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Super Circulation! 20 Simple Tips for Improving Circulation

~ written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, Medical Herbalist

Circulatory problems can be a sign of underlying and undiagnosed health concerns such as varicose veins, thrombosis and plaque buildup in the arteries, high or low blood pressure, chilblains, Reynauds syndrome, and diabetes. Tingling, burning,or pins and needle sensations in the hands and toes are also common signs of circulatory issues and should be specifically addressed by your medical herbalist. A lack of oxygen to the tissues due to disrupted circulation can lead to a whitish or bluish hue to the fingers and toes; and when left untreated, gangrene may result from chronic contraction of the arteries.

Tips for Improving Circulation

  1. Cut out smoking! Many chemicals added to commercial tobacco are known carcinogens (known to be cancer causing) and are extremely damaging to the heart and circulatory system. It is understood that smoking contributes to elevated cholesterol levels by affecting the livers biofeedback mechanisms ~ mechanisms that regulate how much cholesterol is manufactured. Smoking is known to promote platelet aggregation (clumping) and increase the risk of heart disease and strokes.
  2. Decrease the consumption of tea, coffee and caffeinated drinks ~such as cola and red bull. Caffeine constricts blood vessels and decreases peripheral circulation, leading to a rise in blood pressure. A high intake of caffeine in tea or coffee promotes the ‘fight or flight’ response, raises the blood pressure and contributes to irritability.
  3. Replace the salt and pepper shaker with cayenne pepper powder. Use cayenne pepper to season your food and keep on the counter where you normally would keep the salt shaker. Traditionally, Cayenne is known to improve circulation and improve blood flow throughout the body.
  4. Add freshly chopped garlic to ones diet. Garlic is known for both enhancing immune system function and for its heart health benefits. Studies on garlic have shown it to be helpful for improving cholesterol levels and decrease the likelihood of platelet clumping.
  5. Keep fresh ginger in your pantry and chop, grate or slice the fresh root, adding it to soups, stews, stir fries or even herbal teas for an added spicy flavor. Ginger is known to improve circulation and blood flow to the hands and feet, traditionally used for chilblains, and gently easing the symptoms of frostbite.
  6. Herbal Teas are ideal for improving and supporting healthy circulation: Herbal teas such as ginger root, hawthorn berries, yarrow flowers, linden leaves, rosemary leaves, ginkgo leaves are all rich in flavonoids and have the effect of strengthening the walls of blood vessels, improving circulation and used long term for reducing hypertension.
  7. Reduce stress levels: Long term stress can cause a domino effect of health concerns in the body. Continuous stress increases the release of adrenalin into the blood stream, leading to a rise in blood pressure. Deep breathing techniques, stress management, regular exercise, yoga and tai chi can all go a long way to reduce the impact that stress plays on the body.
  8. Uncross your legs. Frequent leg crossing looks pleasing to the eye, but can hinder circulation, further contributing to broken veins and spider veins.
  9. Choose Movement! Instead of sitting for long periods of time, take a moment to raise up both legs off the floor and flex and point your toes OR take a time-out moment and walk. Sitting for long periods of time can decrease blood flowing to the peripheries and raise the risk of thrombosis ~ clot formations in veins deep within the body.
  10. Witch hazel water applied topically to the skin is cooling to local inflammation and promotes circulation.
  11. Consume buckwheat. This tasty grain is packed full of bioflavonoids which assist to enhance circulation.
  12. Horseradish: this spicy condiment is traditionally consumed to alleviate symptoms of sinus congestion and to improve poor circulation.
  13. Home remedies for circulatory issues: Due to direct exposure to the cold, chilblains can cause surface inflammation, itching and redness of the hands and feet. Traditional home remedies include rubbing the affected hands and feet with raw onion, or bathing in potato water, (hot water containing grated fresh potato). Apple cider vinegar is also used to improve circulation and used as a topical soak. Essential oils such as ginger, cypress, and release essential oil blend can be diluted in a base oil and rubbed topically on the hands and feet and areas of poor circulation.
  14. Traditionally, Gingko biloba has been used to increase the blood flow to the upper part of the body. Individuals on blood thinners should consult their medical herbalist prior to use.
  15. Regular exercise: Increasing the pumping mechanism of the heart is extremely important for cardiovascular health ~ as exercise enhances blood flow, improves the circulation of blood from the heart to the peripheries, helps reduce obesity and regulates blood pressure.
  16. Decrease the intake of trans fatty acids (bad fats contained in margarine, shortening, and most processed foods) and avoid deep fried and fatty foods; instead increase the intake on Omega 3 fatty acids in forms such as flax seed oil, fish oils, extra virgin olive oil increase the intake of deep sea- cold water fish such as: mackerel, herring, salmon and halibut ~ especially rich in Omega 3. Or take Nutra Sea Oil, a high quality fish oil supplement.
  17. Dry skin brushing aids poor circulation; use a vegetable bristle brush and begin brushing from the feet and work up towards the heart, brushing in a clockwise motion. Avoid brushing over areas of varicose veins, thin skin or open wounds.
  18. Increase the intake of fiber: fiber can help lower elevated cholesterol levels. Foods high in fiber include: psyllium seed powder, oat bran, brown rich, beans, onions, pears, peas, and broccoli.
  19. Coenzyme Q 10: helps to improve tissue oxygenation.
  20. Keep hands and feet warm in cold weather and wear gloves whenever possible.

Understanding Vitamin D…

written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, Medical Herbalist

During the winter months of limited sunlight exposure or in the case of individuals who rarely are exposed to sunlight, vitamin D deficiencies may be prevalent.

Known as the sunshine vitamin and manufactured on the skin, Vitamin D is converted by the liver to an inactive storage form called calcidiol (25-hyrdoxy vitamin D) and then converted again by the kidneys into the biologically active form 1,25-dihydroxy Vitamin D (also known as 1,25 dihydroxycholecalciferal), which is stored in fat calls and also circulates through the bloodstream.

Vitamin D is involved in the production of numerous proteins and enzymes used to fight disease, repair muscles, strengthen bones and maintain overall health. Vitamin D works with Magnesium to stimulate the absorption of Calcium into the bones and works best taken together with these minerals.

When outdoors and before application of a sunscreen, exposure of the arms, legs and face to the suns ultraviolet rays for 15 minutes daily will likely ensure adequate levels of Vitamin D synthesis into the body.

Studies indicate that deficiencies of Vitamin D can be a contributing factor in the development of colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, infectious disease, and inflammatory bowel disease and auto immune dysfunction such as: rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and multiple sclerosis. Research is also indicating that daily Vitamin D supplementation offers protection against the development of rickets, osteoporosis, colorectal, prostate and breast cancer. Supplementation with Vitamin D cannot guarantee the development of these disorders; however it is certainly one of many nutrients known to protect the body from onset of chronic disorders.

Food sources of Vitamin D include salt water fish, egg yolks, dandelion greens, sweet potatoes, tuna, vegetable oils, salmon, halibut, sardines, herring, mackerel, parsley, nettle, horsetail and alfalfa.

Individuals suffering from malabsorption problems such as celiac disease or crohn’s may not be absorbing adequate amounts of Vitamin D; certain medications such as some cholesterol medications, antacids, mineral oil, steroids, cortisone and thiazide diuretics can also interfere with absorption of Vitamin D.

In supplement form, there are 2 types of Vitamin D: Naturally occurring and the most active form, D3 or cholecalciferol (from fish oil, eggs, organ meats, sheep’s wool, cod liver oil and plant sources)and the synthetic, irradiated D2 or ergocalciferol, (less biologically active) and found in fortified foods, fortified milkand some supplements.

Ensure you take only the naturally occurring pure Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), as the body assimilates this in the same way that it uses Vitamin D formed from sunlight. Avoid ingestion of the synthetic Vitamin D2, as similar to many synthetic products, the synthetic Vitamin D has been shown to be toxic in high dosages.

Determine your need for supplementation with Vitamin D before you take it. A lack of vitamin D will contribute to many chronic illnesses however like many fat soluble vitamins, Vitamin D is stored in the body thus taking too much is not desirable; request a calcidiol 25-hydroxyvitamin D (or a 25(OH)D) blood test from your doctor to determine if you are deficient. Ideal calcidiol [25-hydroxy vitamin D] levels are between 35-65 ng/ml [87-162 nm/L], year around.

Individuals with sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, or lymphoma should avoid the use of Vitamin D supplementation without first consulting a health care professional.

For more reading please click on the following Vitamin D links:

The Cholecalciferol Council

Chai Tea Recipe

Making delicious herbal Chai Tea at home is quite straight forward, you will only need some basic ingredients and creativity. Ensure that the herbs you are using are potent and relatively fresh, they should possess their characteristic aromatic scent before blending them into the tea and not be faded in color.

In a sauce pan with a tight fitting lid combine the following:

Bring water to a boil. Reduce heat,to a low temperature. Add all ingredients and simmer,covered for at least 20 minutes. The herbs can be simmered longer for a stronger, more spicy flavor. This tea can be sweetened with stevia or honey.

Options: For a creamy smooth drink you can also add in almond milk or coconut milk. Adding in 1 teaspoon of green tea to the mixture will produce a stronger variation. Or for a completely different spicy fruit flavor, add in hibiscus flowers.

Healthy Tips to Satisfy a Sweet Tooth

~ written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, Medical Herbalist

  • Snack on protein throughout the day. High protein foods can increase the sensation of “feeling full and helps to curb those sugar cravings.
  • Chew foods well before swallowing to bring out the natural sweetness of the food. Complex carbohydrates often taste sweeter when chewed.
  • Integrate sweet tasting vegetables into your diet. Jerusalem artichokes, beets, sugar peas, carrots, winter squash and sweet potatoes can all be healthy sweet substitutes to manage cravings.
  •  Increase your water intake between meals to increase the sensation of feeling full. Sometimes feelings of hunger are actually misinterpreted for signals that the body is dehydrated.
  • Consume at least 3 meals per day and do not skip meals. Begin each day with breakfast. Missing meals during the day can lead to overeating at night, and often the overeating of junk food. The body requires most of its fuel (calories) during the day to fuel physical activity and support mental capacities. Infrequent eating can lead to blood sugar fluctuations and sugar cravings.
  • Snack throughout the day. Overeating at one meal leads to a sensation of bloating and fullness, then a feeling of emptiness a few hours later. Keeping food in your stomach throughout the day will create a slightly full sensation in your stomach, when slightly full one is less likely to overeat and crave sugar.
  • Eat a piece of fruit, before indulging in a chocolate bar or sugary sweet. Fruit sugars do not affect blood sugar fluctuations like sucrose (white sugar) and the fiber content will help to fill you up.
  •  Introduce variety to your taste buds. Cultivate an appreciation for slightly bitter foods and cut down the amount of sugar and sweeteners used in baking. Over time ones taste buds will become accustomed to less sweet flavors.
  • Substitute an alternative pleasure. The best way to break any habit, including a food craving, is to substitute a healthier option. If emotions trigger overeating or eating of sweets, then identify what conditions trigger your cravings, such as boredom, loneliness, anxiety, depression, and commit to other ways to perk yourself up. Try exercise, a hobby, music, or just close your eyes for a few minutes and visualize something that relaxes you before going back to your every day tasks.
  • Weekend treats. If you mentally resists giving up certain foods, eventually you will eventually give in and fall back into past habits. Instead, just cut down on how frequently and how much you eat and explore substituting some alternatives, such as low fat sorbet and dried fruit. Eventually, as your body learns to identify the difference between super sweet foods and foods containing less sugar, you will begin to crave what’s good for you and many sweet foods will seem far too rich.
  • When your taste buds need a sweet fix, try adding Stevia Leaf into a brewing herbal tea. Or alternatively Stevia can be purchased in a concentrate powder or liquid form and used in baking instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners. Stevia does not cause blood sugar fluctuations and it doesnot carry any of the health concerns that surround artificial sweeteners. For more information on artificial sweeteners click on the link!

Herbal Toothpaste Powder

For individuals inclined to avoid all those anonymous ingredients NOT listed in commercial toothpaste, here is a simple recipe which provides cleaning power with anti inflammatory and antiseptic properties for healthy gums.

  • Baking Soda – 2 parts
  • Licorice Powder – 1 part
  • Peppermint Essential Oil – 3 drops
  • Myrrh gum Powder – 1/2 part
  • Comfrey Root Powder – 1 part
  • Plantain Leaf Powder – 1 part
  • Green Clay Powder – 2 parts
  • Sea Salt -1/2 part

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Drop in the essential oil, mixing well. Label. Store in an airtight container away from direct heat. Sprinkle powder onto a wet toothbrush and brush teeth as usual.

For more information on herbal medicine, preparation and home use visit my website by clicking here and for ongoing encouragement, health tips, recipes and up to date information on herbal medicine, sign up for my newsletter Taking Charge of Your Health.