When working properly, your circulatory system carries blood to every cell in your body, nourishing them and keeping them strong. Good circulation is also essential to moving waste products out of the body. Unfortunately, when things go wrong with the circulatory system, your organs and tissues are robbed of the oxygen and nutrients they need, and this leads to a wide range of symptoms.
There are many signs of poor circulation, with the most prevalent being coldness or tingling in the hands and feet or swelling in the legs, but constipation can also be a sign of poor circulation. For those who’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, circulatory problems can be a serious concern, leading to extremely slow healing of wounds. Poor circulation often creates a loop of poor health that includes arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, and Raynaud’s disease.
Blood stasis is one of the primary focuses in Chinese medicine and is generally thought to be caused by Qi deficiency, Qi stagnation, and cold in the body. Patients presenting with circulatory system symptoms derive significant benefit from the use of Chinese herbs, acupuncture and other Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments.
Hypertension is a cardiovascular disease whose most common symptom is high blood pressure, and which can lead to stroke, heart attack, arteriosclerosis and renal failure. Western medicine’s response is to suggest lifestyle changes and to prescribe medications that are effective, but which also bring negative side effects including dizziness, headaches, hypotension and decreased sexual function. Acupuncture has proven extremely effective at returning blood pressure to healthy levels and reducing the level of oxidative stress with no local complications or side effects.
With reference to circulation, acupuncture techniques have been shown to stimulate blood vessel dilation and to increase blood flow to the peripheral areas of the body most frequently affected by circulatory problems. One study utilized electron monitoring devices to gauge the extent to which the protocol impacted blood flow, and found “significant elevations in whole body peripheral blood flow and parasympathetic activities.”
For the elderly, acupuncture can relieve the pain of claudication, a condition in which poor circulation leads to leg cramps caused by reduced oxygen and a build-up of lactic acid in the calf muscles. Raynaud’s Disease is another circulatory syndrome in which the hands can constrict and turn purple or blue and numb as a result of spasms in the arteries. The condition often presents in response to either cold or emotional stress and has led to significant negative impacts on patients’ quality of life. Though medications such as Botox, vasodilators and calcium channel blockers have produced largely unsatisfactory responses, Chinese medicine treats the condition as a manifestation of Stagnation of Qi and Blood due to Cold and Dampness in the channels, and the use of acupuncture has resulted in impressive improvements in both the frequency and severity of attacks.
Chinese medicine also can utilize medicinal herbs to bring the body back into balance. Every patient is examined and diagnosed so that their specific symptoms are fully understood. After examination, patients receive their own individually compounded Chinese herbal formula that is unique to their needs and presentation.
When it comes to treating hypertension and high blood pressure, several herbs have been the subjects of numerous studies and have a well-deserved reputation for reducing the symptoms of hypertension. Chinese medicine sometimes views patients with hypertension as experiencing a Liver fire, a liver-yang hyperactivity syndrome, or a phlegm-fluid retention pattern, and offers several foundational formulas that can be successfully modified for the individual patient to control and improve clinical symptoms. This is important not only for the prevention of cardiovascular disease but can also be useful for improving insulin resistance and improving blood viscosity, thus boosting the efficiency and function of the circulatory system.
Diabetes is a serious illness that impacts many organs in the body. It arises from a persistent state of hyperglycemia that can affect the blood vessels and lead to both hypertension and circulatory problems. The deficiencies and disharmony that Chinese medicine sees in diabetes are broken down into multiple categories and patterns. Chinese herbs have been used to treat this condition for thousands of years, and are chosen based on specific functions to address the particular issues and symptoms for which the individual patient seeks relief. A patient experiencing thirst will be prescribed a different formula than one whose main symptom is fatigue. Rather than increase insulin levels, most Chinese herb formulas seem to enhance carbohydrate utilization. These formulas are not meant to replace Western medical treatments, but instead to complement them.
Chinese medicine’s emphasis on proper blood and energy flow has made improved blood circulation one of the most important applications of herbs. When blood flow slows down or gets blocked, it stagnates and this leads to dysfunction. To eliminate blood stasis and address issues such as Raynaud’s Syndrome, herbs such as Chuan Xiong, Yan Hu Suo, Dan Shen and Hong Hua are often chosen to activate the blood and promote circulation based on the patient’s presenting condition.
Other Chinese Medicine Treatments
In addition to acupuncture and Chinese herbs, Traditional Chinese protocols such as cupping, Gua sha, moxibustion and diet adjustments have proven effective at treating circulatory problems.
Whether you are dealing with poor circulation, diabetes, or high blood pressure, Traditional Chinese Medicine can help. Sharon Sherman has been licensed to practice acupuncture and Oriental Medicine since 2001, and holds the highest credential available from both the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine and the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Her knowledge and understanding of its use assure patients of the highest level of care and professionalism.