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Sunday March 7, 2010

Improving blood circulation

Ways to regulate qi and blood to handle poor blood circulation.

THE human body cannot function without blood. Not only is blood responsible for transporting oxygen and nutrients to each of the trillions of cells in the body, it is also responsible for carrying toxins and waste out of the body. Blood also plays a vital role in stabilising body temperature and acidity (pH).

Poor blood circulation can leado various health conditions, from muscle spasms, poor immunity, sluggish memory, lack of stamina, and circulatory disorders such as hypertension, arteriosclerosis, to serious ailments such as heart attack and stroke.

Since its early beginnings, traditional chinese medicinal practice has recognised the importance of blood circulation to overall good health. In this third installation of a four-part series, I’ll share with you the various Chinese medicinal herbs that can improve blood circulation.

Traditional Chinese medicinal prescriptions compose of herbs that treat blood “troubles” and have the effect of regulating qi and blood to treat poor blood circulation.

Although a very common condition, poor blood circulation is wide in scope and complexity. The methods of treating poor blood circulation include enriching the blood and promoting blood circulation to remove blood stasis.

Herbs that improve blood circulation are categorised by four general functions:

Ginseng root is used to help alleviate poor appetite, low sex drive, shortness of breath, cold limbs, and spontaneous sweating.

1. Tonic – These herbs treat deficiency syndromes by serving as a tonic to the vital energy qi, blood, and the yin and yang of the human body.

Qi – ginseng , bighead atractylodes rhizome, astragalus root.

Yin – antler glue, tortoise-plastron glue, glehnia root, ophiopogon root.

Yang – cinnamon bark, eucommia bark, epimedium, cistanche.

2. Enrich the blood – treatment of deficiency of yin and blood, e.g. chinese angelica root, white peony root, prepared rhizome of rehmannia, donkey-hide gelatin.

3. Promote blood circulation – removes blood stasis, e.g. chuanxiong rhizome, red peony root, peach kernel, safflower, matherwort, red sage root, olibanum, myrrh.

4. Activate energy flow in the channels and collaterals – warms the channels, activates collaterals and removes blood stasis, e.g. earth worm, turmeric, cinnamon twig, fangfeng.

Their individual efficacies are as follows:

Ginseng root (Ginseng radix)

Tonic for general weakness, poor appetite, low sex drive, shortness of breath, cold limbs, spontaneous sweating, and premature ageing; improves metabolism; anti-fatigue; enhances internal energy.

Eucommia bark (Eucommiae cortex)

Nourishes kidney and liver; strengthens bones, ligaments, and muscles, especially the back, knees, and ankles; regulates blood pressure; improves virility; confers strength and flexibility to ligaments and tendons.

Epimedium (Epimedii herba)

Strengthens body, bones and joints; calms and relaxes the heart; alleviates waist and muscle pain; is a strong sexual tonic and immune system regulator.

Peony root (Paeoniae radix)

Improves blood circulation; soothes liver; cleanses blood; regulates female hormonal cycle; relieves pain, cramps and spasms anywhere in the body; widely used as an emotion stabiliser.

Rehmannia (Rehmanniae radix)

Nourishes blood qi and strengthens body constitution; cooling and anti-inflammatory; used to treat hot flashes.

Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomi cortex)

Promotes good circulation and internal energy; increases sexual vitality; warms up cold visceral organs; calms the nerves; improves digestive system and stomach inflammation; promotes menstruation and treats headaches and abdominal pains.

Cloves (Caryophylli flos)

Improves oxygen in the blood, increases white cell count; increases heart rate; inhibits bacteria; enhances digestive system and soothes stomach dilatation; stimulates gastric nerves, increases peristalsis and the absorbing of nutrients.

Safflower (Carthami flos)

Invigorates blood circulation, clears clotted blood, promotes menstruation; treats enlargement of the liver and spleen; treats physical injuries (with blood clots) and relieves pain, e.g. from broken bones, dislocated joints and sprains.

Turmeric (Curcumae rhizoma)

Lowers blood lipids; protects heart muscles from injuries caused by lack of oxygen; protects liver from toxins; promotes secretion of bile; promotes flow of menses and relieves pain; anti-inflammatory; promotes metabolism of alcohol; helps intestinal peristalsis (intestinal movements that help evacuation).

Fangfeng (Saposhnikoviae radix)

Improves diaphoresis (excessive and unpredictable sweating); relieves heatiness; treats blurry vision, stiff neck and back pains, windchills, joint and muscle pain, spastic and tight limbs, and tetanus

Caution: The herbs mentioned above are often prescribed in various combinations for better efficacy and to cater to individual health conditions. The formation of a prescription is neither simply to pile up herbs with similar functions and effect nor “to treat the head when the head aches and to treat the foot when the foot hurts”. Always consult a qualified Chinese medicinal practitioner on your condition before consuming medicinal herbs.

Lim Sin Hoe is a Chinese medicinal practitioner. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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