Taking Charge of your Circulatory Health

In Part one of this two-part article series, Is Healthy Circulation Core to Feeling Your Best? you learned that our cardiovascular system is  also our circulatory system, including not only the heart but arteries, veins, blood vessels, and capillaries.  We discussed how cardiovascular disease (CVD) can manifest inside the body, factors that impact macro- and microcirculation, and differences in risk factors and health outcomes between men and women. Here in Part two, we discuss how you can naturally influence the health of your circulatory and cardiovascular systems through lifestyle and targeted supplementation of specific botanicals and nutraceuticals

Support a Healthy Circulatory System Naturally

Research indicates that 72% of premature deaths due to heart disease and 80% of coronary artery disease could be prevented by following a healthy diet and lifestyle! (1, 2) These findings are far too important to ignore. You can build and maintain a healthy circulatory system through the following nutrition and lifestyle strategies:

  • CONSISTENT EXERCISE: Aiming to at least meet the physical activity guidelines outlined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Participate in 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week, 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. (3)
  • EAT A WHOLE-FOOD, MINIMALLY-PROCESSED, ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET. Avoiding added sugars and refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, cereal, and other baked goods) supports healthy blood sugar levels, which, in turn, supports a healthy vascular endothelium. In addition, a diet rich in vegetables and fruits supplies antioxidant phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals, including magnesium and vitamin C, that mitigate oxidative stress inside blood vessels.

GET PLENTY OF HIGH-QUALITY SLEEP. A lack of sleep is associated with endothelial dysfunction in large blood vessels (arteries), possibly due to the increased inflammation caused by a lack of sleep. (4) If you are not allocating time in your life for 8-9 hours of sleep every night, start there. If sleep quality is an issue, focus on sleep hygiene tactics that support restful sleep, such as avoiding artificial light at night, consuming caffeine no more than 8-10 hours before bed, and engaging in a relaxing bedtime routine.

  • MANAGE YOUR STRESS: Research shows that mental and emotional stress decreases microcirculation due to changes in blood flow when the sympathetic “fight or flight” branch of the nervous system is activated. (5)

Supplementation of Targeted Botanicals and Nutraceuticals to Support Circulatory Health

Ginkgo

Ginkgo leaf comes from the Ginkgo biloba tree, an evolutionarily ancient tree with distinctive fan-shaped leaves. Ginkgo leaf contains an array of phytochemicals, including bilobalide, ginkgolide A, ginkgolide B, and ginkgolide C, that benefit the circulatory system.

Ginkgo extract corrects impaired nitric oxide signaling in the endothelial lining of blood vessels and reduces chronic beta-adrenergic signaling (a type of signaling involved in the body’s stress response), restoring the nervous system tone necessary for healthy blood circulation. (6) It also improves blood flow in the brain and may alleviate age-related cognitive dysfunction associated with impaired cerebral blood flow. (7)

Hawthorn

Hawthorn berry comes from the thorny hawthorn shrub, Crataegus sp., a member of the Rose family. In traditional Western medicine, the hawthorn berry is considered the “king” of herbs for the cardiovascular system. The herb has also been used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) since approximately 659 AD.

From a TCM perspective, hawthorn berry is utilized to dissipate “blood stasis,” defined as a slowing or pooling of the blood. Modern-day scientific research supports the traditional use of hawthorn for the cardiovascular system. Hawthorn phytochemicals regulate serum lipids, support a healthy antioxidant balance, and protect the delicate lining of blood vessels. (8) The cardioprotective properties of hawthorn are attributed to several phytochemicals, including proanthocyanidins and quercetin. 

He Shou Wu

He shou wu (Polygonum multiflorum) is a Chinese herb with a rich history of use for supporting the cardiovascular system. It contains a phytochemical called 2,3,5,4′-Tetrahydroxystilbene-2-Oβ-D-glucoside or TSG for short. TSG inhibits atherosclerosis, the deposition of fatty plaques on the inner walls of blood vessels, by regulating lipid levels in the blood. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects within blood vessels. (9) This herb also improves glucose metabolism and insulin resistance, addressing two critical underlying causes of cardiovascular disease. (10)

L-citrulline

L-citrulline is a neutral alpha-amino acid created by enzymes in the mitochondria that increases levels of L-arginine, another amino acid and precursor to nitric oxide. (11) Oral L-arginine supplementation is ineffective mainly due to the degradation of the amino acid in the gastrointestinal tract and liver. L-citrulline bypasses the absorption constraints posed by the gut and liver and consistently demonstrates an ability to raise plasma and tissue levels of L-arginine and NO. L-citrulline supports healthy blood pressure (12) and improves peripheral blood flow and exercise performance through its effects on NO synthesis. (13)

Dan Shen

Dan Shen, also known as red sage or Salvia miltiorrhiza, is a time-honored botanical used in TCM to treat blood stasis or “stagnant” blood. It is used in TCM to address factors that drive cardiovascular dysfunction, including LDL cholesterol oxidation, foam cell formation, platelet aggregation, and cellular senescence of endothelial cells. (14)

Notoginseng

Panax notoginseng, also known simply as “Notoginseng,” is a revered tonic used in TCM to aid blood circulation and support longevity. Research shows that Notoginseng supports microcirculation, the circulation of blood in the smallest blood vessels of the body. It also inhibits chronic cellular senescence, the process by which previously normal cells transform into “zombie cells,” secreting an array of inflammatory substances that damage nearby tissues. (15) Cellular senescence damages the lining of blood vessels, contributing to the progression of cardiovascular disease, so inhibiting chronic cellular senescence is imperative. (16) Notoginseng saponins, phytochemicals that develop a foamy consistency when mixed with water, reduce white blood cell adhesion in venules, improving blood flow through these tiny veins. (17)

Myrrh Resin

Myrrh resin is a sticky, fragrant substance derived from the Commiphora mukul tree native to India. In TCM, myrrh resin is believed to vitalize and disperse static blood. Research indicates that myrrh protects the cardiovascular system from inflammation-induced damage by activating the Nrf2 antioxidant system and regulating lipid levels in the bloodstream. (18, 19)

Boswellia Resin

Boswellia resin, the fragrant resin from the Boswellia serrata tree, has been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat chronic inflammatory illnesses for millennia. In traditional herbal medicine, Boswellia resin is often combined with myrrh resin to improve blood circulation. (20) Β-boswellic acid, a phytochemical found in Boswellia, supports the lining of blood vessels, creating a functional circulatory system. (21) Boswellia also supports healthy blood glucose and lipid levels, creating a biochemical environment inside blood vessels that is more conducive to cardiovascular health. (22)

Takeaway

It’s never too early or too late to support circulatory system function and cardiovascular health. With the above list, there are plenty of things you can do starting today that have a positive impact on these systems. Proactive measures like these can have a major impact on the quality of your health for years to come. You’ve got this!

 

References

  1. Mesquita TRR et al. Cardioprotective action of Ginkgo biloba extract against sustained β-adrenergic stimulation occurs via activation of M2/NO pathway. Front Pharmacol. 2017; 8: 220.
  2. Mashayekh A et al. Effects of Ginkgo biloba on cerebral blood flow assessed by quantitative MR perfusion imaging: a pilot study. Neuroradiology. 2011; 53(3): 185-191.
  3. Wu M et al. Roles and mechanisms of Hawthorn and its extracts on atherosclerosis: A review. Front Pharmacol. 2020; 11: 118.
  4. Li W et al. 2,3,5,4’‑Tetrahydroxystilbene‑2‑O‑β‑D‑glucoside inhibits septic serum‑induced inflammatory injury via interfering with the ROS‑MAPK‑NF‑κB signaling pathway in pulmonary aortic endothelial cells. Front Pharmacol. 2020; 11: 118.
  5. Gu W et al. Water extract from processed Polygonum multiflorum modulate gut microbiota and glucose metabolism on insulin resistant rats. BMC Complement Med Ther. 2020; 20(1): 107.
  6. Allerton TD et al. l-Citrulline supplementation: Impact on cardiometabolic health. Nutrients. 2018; 10(7): 921.
  7. Khalaf D et al. The effects of oral l-arginine and l-citrulline supplementation on blood pressure. Nutrients. 2019; 11(7): 1679.
  8. Allerton TD et al. l-Citrulline supplementation: Impact on cardiometabolic health. Nutrients. 2018; 10(7): 921.
  9. Li ZM et al. Salvia miltiorrhizaBurge (Danshen): a golden herbal medicine in cardiovascular therapeutics. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica. 2018; 39: 802-824.
  10. Zhao H et al. Therapeutic potential and cellular mechanisms of Panax Notoginseng on prevention of aging and cell senescence-associated diseases. Aging Dis. 2017; 8(6): 721-739.
  11. Ramirez R et al. Endothelial senescence and the chronic vascular diseases: Challenges and therapeutic opportunities in atherosclerosis. J Pers Med. 2022; 12(2): 215.
  12. Sun K et al. Effect of Panax notoginseng saponins on lipopolysaccharide-induced adhesion of leukocytes in rat mesenteric venules. Clin Hemorheol Microcirc. 2006; 34(1-2): 103-108.
  13. Younis NS et al. Protective effects of myrrh essential oil on isoproterenol-induced myocardial infarction in rats through antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, Nrf2/HO-1 and apoptotic pathways. J Ethnopharmacol. 2021; 270: 113793.
  14. Yu BZ et al. Effect of guggulsterone and cembranoids of Commiphora mukul on pancreatic phospholipase A(2): role in hypocholesterolemia. J Nat Prod. 2009; 72(1): 24-28.
  15. Cao B et al. Seeing the unseen of the combination of two natural resins, frankincense and myrrh: Changes in chemical constituents and pharmacological activities. Molecules. 2019; 24(17): 3076.
  16. Wang M et al. Pretreatment with β-boswellic acid improves blood stasis induced endothelial dysfunction: Role of eNOS activation. Sci Rep. 2015; 5: 15357.
  17. Wang M et al. Pretreatment with β-boswellic acid improves blood stasis induced endothelial dysfunction: Role of eNOS activation. Sci Rep. 5: 15357.
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