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Hot Aches – How to improve blood circulation

23 January 2018

How to improve blood circulation, and prevent the hot aches, whilst hanging on a belay when winter climbing


Most of us who climb in winter have experienced the “hot aches”.  It brings hardy grown men (and women), to a wincing crumbling mess.  For those few minutes, whilst the blood flows back to their extremities.


The actual definition of hot aches is: it is a very painful physical reaction to the cold, most often felt in the hands or feet. When exposed to the cold, blood stops flowing normally to the extremities. Later once you warm up, the blood begins to flow again; this causes the pain known as the hot aches.


I suffer from raynaud’s, which is a condition where as a result of poor circulation a small temperature change can cause the extremities to feel numb or cold very quickly.  As I love winter climbing, this had always been an issue.  Although it didn’t stop me from going, winter climbing generally felt like type 2 fun as a result.  Until the day I met an instructor called “Spike”, up in Scotland.


When out in winter, he always carries a flask with him with hot Ribena, and the magic ingredient is… fresh pieces of ginger in the Ribena.  My initial thought was “Bullsh*t”.  But it intrigued me.  So I tried it, and low and behold, I have never had hot aches since.  Either it works, or it is psychosomatic.  But eh, it works for me.


So after some research, I found the following:


Ginger root – is a vasodilator, ginger opens up blood vessels and allows more blood to pass through.  A vasodilator refers to an ingredient that helps the widening of the blood vessels, in particular the large veins, large arteries, and smaller arterioles.


So it is true.  It does work.  So here is what you do:


The night before you go out in the hills, cut up an inch (2.5cm for you metrics out there), into smaller bits (make sure you peel it), place in your thermos, add some Ribena (I’m sure you can use other concentrated juices), leave to stew overnight (very important you do this), then when you get up in the morning add the hot water, and hey presto, you have yourself a really nice drink, with the added benefit of no more hot aches.


Here is a list of other herbs that help with the circulatory system:


  • Green tea – has great medicinal value and helps to improve the function of the cells that line the capillaries.
  • Ginkgo biloba – supplements containing Ginkgo biloba are amongst the most popular in our culture today. The herb is popular for some reasons including its ability to improve blood circulation by dilating blood vessels and making platelets less sticky.
  • Bilberry – can improve blood circulation due to its blood-thinning ability.
  • Parsley – ability to act as a natural vasodilator and open up the blood’s passageways through the body.
  • Willow bark – contains a chemical, salicin, similar to aspirin and has been used since 400 B.C. to treat pain and inflammation. Working like aspirin, willow bark thins the blood and promotes healthy blood circulation.
  • Cayenne pepper – The primary medicinal properties of cayenne come from a chemical called capsaicin. This ingredient is what gives peppers their powerful heat. Cayenne is still popular today and used to remedy some conditions including chronic pain, sore throat, headaches, toothaches and poor circulation.
  • Horse chestnuts – according to the US National Library of Medicine, horse chestnut can be deadly if eaten raw. However, when it is safely processed, it is useful in the treatment of circulation insufficiency.
  • Hawthorne – is a popular ingredient in many supplements, and has been found to help the circulation system by regulating heart rhythm and improving blood flow from the heart. Also, this herb also improves the condition of heart muscles so that they can perform regular contractions.
  • Garlic – promotes blood circulation, lowers blood pressure and prevents blood platelet aggregation. It is effective in preventing plaque buildup in the arteries and reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.



I have not tried any of the other suggested herbs. If the suggestion of hot Ribena and ginger root does not help you with the hot aches, I wouldn’t suggest using all of the above ingredients in one concoction, but if you are desperate, I guess one may be willing to try anything.

If you are keen to book onto one of our winter courses, please click here, and look at what we have available.  Otherwise get in touch.