True or false: which remedies boost circulation?



S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise and Fitness)
@AVogelUK
Ask Louise


30 July 2020

What remedies help circulation?

Good circulation is associated with high cognitive function and healthy blood flow, and there are many remedies that propose to offer these benefits. Let's first look at the ones that are known to be helpful for the circulatory system:

  • Menthol
  • Ginkgo
  • Spice

True: Menthol

Plants such as spearmint and peppermint naturally produce a substance called menthol. We know this to provide the minty taste in our toothpaste, but it also has more specific health benefits.

Studies show, for example, that menthol can increase blood flow to the muscles and skin when applied topically.1 It is also used to reduce pain after injury, as it has a cooling effect on the skin.

So, this is one remedy you can turn to if you aim to improve your circulation. It comes in many forms, including gels and creams.

True: Ginkgo

Ginkgo biloba leaves have traditionally been used to improve arterial circulation, and now research backs up their use for this purpose.

Studies highlight that Ginkgo can improve blood flow to capillaries which are tiny blood vessels that carry blood and nutrients to tissues in every corner of the body.2


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True: Spice

Did you know that being a little more adventurous with the spice in your meals could have a positive effect on your circulation?

A compound in spice called capsaicin is thought to encourage the blood vessels to expand. This makes it easier for blood to travel around the body.

Some particularly good options include turmeric and ginger which you can incorporate into a smoothie for a tasty circulatory boost!

What remedies will not help circulation?

Now that we know which remedies can help circulation, it's time to look at the things we should definitely avoid in order to keep it working well. These are:

  • Salt
  • Some forms of omega 6
  • Caffeine

False: Salt

Salt, when consumed in high amounts, is particularly bad for our circulation. The problem lies with the fact that too much salt causes the body to retain more water. This, in turn, can increase blood pressure as it becomes harder to pump blood round the body.

Watch out for surprisingly salty foods, such as ready meals, meat and tinned foods, as well as the more obvious culprits such as crisps.

A.Vogel Self-Care Tip: Good foods for circulation

Below I explain what foods to include in your diet to help improve your circulation.

False: Omega 6

Although omega 6 offers benefits for the circulatory system, in that it may help to lower blood pressure and inflammation, it can be problematic as we often get too much in our diets. You see, omega 6 is readily available in vegetable oils, which are a key ingredient in many everyday foods, such as margarine.

To avoid getting too much omega 6, limit your intake of processed foods and opt for natural sources of this nutrient, such as walnuts and pumpkin seeds.

Also, if we want to support our circulatory health, we really need to turn our attention to omega 3. This is an essential fatty acid that supports heart health and blood pressure, as well as other aspects of our health such as brain function.

Omega 3 is found in oily fish, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.

For more information on these particular nutrients, check out Nutritionist Emma's blog What are omega fatty acids?

False: Caffeine

As it is a stimulant, some could be mistaken for thinking that caffeine will give your circulation a boost. Unfortunately, though, this is not the case and, in fact, studies have found that caffeine is decidedly unhelpful for the circulatory system.

Energy drinks, in particular, can increase the strain on the cardiovascular system and have been linked to heart problems and high blood pressure.3 They can also hinder blood flow to the brain, even when the body is under stress.

Energy drinks contain around 70-80mg of caffeine per 250ml, which is around 2 and half times more caffeine that you would find in a cup of tea. However, tea drinkers are not off the hook!

Although one cup of breakfast tea may not have nearly as much caffeine as an energy drink, if you are drinking several cups throughout the day, your caffeine intake will soon pile up.

As for coffee lovers, research has found that drinking coffee less frequently was associated with a reduced risk of hypertension.4 So, there's plenty of reason to limit your intake of this drink as well.

I would recommend reading my blog 6 drinks for healthy circulation for advice on healthier alternatives to caffeinated drinks.

References

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25451841/ 
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22120894/ 

3 https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Fabian_Sanchis-Gomar/publication/281347907_Energy_Drinks_and_Myocardial_Ischemia_A_Review_of_Case_Reports/links/55e5b7e608aecb1a7ccd303a.pdf 
4 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28251341/ 

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