Healthy blood flow throughout your body and brain is very important if you want to live in good health to old age with a sharp mind. Herbs are just one way that you can improve circulation to your brain.
If you have very poor circulation, the symptoms can be obvious and even require immediate medical attention. A heart attack or a stroke are two examples of this. And in many parts of the world, including the west, these are two of the biggest killers.
Reduced blood flow can also give vague symptoms which are often ignored by many people, but in this article, I’ll share with you some of the best herbs which can help increase blow flow by improving vascular health and thinning the blood.
Herbs you should consider taking to improve blood flow and oxygenation in your brain
#1. Ginko Biloba
Ginko Biloba is a popular herb which has been used for a variety of health problems by people who are into natural and alternative medicine. It’s often used to help improve brain health, memory and concentration.
It’s been confirmed by several studies that Ginko Biloba is able to improve blood flow in the brain. And therefore, it might be useful in improving mental fatigue, memory problems, multiple sclerosis symptoms, depression, and dementia.
In one study published in 2011, researchers conducted a pilot study investigating an extract of Ginko Biloba to see if it was able to improve blood flow. After patients received 60 mg of Ginko Extract twice daily, global blood flow in the brain was significantly improved.
Subjects who took Ginko Biloba had an increase in blood flow by 15% in white matter and 13% in the gray matter of the brain .
Given that Ginko Biloba has a great safety record, it’s definitely one of the supplements you should consider taking to help improve blood flow!
Bilberry is a very rich source of anthocyanins which can have many health benefits when consumed regularly.
Supplementing bilberry extract or eating bilberries can improve blood flow in the body and brain in several ways. Due to their antioxidant power, they can protect the artery wall from oxidative damage, while also strengthening collagen and elastin that allows the blood vessels to function properly and maintain their integrity.
Anthocyanins have also been found to help the blood vessel wall relax, and improve blood flow. This is really important because as you get older the arteries tend to become stiff and are not able to relax as they should.
Acute and chronic supplementation with anthocyanins can help improve arterial stiffness according to a meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies looking at the effect of anthocyanin-rich foods on vascular function in adults .
In another study where researchers gave subjects a 30 ml blueberry concentrate e that contained 387 mg of anthocyanidins, it was found that chronic supplementation resulted in increases in brain activity relative to the placebo group.
Several areas of the brain had significant improvements in blood perfusion, these included the insula/thalamus region, as well as brodmann areas, precuneus, and anterior cingulate area of the brain. There was also an improvement in gray matter perfusion.
The result of these improvements in brain blood perfusion meant that subjects also experienced better working memory compared to the placebo group when tested .
The periwinkle plant is a medicinal herb which is known to improve circulation in the brain and has been used in medicine for various cerebrovascular diseases. It’s known for containing an alkaloid called Vincamine, and it’s this alkaloid which is mainly responsible for improving blood flow via its cerebrovasodilatory effects .
However, not only does it have a significant effect on microcirculation, oxygenation, and ATP production in brain cells, it’s also able to act as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in the brain.
It’s because of these properties that vinpocetine (a modified version of Vincamine) is commonly used in nootropic supplements and supplements that are aimed at improving memory and cognition . Other benefits may include improved alertness (
Studies that have looked at vinpocetine have found it useful to improve both blood flow and oxygenation various parts of the brain .
The best time to take vinpocetine is after a meal, as this significantly improves absorption by 60 to 100% .
#4. Pycnogenol (Pine Bark Extract)
Pine bark extracts such as Pycnogenol contain many different bioflavonoids. These compounds are able to protect the artery wall from inflammation, oxidative stress, as well as enhance blood flow and improve relaxation of the arteries.
This effect on blood flow is enhanced when pycnogenol is combined with l-arginine because it inhibits the degradation of nitric oxide in the blood vessels.
In one study where subjects were given a supplement containing 80 mg of pycnogenol and 2400 mg of l-arginine, researches noted that the endothelial function of their arteries was significantly improved .
Other studies have shown that pycnogenol either alone or when combined with l-arginine is able to improve several conditions that are related to poor blood circulation.
Improvements have been demonstrated for cochlear hypoperfusion, ocular blood flow, chronic venous insufficiency, and improvement of microcirculation in diabetic patients.
If you want to give pycnogenol a try, I recommend that you combine it with l-arginine, but you don’t have to. Also, there are several products out there which are similar but may not be as effective. Pycnogenol is a patented product that has proven benefits, whereas the research on pine bark extract is limited.
Learn more about the health benefits and differences between Pycnogenol and Pine bark extract.
Brahmi is a herb that is cultivated in India and Thailand, where it’s commonly used in alternative medicine to improve blood flow to the brain and also the treatment of dementia. It’s much less known in the west, but you can find it in some health food stores and online.
The herb contains many different active components such as saponins, flavonoids, alkaloids, as well as others. These are thought to contribute to its protective effect on the brain and improvement of cognition.
In a study on rats, the herb was able to significantly improve cerebral blood flow by up to 25%. This improvement is comparable to Ginko Biloba which can improve blood flow by up to 29% in rats.
The researchers concluded that the improved blood flow to the brain may be responsible for its reported procognitive effect in humans .
Many people who take this supplement report interesting effects such as improved dream recall, better memory, and improved concentration.
Cayenne pepper is a hot herb that acts rapidly and causes vasodilation of blood vessels because it contains a compound called capsaicin which activates the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) and causes an increase in nitric oxide.
By keeping the blood vessels healthy and reducing blood pressure with herbs like cayenne pepper, you can better maintain blood flow around the body and brain.
Not only does cayenne pepper benefit your vascular system, but it may also help boost your metabolism and help with weight loss.
There is also evidence that it can help relieve pain, improve digestion, and improve digestive health,
Simply add some Cayenne pepper to your favorite drink or add some chillis to your meal to get the benefits! But be careful, some of them can be very hot and may have some short-term side effects like nausea, acid reflux, and burning.
Ginseng has been associated with many health benefits such as boosting the immune system, improving energy, regulating blood sugar and enhancing brain function. Ginseng can be found in many parts of the world and may result in a weaker or stronger effect.
Korean red ginseng, in particular, has been found to significantly improve blood flow when tested in rats and in healthy humans.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, Korean red ginseng extract (1500 mg) was able to improve blood circulation as measured by digital infrared thermal imaging and doppler sonography .
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#8. Resveratrol (Japanese Knotweed)
Resveratrol has been talked about a lot in recent years for its potential effect on health and longevity by mimicking the effects of calorie restriction. The compound resveratrol can be found in the herb called Japanese Knotweed and also in red wine.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, resveratrol was given to healthy people to see if it was able to improve cerebral blood flow and cognitive performance in humans.
The subjects in the treatment group were given 250 and 500 mg doses of resveratrol and then took part in tests to measure its effect on cognition.
In the study, they demonstrated that resveratrol resulted in a dose-dependent increase in cerebral blood flow during task performance, and this was measured by total concentrations of hemoglobin. They also noted that both doses of resveratrol resulted in enhanced oxygen extraction 
Resveratrol has numerous health benefits besides improving oxygen uptake and blood flow in the brain. It’s one of the top supplements that people take for longevity.
Who should take herbs to improve blood circulation?
One of the most important and beneficial things you can do for your health and well-being is to make sure that you have a good blood supply around your body and brain.
Our blood delivers oxygen, glucose, nutrients, hormones, white blood cells and many other things around the body to help keep us alive.
This means that we can all benefit from taking herbs like the ones mentioned in this article to improve blood flow around the body and brain. And it’s even more important for people who are already having problems with poor circulation.
Each of these herbs and supplements can help blood flow in different ways
- Cause dilation of the arteries to help increase blood flow.
- Protect against the damaging effects of free radicals on the artery wall.
- Improve healing of blood vessels and help maintain their integrity.
- Reduce inflammation in the arteries.
- Reduce arterial plaque build up which can lead to ischemia from blood clots.
Symptoms of poor circulation
- Cold hands and feet (can sometimes be caused by Raynaud’s disease).
- Tingling (especially in the extremities).
- Pain in your limbs.
- Muscle cramps.
- Frequent headaches.
- Poor memory.
- MS-like symptoms.
- Depression and anxiety.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should consult with your doctor as soon as possible.
Problems with cerebral blood flow
As you age, your blood vessels may start to clog, they become narrow, and they become weak. Using herbs and supplements could be an important strategy to maintain cognitive function as you age.
Some of the main causes of compromised blood flow which is a serious medical emergency.
- Thrombosis – This is when a clot has developed causing blood flow to become obstructed. Usually occurs after injury to the wall of the blood vessel and a clot forms from platelets.
- Hemorrhage – Localized bleeding in the brain which leads to the death of brain cells.
- Embolism – Can be caused by infections, tumor cells, air, and clots which have dislodged and reached the brain.
- Aneurysm – Weakened blood vessels will balloon and possibly rupture.
If you speak to many centenarians, one thing is clear: they are often mentally sharp until the very end. One of the reasons for this is because many of them have escaped cardiovascular disease and have maintained good arteries during their lifetime.
Good blood flow throughout the body, not just the brain, is extremely important if you want to stay young and healthy for longer.
Using herbs in combination with a healthy lifestyle can play an important role in maintaining optimal blood flow to the brain good and help keep your brain sharp!
Article reviewed and updated: March 2019.