Capillaries are small blood vessels that transport nutrients throughout our bodies and help carry out waste. The strength of the capillary walls is an important factor in how well the capillaries perform their functions. You can strengthen capillary walls with regular exercise, a low-fat and low-fiber diet and potentially by taking certain herbs. Before using any herbs for these purposes, keep in mind, the FDA does not approve or regulate herbs for medicinal use. If you have concerns about your circulation and the strength of your capillary walls, consult with your doctor at once.
Many herbs contain flavonoids, which strengthen capillary walls and assist the overall circulation of blood throughout the body and brain. Flavonoids reduce permeability and promote elasticity of capillaries and blood vessels and attack cell-destroying free radicals in the system. Herbs containing large concentrations of flavonoids include bilberry, calendula, German chamomile, ginkgo biloba and hawthorn.
Bilberry contains a type of antioxidant called anthocyanosides, which may help strengthen capillary walls and blood vessels. They may also increase red blood cell strength, flexibility and production, helping them to carry oxygen more effectively throughout the capillaries. Other purported bilberry benefits include lowering blood pressure and opening blood vessels. Get your doctor's OK before using bilberry.
Ginkgo leaf contains more than 26 known active principles that assist the circulatory system on a number of levels, among them facilitating strong and flexible blood vessel walls, including capillaries, veins and arteries. This reduces the risk of blood clots, encourages red and white blood cell profusion, and has a tonic effect on the entire cardiovascular system. Antioxidants in ginkgo may help thin the blood within arterial linings, encouraging elasticity and thwarting plaque forming from arteriosclerosis. Ask your doctor if ginkgo biloba would be suitable for your condition.
Grape-seed extract contains an antioxidant called proanthocyanidins, or OPCs, which promote blood vessel strength and integrity. OPCs are more effective than are vitamin C and E at building and strengthening cell walls, including those of the capillaries and other blood vessels. They normalize activity in the circulatory system, increasing blood flow throughout the body, and bind to collagen fibers, thereby increasing blood vessel flexibility. They also inhibit two enzymes, collagenase and elastase, which break down connective body tissue. Check with your doctor before using grape-seed extract to ensure your safety.
Also known as Aesculus hippocastanum, horse chestnut may reduce permeability of capillary walls, helping to prevent radiation absorption and steeling capillaries against damage, among other benefits. It strengthens capillary walls by producing a compound called aescin, which seals "leaks" in capillary walls. It is widely prescribed in Germany for a condition of weakened capillary walls called chronic venous insufficiency, or CVI. Use only prepared horse chestnut extracts and topical ointments, as the herb itself could be toxic. Talk to your physician before using horse chestnut to treat any condition.
- "Analytical Biochemistry"; Capillary Electrophoresis of Highly Sulfated Flavonoids; Mandakini Dantuluri, et al.; August 2004
- Vanderbilt University; Ginkgo Biloba; Amy Brownlee
- University of Texas at EL Paso Herbal Safety; "Ginkgo Monograph"; Armando González Stuart, Ph.D.; March 2005
- "The Herb Companion"; Treat Varicose Veins Naturally; Terri Merriken; January-February 2000
- NYU Langone Medical Center; Easy Bruising; 2011