Good blood flow throughout the body provides oxygen and essential nutrients to cells, tissues and organs.
Poor blood flow may give rise to many symptoms including:
- numb, tingling, or cold hands and feet
- swollen belly, legs, ankles, or feet
- digestive problems
- weakness muscle cramping or joint pain
- paler or blueish skin
- slow healing time
- erectile chest dysfunction
- pain discomfort or lightheadedness
Taking drugs that improve blood flow can help manage conditions that cause poor circulation. Nonetheless, other vitamins and supplements may also contribute to increased circulation or a healthy blood flow.
Learn about them in this post, and what the research says.
Vitamins and blood flow supplements
While there is no solid scientific evidence to support their use, several preliminary studies and research papers indicate that some vitamins and supplements can improve blood flow.
Examples might include:
Vitamin B-3, or niacin, may help in several ways to improve blood flow. In example, it can:
- increase blood vessel function
- decrease blood levels of bad cholesterol
- decrease inflammation inside blood vessels
Inflammation in the blood vessels can lead to conditions such as atherosclerosis that can damage or widen them.
Vitamin B-3 can help to lower cholesterol levels and triglycerides, as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) points out. It does not however reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke directly.
Not taking too much vitamin B-3 is essential, as it can cause adverse effects. For adults the upper limit is 35 milligrams (mg) per day.
Vitamin B-3 is available in capsules and as a powder in drugstores.
The body needs iron to produce hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in the blood. The body also requires iron to produce myoglobin, a protein that brings oxygen to the muscles from the lungs.
The body also uses iron to build connective tissues, including those in the blood vessels that allow blood pressure to be controlled.
More than 45 mg of iron per day should never be consumed by adults. Getting too much iron can lead to severe side effects including vomiting and fainting. Taking a very high dose can result in a coma and may even endanger life.
In some meats and nuts, L-arginine is a semi-essential amino acid. It helps to stimulate nitric oxide release, a compound that relaxes the smooth muscles lining the walls of the blood vessel.
The author of a 2016 research found some evidence to lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure by using L-arginine supplements, but he noted that the research was small and the evidence was poor.
It may be important to consume L-arginine alongside B vitamins for order to obtain benefits from blood flow. Certain research suggests that without sufficient levels of folic acid and vitamins B-6 and B-12, L-arginine can not promote the release of nitric oxide.
The same study looked at 80 people with low to moderately high blood pressure, aged 40–65. Participants took 2.4 grams (g) of l-arginine, 3 mg of B-6 vitamin, 0.4 mg folic acid, and 2 micrograms of B-12 vitamin.
Those taking the supplements experienced significant changes in the quality of the blood vessels and a decrease in blood pressure relative to those taking a placebo after 3 months.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are omega-3 fatty acids which trigger nitric oxide releases. Nitric oxide loosens the blood vessels and increases the flow of blood.
In a 2014 report, healthy men who consumed 2,2 g of EPA and 1,4 g of DHA once daily for 4 weeks in a fish oil supplement reported increased blood flow to their legs after exercise.
However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is recommending that people take not more than 3 g of combined EPA and DHA per day, both from dietary sources and supplements.
compounds called capsaicinoids, which are present in some hot peppers, can improve blood flow because they:
- reduce free radical damage and
- increase inflammation vascular health
- lower blood pressure
- lower cholesterol levels
- decrease inflammatory chemicals inside the blood vessels
Most people take capsaicin as a substitute, but it is also found in many peppers, chili peppers and cayenne peppers in particular.
People should be aware that capsaicin, even in small doses, can cause alarming side effects. These include:
- Stomach pain
- Burning sensation
Antioxidants called flavonoids can help to reduce cardiovascular incident risk.
In some in vitro studies, a particularly strong flavonoid called quercetin— which is found in onions— had the ability to improve atherosclerosis-related blood vessel wall dysfunction, one of the leading causes of heart attack.
In a small study in 2013, 23 healthy men who once daily ate 4.3 g of onion extract (51 mg of quercetin) for 30 days reported increased blood vessel widening after meals.
Red beetroot powder contains nitrates which are compounds that the body transforms into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps open the blood vessels and increase the amount of blood they can contain.
In a small 2017 study of seven women and five men aged 57–71, those consuming 140 milliliters of nitrate-rich beetroot juice had significantly reduced blood pressure and inflammation of the blood vessels 3 hours later relative to those drinking placebo.
Cinnamon produces cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid, two compounds that, by producing nitric oxide and reducing inflammation, can relax the blood vessels.
Preliminary research has suggested that the consumption of cinnamon can help to reduce the blood pressure from systolic and diastolic.
However, the NIH reports that studies have not shown that cinnamon can help treat any health condition.
Garlic contains powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, such as allicin, which may help the blood vessels relax and widen.
People with coronary artery disease ate either garlic powder or a placebo twice daily for 3 months in a 2017 randomized, placebo-controlled trial.
Compared with a placebo, the garlic powder increased blood flow in the upper arm. The researchers did not find the results statistically significant however. More research is needed to decide whether garlic is beneficial for blood flow.
curcumin is a naturally occurring phenol, an antioxidant form present in the turmeric spice.
In a study in 2017, 39 healthy, middle-aged and older adults ate either 2,000 mg of curcumin per day, or 12 weeks of placebo.
Those who had curcumin had an improvement in the functioning of blood vessel structures.
Are they working?
Eating a diet rich in vitamins is essential for health of the blood vessels and the cardiovascular system. That means getting the amount of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients recommended daily contributes to good blood flow.
However, in most cases, there is not enough research to know exactly how particular vitamins and supplements affect blood flow.
Everyone also responds differently to nutrients, in particular based on factors such as underlying health conditions, age and lifestyle habits.
It’s crucial to note that supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so people should only buy reputable brands.
Some other Blood Flow Treatments
Many lifestyle adjustments can help improve blood flow, including:
- regularly exercising
- consuming a healthy balanced diet
- staying hydrated
- reduce or manage stress
- obtaining a gentle massage
- stop smoking
Many vitamins, minerals, and other supplements can help boost blood flow.
However, not much research suggests any particular vitamin or supplement may directly improve blood flow. Having said that, consuming a healthy array of nutrients is vital to overall health.
Vitamins may not be an appropriate treatment option for people suffering from circulation problems. Those individuals should discuss medical options with a doctor.
Some supplements may interact with other medicines, or aggravate certain conditions. Always talk to a doctor before trying on blood flow problems with supplements or vitamins.