has shown to lower blood pressure in infants and patients who have undergone kidney transplants when administered intravenously.
Magnesium – An Important Supplement to Improve Circulation
A vital mineral for nutrition, magnesium is another blood vessel dilator, and can be supplemented in excess to improve blood circulation (Barlow, 2011). However, consuming too much of the mineral through milk of magnesia could pose a significant health risk, as magnesium is also a strong laxative (American Medical Association Complete Medical Encyclopedia [AMACME], 2004).
While magnesium is available in many foods, many people in the US are deficient due to their diets (ibid & Barlow). Barlow says that magnesium in daily multivitamins is not enough, and it should be supplemented (2011).
Foods rich in Magnesium (AMACME, 2004)
- Green leafy vegetables
- Dried beans
- Soy flour
Magnesium supplements can be found in the vitamin aisle at most grocery stores. In addition to aiding in blood flow and circulation, getting enough magnesium could lower stress levels, help with insomnia, and counteract depression (ibid).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Gale Encyclopedia of Diets [GED] (2013) says Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are “vital to human health.” Furthermore, Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids aid in circulation by preventing blood clotting and inhibiting inflammation from restricting blood circulation.
As part of the anti-inflammatory group, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids block receptors that also accept fats, such as saturated and trans-fats, that cause the body to release inflammatory enzymes (Barlow, 2011).
Food Sources of These Fatty Acids (GED, 2013)
- Canola oil
- Dark leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale)
- Fatty fish (e.g., salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel)
- Soybean oil
- Brazil nuts
- Pine nuts
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower oil
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can be found in the vitamin aisle of your local grocery store. A proper diet can also be rich in these essential oils. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids have been shown to benefit even healthy hearts, and to aid in muscle relaxation.
Other Supplements for Circulation
A Couple Proprietary Supplements That Improve Circulation Worth Highlighting
Ameal BP, which contains the proprietary amino acid blend called AmealPeptide, won the Better Nutrition magazine’s Best Supplement award in the Heart/Circulation category in November 2013 (Quality of Life Labs).
Vizuo XL Sports Vision Enhancement, from Natural Athletic Nutrition contains lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as other nutrients with the end in mind that athletes have better reactions from mentally processing what they see faster. The supplement also boosts dopamine and acetylcholine in the brain (Opthalmology Times, 2008).
Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org