Poor circulation can manifest as cold fingers and toes, frequent bruising, infection, numbness in the joints and digits, and pain. In the extreme, it can lead to claudication, gangrene, amputation, blindness, senility, heart attack, and stroke.


What is Poor Circulation?

From Modern Western Medicine

Poor circulation—or insufficient blood to the organs, tissues, and cells—can be caused from a high-fat diet, high-cholesterol diet, atherosclerosis, cigarette smoking, long periods of standing or sitting, lack of exercise, poor posture, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, prolonged muscle tension, injury, inflammation, and ill-fitting shoes or clothing. (See also chapters on Atherosclerosis, Blood Pressure, Diabetes, and Heart Disease.)


From Traditional Medicine

Poor circulation is caused by stagnant blood, and inadequate qi in the blood, heart, spleen, and muscles. The blood itself may be filled with toxins, such as, such as fat and cholesterol, which prevent the blood from flowing adequately to cells via tiny capillaries. According to the Chinese, all circulation is dependent upon a healthy spleen, which provides qi to the blood and its vessels. The spleen is also responsible for maintaining the blood and its courses; all internal bleeding and stagnation of the blood is the result of a weak and overburdened spleen. Finally, the spleen maintains the elasticity of blood vessels, which sustain diastolic pressure throughout the system. Therefore, traditional Chinese medicine treats the spleen as well as the heart, when healing all circulatory problems.



General Recommendations

  • See Part IV for remedies to heal the heart and spleen.
  • Significantly reduce fat, cholesterol, and refined foods from the diet.
  • Increase exercise.
  • Maintain warmth.


Foods to Eat

These foods will increase circulation:

  • Beets
  • Buckwheat
  • Citrus peel
  • Rye
  • Black soybeans
  • Lentils
  • Sardines
  • Soybeans
  • Pungent foods. These foods will move energy upward and outward to the periphery of the body. Warming pungents are more appropriate for people with cold conditions and may aggravate those already warm. Warming pungents include spearmint, rosemary, scallions, garlic, all onion family members, cloves, cinnamon bark and branch, fennel, anise, cayenne, dill, mustard greens, horseradish, basil, nutmeg.

Cooling pungents are more appropriate for warm conditions and may aggravate those who are already cold. They include peppermint, marjoram, elder flowers, white pepper, and radish. Neutral pungents are taro, turnip, and kohlrabi.

Warm conditions are marked by aversion to heat, feeling hot, flushed face, bloodshot eyes, deep red tongue and possible yellow coating, and great thirst—can also include signs of deficit yin such as tidal fevers, hot palms and soles, fresh red cheeks and tongue, frequent light thirst and night sweats.

Foods to Avoid

  • Cold foods
  • Sweets
  • Meat
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Ice cream


Herbs to Treat Circulation Problems

  • Michael Tierra’s Planetary Herbs Formula 42 (for yin, cold conditions) promotes circulation, digestion, and warms the whole body; dose is 1/8 – ¼ tsp., one to three times daily
  • Tree peony promotes blood circulation and helps dissolve masses; dose is 6 – 12 g per day
  • Goldenseal sustains circulation and is useful where extremities are cold and lips bluish. To strengthen weakened condition, take with 1 part each capsicum, skullcap to 1 part goldenseal. Dose is 10 – 30 grains powder; tincture: follow directions on bottle.


Chinese Medicine

See above, all of which is from Chinese medicine.


  • Vitamin E: 60 – 300 IU daily



  • Walk


See also …

  • Claudication
  • Diabetes
  • Blood Pressure