Do you know where your blood goes?
Do you know what it is meant to be doing whilst meandering around the body?
Do you know how it changes as it circulates?
My littlest brother, being informed that we were half Scottish and half English, decided that his red blood was English and the blue blood he could see in his veins was Scottish. (He married a Welsh woman – goodness knows how he’ll explain it all to their baby…)
Blood flowing from the lungs, where it has absorbed oxygen, is pumped via the heart around the body through arteries. These arteries are the motorways and A roads of the circulatory system. They divide up into smaller arteries, which are more like the B roads and which divide further into tiny capillaries that resemble the narrow country lanes that delve into the depths of the countryside (and usually contain a stray sheep or two that it’s impossible to get past when in a hurry). It is these capillaries that carry oxygenated blood to the tissues and organs, as they are able to penetrate into the furthest flung areas.
Meanwhile, capillaries carry nutrients that are absorbed from the intestinal tract into the main bloodstream, from whence they can be delivered to the organs and tissues that need them. Blood also passes through the liver, where it is filtered and cleansed.
Once the nutrients and oxygen contained in the blood have been delivered, the blood drains into small veins which combine into bigger veins and eventually returns to the heart and lungs to offload carbon dioxide and collect more oxygen. One circuit completed. And it’s no mean feat; there are many miles of blood vessels spread throughout our bodies. Your blood is doing constant marathons.
The veins, by the way, look as if they hold blue blood because it is deoxygenated (the oxygen has been removed) and it is the oxygen that gives the blood its bright red colour.
The prime mover in all this is the heart, which creates the pumping action that initiates the whole process. The heart beat forcefully pushes the blood out of the heart into the arteries, and it is the power of this beat that sends the blood dancing through all the highways and byways. If the heartbeat is weak or sluggish, the tiniest wee lanes will remain untravelled, i.e. your extremities won’t get deliveries of oxygen or nutrients. If the arteries start to become furred up with deposits of cholesterol, the blood won’t be able to flow smoothly (like the traffic trying to squeeze past the sheep in the lanes!) and the blood with its supplies of oxygen will arrive at its destinations in a haphazard fashion. The same problem occurs if the arteries start to harden.
What can we do to have a healthy circulatory system?
- Don’t smoke! (As if you would…) And don’t hang around people who do – second hand smoke is also bad for you.
- Take vitamin E to keep the arteries supple.
- Eat those fresh vegetables and fruit that supply you with antioxidants – very good for your heart.
- Eat fish instead of red meat – much better for your heart.
- Exercise – well it’s obvious, but even gentle exercise such as a brisk walk can pep up your circulatory system and encourage your heart to beat strongly.
Herbs to Help
Use Ginger in your food, as a tea or as a tincture. It peps up the circulation and the Chinese use it as a blood tonic, giving a touch more ‘fire’ to your blood. It is easy to use because it is not contraindicated with other medications, can be used as a food, and is good to taste – add ginger to hot water, lemon and honey to stave off a winter cold.
Use Ginkgo biloba if the problem is more serious. It improves the delivery of blood through the arteries, down to the extremities. It’s slightly trickier to use than Ginger as it is contraindicated with blood thinning medication such as Aspirin and Warfarin.
Crataegus (Hawthorn) is a lovely gentle herb to use for the heart, improving the force of the heartbeat and regulating blood pressure. It takes between two and six months to show its effect, and this slow action makes it safe to use even with blood pressure medication, although you must inform your doctor that you are taking it so that you can be regularly monitored as your blood pressure rebalances. Several studies have shown that Crataegus improves the amount of exercise patients with chronic stable heart failure could do, over a three to four month treatment period. Once the heart is working more effectively, the rest of the circulatory system will pick up. Magnesium is a good mineral to use for the heart. Alongside Crataegus and vitamin E, it safeguards the suppleness of the arteries.
Just think of all those miles your blood is doing every day. Your circulatory system really deserves some support!