The 9 Best Herbs for Circulation

A healthy circulatory system supports the entire body with blood and oxygen and is essential for long-term health.  Research shows that poor circulation can lead to heart disease. Using natural …

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Written by: Siobhan Mendicino
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Medical Review by: Daniel Powers, MS
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A healthy circulatory system supports the entire body with blood and oxygen and is essential for long-term health. 

Research shows that poor circulation can lead to heart disease. Using natural herbs for circulation may help to improve blood flow and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.

This article gives a review of the most significant clinical research behind the best herbs for circulation.

the nine best herbs for circulation

Overview:

Blood circulation and heart health go hand-in-hand. Most diseases that develop from poor circulation affect the heart. Nearly 17% of cardiovascular diseases in the US occur from a stroke, and 100,000 people in the US die from blood clots each year. 

Narrowed blood vessels, blood clots, and plaque buildup are all major causes of poor circulation. These causes are often the result of high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol levels. 

Having high blood pressure, or hypertension, can cause stress on the heart and the arterial walls to harden, which prevents adequate blood flow throughout the body. Conversely, low blood pressure, or hypotension, can also cause an imbalance in blood flow causing a shortage of oxygen and nutrients in cells, tissues, and organs.

High LDL cholesterol levels, or hypercholesterolemia, cause fat to stick and harden to artery and vein walls. Over time, it hardens into plaque causing a blockage in the blood vessel and the consequent prevention of blood flow. This blockage is what may cause a stroke.  

Reducing blood lipid levels and relaxing the arteries are two of the primary ways to improve circulation.

The Best Herbs for Circulation:

Below are the best research-backed herbs for improving circulation. These herbs have been known to benefit the circulatory and cardiovascular systems in a variety of ways. 

1. Olive Leaf

Clinical research shows that olive leaf extract may help to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Diastolic blood pressure measures the pressure between heartbeats and systolic blood pressure measures how much pressure is exerted during heartbeats. 

A double-blind study observing subjects with hypertension found that olive leaf extract was comparable to the blood pressure medication Captopril. Olive leaf was able to reduce the systolic blood pressure rate by ~11.5 and the diastolic blood pressure rate by ~4.8. Researchers noted that although the results were similar in the Captopril and olive leaf groups, the olive leaf extract also decreased triglyceride levels. 

In a clinical trial involving participants with pre-hypertension, subjects took 142mg of purified extract containing oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol daily. The results showed that the group given the olive leaf had a decrease in both diastolic and systolic blood pressure after 6 weeks. 

A similar clinical trial observing 40 pre-hypertensive identical twins discovered that olive leaf extract had the ability to decrease blood pressure. The subjects were given 500mg of extract or 1,000mg of extract for 8 weeks. The 500mg group had a 6mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure and a 5mmHg decrease in diastolic blood pressure. The 1,000mg group had a 13mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure and a 5mmHg decrease in diastolic blood pressure.

A combination study observed the effects of olive leaf and hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) in participants with hypertension. Participants were divided into three groups that consisted of a captopril group, a low dose hibiscus/olive leaf group, and a high dose hibiscus/olive leaf group. Researchers found similar results across all three groups. 

In a meta-analysis study, the daily consumption of olive leaf extract was found to be helpful for reducing blood pressure. 

Researchers found in an open pilot study that 100 mg/d of oleuropein and 20 mg/d of hydroxytyrosol taken daily can be supportive for reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 13 and 6.6 mmHg respectively. The study involved 663 pre-hypertensive patients.

Summary:

Research shows that olive leaf may be one of the best herbs for improving circulation due to its ability to lower blood pressure.

2. Nattokinase

Nattokinase is an extracted enzyme from the traditional Japanese soy product, natto. 

There is evidence that this enzyme helps to break up fibrin, which are tough chains of proteins, in the arteries and supports the regulation of blood pressure which are both key components of healthy circulation. 

In a placebo-controlled trial, nattokinase was found to reduce blood pressure in participants with hypertension. The group ingesting nattokinase was given a daily dose of 2,000fu (fibrinolytic units). In the nattokinase group, researchers observed a decrease of -5.55mmHg in systolic blood pressure and a -2.84mmHg decrease in diastolic blood pressure.

Another placebo-controlled trial discovered that 100mg of nattokinase over 8 weeks had the ability to reduce blood pressure in those with hypertension. Overall, the average reduction in diastolic blood pressure in the nattokinase group was around ~5%.

Summary:

Nattokinase has been found to be helpful in decreasing blood pressure and breaking up fibrin, both of which hep to support circulation. Additional human clinical research should be conducted to confirm these findings.

3. Hibiscus

Hibiscus is one of the best herbs for circulation as it is well-known for regulating high blood pressure. 

In a meta-analysis research review, hibiscus was found to, on average, lower both systolic blood pressure by -7.58 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 3.53 mmHg.

A clinical study involving subjects with stage-1 hypertension discovered that hibiscus tea was helpful for lowering both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Given two cups of tea per day, participants saw a 7.43 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure and a 6.7 mmHg reduction in diastolic blood pressure.

In a placebo-controlled clinical trial with mildly-hypertensive adults, hibiscus tea (3, 240-mL servings/day) was found to significantly lower blood pressure. After 6 weeks, the tea was able to reduce systolic blood pressure by 7.2 mmHg.

Another clinical trial found that hibiscus extract lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

In a study with men at risk for cardiovascular disease, hibiscus extract was able to improve postprandial vascular function. This improved blood circulation and helped to reduce instances of high blood pressure. 

Summary:

Studies show that hibiscus may be beneficial in supporting both the circulatory and cardiovascular systems because of its blood pressure regulating properties.

4. Garlic 

Garlic is historically one of the best herbs for circulation and heart health. Both clinical and traditional research demonstrate evidence that garlic is highly supportive of regulating cholesterol. 

In a study involving patients with mild hypertension, researchers found that garlic was able to significantly reduce blood pressure levels after 8 weeks. Garlic was also able to reduce LDL cholesterol.  

Another trial found that garlic powder was effective in reducing blood pressure levels (10-12mmHg) in participants with hypertension. Although the trial did show a decrease in levels, researchers noted that these levels were not significant as they fell within the known variability for blood pressure measurements. 

A study observing subjects with elevated cholesterol levels found that aged black garlic may be helpful for reducing biomarkers that often promote plaque build-up in arteries. These results suggest that aged black garlic may be helpful for encouraging blood circulation and reducing the risk of heart disease. 

In a trial involving participants with type 2 diabetes, garlic supplementation for 12 weeks was seen to significantly reduce LDL cholesterol levels. The garlic supplement also increased levels of HDL cholesterol, further reducing the risk of diabetes-related cardiovascular problems.  

Summary:

Garlic has been found to improve circulation and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease by regulating cholesterol and lowering blood pressure.

5. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of the best stimulant herbs for better circulation. 

Stimulant herbs work as a vasodilator, which widens and dilates blood vessels allowing for increased blood flow throughout the body. 

A meta-analysis study found that short-term administration of cinnamon had a significant effect on patients with prediabetes and type-2 diabetes. Through all the trials, cinnamon was able to decrease systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure by 5.39 mmHg and 2.6 mmHg, respectively. 

Another meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found similar hypotensive results. Participants with hypertension experienced a reduction in diastolic and systolic blood pressure after cinnamon supplementation.  

In a double-blind trial involving patients with stage-1 hypertension, researchers discovered that cinnamon was able to reduce systolic blood pressure. It should be noted that although there was a reduction, it was “clinically moderate.” Cinnamon was also shown to be able to improve blood lipid profiles (i.e. cholesterol levels) in this study.

Another meta-analysis observing participants with type 2 diabetes concluded that cinnamon is able to significantly reduce both diastolic and systolic blood pressure.  

Summary:

Research shows that cinnamon benefits circulation and blood flow through widening blood vessels, decreasing blood pressure, and improving cholesterol levels.

6. Asian Ginseng

Research has shown that Asian ginseng is able to benefit circulation through the regulation of blood pressure levels. Thus, it’s thought to be one of the best natural remedies for circulation.

The constituents in red ginseng, specifically ginsenoside Rg3, have been shown to be the main mechanism for normalizing blood pressure levels.

Researchers believe that this effect is attributed to ginseng’s ability to relax tension in the blood vessel walls, which helps to reduce blood pressure. 

In a clinical study involving 26 subjects with hypertension, 4.5mg of red ginseng daily was able to significantly reduce systolic blood pressure. 

Summary:

Asian ginseng has properties that relax the body’s blood vessels, which can lower blood pressure. Further clinical studies are required to confirm these findings.

7. Turmeric

Turmeric is another beneficial herb for circulation. It works as a stimulant to dilate blood vessels, which allows more blood to flow through without increased pressure. 

A meta-analysis of the effects of turmeric and curcumin on 734 individuals with high blood pressure found that turmeric was able to reduce systolic blood pressure after long durations of administration. Researchers noted, however, that those who took curcumin independently experienced no significant effects on blood pressure levels.  

In a placebo-controlled trial, turmeric capsules significantly reduced body mass index and weight in those with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Individuals with fatty liver disease are known to have high blood pressure due to its association with obesity.

Another placebo-controlled trial found that 12 weeks of curcumin supplementation (500mg) showed promise for reducing arterial stiffness in subjects with metabolic syndrome. Curcumin supplementation was also able to support weight management.  

Summary:

Turmeric aids healthy circulation by reducing blood pressure and widening blood vessels. Additional human studies are needed for verification.

8. Lemon Balm 

Research shows that lemon balm may be an important herb for circulation due to its ability to support cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

In a 12-week clinical trial, 700mg of lemon balm extract/day was able to significantly affect cardiovascular and circulatory biomarkers in subjects with type-2 diabetes. The extract improved HDL cholesterol levels, systolic blood pressure, serum fasting blood sugar, HbA1c, and triglycerides.  

Another clinical trial discovered that lemon balm significantly decreased both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Researchers noted that there was a 10%+ decrease in blood pressure levels. 

A study observing individuals with benign heart palpitations found that lemon balm extract was able to reduce the frequency of palpitations and decrease overall levels of anxiety. Subjects were administered 500mg of lemon balm extract twice per day. 

Summary:

Lemon balm has been found to be able to improve cholesterol and blood pressure levels, both of which benefit the circulatory system. Further research is needed in order to confirm these findings.

9. Ginger

Research shows that ginger may be a beneficial herb for improving circulation.

A 2015 study found that ginger powder was significantly helpful for improving fasting blood sugar, average long-term blood sugar, and cholesterol levels in participants with type 2 diabetes. Improving cholesterol levels has been known to improve circulation. 

In another clinical trial, the administration of 1.2g of dried ginger was found to effectively decrease cholesterol levels as well as blood glucose levels after 90 days. In addition to lowering LDL cholesterol levels, the dried ginger also increased HDL cholesterol levels. 

Summary:

Several trials have found that ginger supports circulation by its ability to regulate blood sugar and decrease cholesterol levels. Additional reasearch is needed to confirm these findings.

Common Symptoms of Circulatory Issues:

Circulatory issues are common conditions around the world as they are often linked to cardiovascular health. 

Symptoms that could lead to cardiovascular disease are sometimes difficult to detect, however, drawing awareness to symptoms of poor circulation could prevent the onset of a harmful disease. 

Some common symptoms of circulatory issues include: 

  • Muscle pain
  • Issues with mobility
  • Pale or blue skin
  • Varicose veins
  • Cold extremities
  • Chest pain
  • Numbness & swelling

Diseases that arise from unhealthy circulation conditions can affect different parts of the body but mostly they negatively affect the heart.

These diseases include: 

  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Peripheral vascular disease 
  • Raynaud’s syndrome 
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Hypertension 
  • Stroke
  • Blood clots 
  • Anemia

The Development and Effects of Heart & Cholesterol Issues:  

Poor circulation is known as a gateway symptom that is often the precursor to dysfunction within the heart and blood vessels. Some common factors that cause poor circulation include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity and physical inactivity
  • Diet
  • Diabetes
  • Genetics
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated cholesterol levels

Unexamined symptoms that may suggest circulatory issues can lead to a range of different health concerns. Addressing these issues with different lifestyle choices may help prevent the onset of serious diseases. 

Prevention may look like: 

  • Avoiding smoking
  • Engaging in consistent physical activity
  • Eating a healthy, whole food-based diet
  • Weight management 

A combination of modern medical care and lifestyle changes can have a profound effect on circulatory issues. Additionally, using natural herbs and remedies for circulation health may provide active and preventative benefits.   

Conclusion:

Good circulation is crucial for overall health and wellness.

As noted above, an array of natural herbs have been clinically proven to improve circulatory health. Whether it’s through relaxing the muscles within the arteries, reducing blood lipid levels, or lowering blood pressure, there are a variety of natural ways to improve circulation.

When implementing new supplements into your daily regimen, it is always extremely important to consult a medical professional prior to the change. 

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About Siobhan Mendicino

Siobhan is a herbal researcher and writer. She has a bachelor of science in communications as well as having completed a post-baccalaureate certificate in herbal studies.

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