What herbs or vitamins or food makes more blood flow to the brain?
March 18, 2009 7:31 AM   Subscribe

What herbs or vitamins or food will make more blood flow into my brain?

I am looking for any herb, vitamin, food, or anything else that will help make more blood flow to my brain. I know exercise is great for that as well. Any ideas from you would be great, but I'm not looking for any pill or anything a doctor would prescibe. I'm interested in something more natural and that I can do on my own. Thank you so much!!

posted by lynnie-the-pooh to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I could be totally wrong, but doesn't caffeine make blood flow to your brain?
posted by trotter at 7:47 AM on March 18, 2009

Cardiovascular exercise probably beats all. Maybe ginkgo biloba; piracetam could help.
posted by Theloupgarou at 8:01 AM on March 18, 2009

It might help if you can tell us why you want to increase the bloodflow to your brain. Do you suspect that it isn't getting enough energy/oxygen/nutrients? What symptoms or diagnosis are making you think this?

As you might imagine, the bloodflow to our brains is pretty tightly controlled and given a high priority by our circulatory systems. I'd be very cautious of playing around with that system without advice from your doctor. With that said, and remembering that I don't have medical training of any kind:

In the very short term, you can take a few pages from the basic treatment for shock:
1) Try to keep your head lowered whenever possible. Recline your chair, lie flat (maybe raise your legs) - this will mean your heart can get blood to your head more easily, without fighting gravity so hard. Don't be tempted to go upside down, at least not for too long, as our heads aren't really set up to deal with the added pressure of the blood pooling there. I don't think it can do any lasting harm, but you'll probably get a headache after a while.
2) Breathing air with increased oxygen levels should increase the partial pressure of oxygen being delivered to your brain. Low oxygen can cause grogginess, headaches, etc. If you're worried about fainting, it's more likely to be low blood pressure than low oxygen saturation.
3) Drink plenty of fluids - staying properly hydrated can help to keep your blood pressure healthily high.

In the long term, anything that improves your circulation should help. So get plenty of exercise, which should gradually make your cardiovascular and pulmonary systems (heart, veins and lungs) all work more efficiently.
posted by metaBugs at 8:22 AM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think fish oil supplements will do this. I believe I can feel the extra increment in blood pressure to my head when I take a lot of them over the course of a few days.
posted by jamjam at 8:47 AM on March 18, 2009

Gotu kola.
posted by watercarrier at 9:36 AM on March 18, 2009

posted by hortense at 9:40 AM on March 18, 2009

I think this is a little bit like asking if we can help you balance your humors. If there's really an issue with blood flow to the brain, you'd start to suffer some serious medical consequences, and probably pretty quickly.

Why is it that you want to "make more blood flow into [your] brain?" If you tell us what your goal is, maybe we can offer some more helpful suggestions.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:41 AM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Why not get your blood checked and make sure you aren't experiencing any vitamin or mineral deficiencies? If you need iron or magnesium-- or something as basic as more salt/potassium--it's an easy fix. Daily exercise, a nice high-powered B complex, and extra niacin works for me.

Niacin is especially interesting: once it enters your system, your capillaries expand and are able to carry more blood. A capillary that was only letting one blood cell at a time pass will now carry two or three at a time. The end result is that circulation is improved considerably.

Oh, and you might want to invest in a vibrator and use it regularly. Orgasm is wonderful for your circulation--and the better your circulation, the better your orgasms. In my case, fuller lips, brighter eyes, and rosy cheeks are always a welcome cosmetic improvement too. Win-win!
posted by aquafortis at 9:48 AM on March 18, 2009

What are you trying to get into your brain? This question really makes no sense.

If you want to get a little more tryptophan in there, check out the good explanation of "turkey meat and drowsiness"
posted by tiburon at 10:44 AM on March 18, 2009

I know this is a borderline answer, but regular aerobic exercise is definitely the best fix. NYT on how it makes you smarter.
posted by grobstein at 11:05 AM on March 18, 2009

The absolutely surest way to get more blood flowing to your head is by ingesting the gotu kola and by doing yogic shoulderstands. But of course you need to be doing that with supervision and starting slowing if you're just starting out. Check out this vid for beginner's.
posted by watercarrier at 11:13 AM on March 18, 2009

Yes, could you clarify? When you ask how to increase blood flow to your brain are you really asking how to increase bloodflow? Or are you using that to mean improved memory, alertness, mental clarity, etc?
posted by Justinian at 11:51 AM on March 18, 2009

I could be totally wrong, but doesn't caffeine make blood flow to your brain?

Caffeine does the exact opposite. It suppresses the effects of adenosine, which is a vasodilator. When you ingest caffeine regularly, the blood vessels of your brain dilate normally despite the antagonist effect of caffeine on adenosine receptors (tolerance adaptation). If you then go cold turkey on caffeine, the blood vessels in your brain dilate excessively, which is what causes the headaches and nausea.
posted by randomstriker at 1:05 PM on March 18, 2009

I second the "B vitamin complex" pill supplements. Adding brewer's yeast--available in flakes at many whole foods stores--is a natural way to get this.
posted by ragtimepiano at 1:17 PM on March 18, 2009

The only commonly used "nootropic" that matches what you're talking about that I am aware of is vinpocetine. It's a semi-synthetic analog of a derivative in the Vinca Minor plant, which contains vincamine. In the dog and rat studies I've read on it, it significantly increases the dilation of the cerebral artery to the tune of 30-50%.

I've used this product before, I quite enjoy the mental effects.

Most of the other brain enhancing drugs, including ginkgo and piracetam, generally act by increasing certain neurotransmitters, by either inhibiting the enzyme that degrades the specific neurotramitter (as in the case of say huperzine A, which inhibits the action of acetylcholinerase), or by increasing the synthesis of th neurotransmitter by providing a rate limited substrate (such as, how alpha-glycerol phosphaditylcholine increases acetylcholine production).
posted by zentrification at 4:31 PM on March 18, 2009

Ethanol is a vasodilator. So are nicotine and THC.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:45 PM on March 18, 2009

A bit of a caveat to be careful/beware of taking advice on trying extra doses of vitamins/minerals. I took niacin without knowing of the 'niacin flush' effect that might come with it - found out I was fine after putting in a call to my HMO's advice hotline followed by an after hours call to my doctor (who luckily asked if I'd taken niacin), but quite scary for the half-hour or so when I was watching my skin get super warm and turn bright red & worrying if I had some food poisoning or toxic shock and should go immediately to the ER.
posted by citron at 8:03 PM on March 18, 2009

being interested in naturopathic medications myself, I do have to point out that many natural herbs and supplements are, still effectively drugs. They've just been synthesised by plants, for purposes of the plant's own.

For example, the all natural leaves of St John's wort, or the active extract (Hypericin & Hyperforin), have been shown in clinical studies to be good for depression. They also have the usual list of side-effects and contra-indications of any other medication.
Hypericin causes photosensitivity, meaning you'll burn (not tan) more easily in the sun, and there are a long list of medications you should not take it with - it interferes with many common contraceptive pills, which most people are unaware of.
And of course, morphine quite natural.

So, keeping the idea in mind that effective natural herbs are often just easier to get hold of, mild drugs:

Having tried it, Ginko Biloba really does seem to observably increase circulation to my extremities, and subjectively, it does increase my attention. Studies appear to be backing this up. I have had no problems using it, just keep in mind the side effects, just in case.
(One difference between naturopathic listings and medical listings - Medical listings list their side-effects the way naturopathic listings tend to list the benefits, ie anything that might even slightly be related or have been affected, or may just be a coincidence. )

If I just explained to my granny how to suck eggs, my apologies.
posted by Elysum at 10:48 PM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

The article on Gingkos Elysum links is one of the best written and intrinsically interesting on any subject I've ever read at Wikipedia.

Among many, many interesting tidbits:

Extreme examples of the Ginkgo's tenacity may be seen in Hiroshima, Japan, where four trees growing between 1–2 km from the 1945 atom bomb explosion were among the few living things in the area to survive the blast (photos and details). While almost all other plants (and animals) in the area were destroyed, the ginkgos, though charred, survived and were soon healthy again. The trees are alive to this day.
A study conducted in 2003 by the Department of Dermatology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India concluded that Ginkgo is an effective treatment for arresting the development of vitiligo[3].

posted by jamjam at 9:05 AM on March 20, 2009

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