If you're a nine-to-fiver working in an office, or engaged in art projects that require you to sit for long stretches at a time, you may notice a pins-and-needles sensation in your legs. If the circulation is even more limited, it might feel numb. Focus on improving circulation in your entire body and your legs will follow suit. If exercise isn't enough, supplements are available that are safe and effective at increasing your body's blood flow.
Cayenne Pepper Pills
Cayenne pepper is made from red hot chili peppers. No, not the band. The pepper has been used as food and medicine by Native Americans for at least 9,000 years and contains vitamins A and C. Capsaicin, the substance that gives cayenne pepper its spicy taste, has traditionally been used for pain relief, appetite stimulation, digestive problems and poor circulation. The University of Maryland Medical Center warns that the circulatory benefits of cayenne are not guaranteed. Its effectiveness is still under investigation.
The ginkgo biloba leaf comes from the world's oldest living species of tree and has become one of the most studied herbs ever. Its popularity comes from its use as a memory enhancer, but studies have shown conflicting results. Lab studies regarding circulation have been more promising. Ginkgo has been shown to dilate blood vessels and reduce the stickiness of blood platelets, resulting in better blood flow. The University of Maryland recommends buying the ginkgo extract over other forms. It is highly concentrated and therefore more effective.
Nattokinase -- natto for short -- originates from a Japanese samurai recipe 1,000 years ago and is made from fermented soy beans. Tests in 1980 found natto to have the power to reduce blood clots. Even if your blood flow isn't that bad, natto will improve circulation, preventing cold hands and feet, reducing leg pain and cramps and decreasing varicose veins. If brain-fog accompanies your circulatory issue, natto has been shown to relieve that as well. Natto can be taken by eating the food -- it supposedly stinks badly -- or by taking a supplement containing nattokinase enzymes.
Vitamins C and E
R.M. Solonen and colleagues from the University of Finland published a study in a 2003 issue of the medical journal Circulation. They gave vitamins C and E supplements to participants between the ages of 45 and 69 with high cholesterol. The participants were retested after six years, and those who were given supplements had a 25 percent reduction in the progression of plaque buildup around the arteries compared to the control group that was not given supplements. The treatment was especially effective with patients who had low vitamin C and E diets.
Matthew Demers is a certified personal trainer based in Windsor, Canada. He is also the co-founder of YourSpace Fitness.