Vitamins and Supplements That Can Cause Bruising in Your Skin

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

 If Mother Nature wanted us to take supplements, she would have given us trees with the pill bottles hanging from the branches!…Well… she didn’t!

Definition of bruises:

Medically known as contusions, bruises are red, purple or black colored marks that develop under the skin as a result of a blow, fall or other injury. The impact to the soft tissues may cause capillaries, small blood vessels under your skin, to break. Red blood cells then leak out of the capillaries and collect under the skin, accounting for the color of the bruise. Color changes in bruises over time indicate that healing is in progress, and the body is metabolizing the blood cells in the skin. The body eventually reabsorbs the leaked blood, and the bruise disappears. A vitamin B12 deficiency is sometimes implicated when a person bruises too easily.

Symptoms of bruises:

  • A bruise first appears as a tender bump on the skin that is red or purplish in color.
  • After a few days, the area turns black and blue.
  • About a week later, the bruise may look yellow or greenish before fading to light brown and then disappearing.
  • Most bruises heal in about 2 weeks without treatment.

What causes bruising? 

  • Impact injuries
  • Getting older: As you age, your skin becomes thinner and loses some of the protective fatty layer that helps cushion your blood vessels from injury. Blood vessel walls thin with age, as well, and may become so fragile that a bruise appears, even though you have not impacted anything with sufficient force to notice the event.
  • Some people, especially women, are more prone to bruising than are others.
  • A medical problem: Bruising easily, or even spontaneously without trauma, may signify a medical problem that needs attention. It could mean that your bone marrow is not producing enough platelets, components of blood that plug leaks in the walls of injured blood vessels. This disorder, thrombocytopenia, may be symptomatic of alcohol abuse or one of several diseases, such as anemia or leukemia. A complete blood count can rule out these possibilities.

Some vitamins, deficiencies and supplements may increase the risk of bruising:

  • Drug or supplement side effect: Chlorothiazide, Warfarin (coumadin), aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, quinine (for restless legs) and quinidine (for cardiac arrhythmias) can all contribute to easy bruising, as can long-term use of corticosteroids such as prednisone.
  • Fish oil: Obtained from eating oily fish such as mackerel, herring and salmon or by taking a supplement, fish oil is an important source of the omega-3 essential fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and may be useful for treating health conditions like depression, high blood pressure, age-related macular degeneration, menstrual pains and asthma. However, fish oil has a blood-thinning effect in the body and can increase your risk of bruising.
  • Vitamin E: An essential nutrient found naturally in green leafy vegetables, eggs, vegetables oils and wheat germ and also available in supplement form. Vitamin E may help conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, burns, Parkinson’s disease, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. However, the American Pregnancy Association warns that an overdose of vitamin E can cause bleeding and skin bruising.
  • Prenatal vitamins: During pregnancy, a woman’s need for certain vitamins and minerals, such as iron, folic acid and calcium, increases, since these nutrients are essential for fetal development and growth. Prenatal multivitamins provide these additional nutrients. However, an overdose of prenatal multivitamins can cause bruising of the skin and other symptoms.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency: Vitamin B12 helps to maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. Good sources of vitamin B12 include meat, fish, eggs and dairy. Vegetarians can get vitamin B12 from fortified cereals, tofu, blue-green algae and kelp. The recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 is 2.4 g, according to the World Health Organization.
  • Vitamin K deficiency: Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin that plays an important role in blood clotting. Although vitamin K deficiency is rare, it can raise your risk of bruising and bleeding. You’re most likely to run low on vitamin K, if you’ve taken antibiotics that destroy vitamin K-synthesizing microorganisms in the digestive tract.  Vitamin K is normally found in dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach, dandelion and mustard greens, cabbage, cauliflower, and cereals.
  • Vitamin C deficiency:  Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is essential for the synthesis of collagen and other compounds that maintain strong blood vessels and improves the skin’s and blood vessel’s ability to withstand impacts that lead to bruises. A deficiency may result in weak capillaries that are easily damaged on impact, causing you to bruise more easily. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, red and green peppers, broccoli, strawberries and cantaloupe.
  • Glucosamine sulfate and turmeric: Both act like blood thinners. When taken together or often, they potentiate the side effects of each other and increase your risk of bruising.
  • Leaves of the herb ginkgo biloba: Often used to make medicinal extracts. Ginkgo may be useful for health conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, vertigo, mood disturbances, headaches and ringing in the ears. However, ginkgo can increase the risk of skin bruising, due to its blood-thinning properties.
Try to get most of your nutrition from wholesome, natural foods that Mother Nature provided, rather than supplements:
  • Note that some foods can promote fragility of blood vessels and bruising, including green tea and red wine.
  • Any herb or supplement with blood thinning properties can cause bruising, as well.
Some herbal supplements may increase your risk of bruising: 
  • Herbs may sometimes cause side effects or interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, take herbs with care, under the supervision of a professional health care provider.
  • Herbs including garlic, gingko biloba, ginseng, ginger, glucosamine, turmeric, angelica and clove all have the potential to thin blood slightly. This can make bruising more likely, especially if more than one of these herbs are taken together. Moreover, if you’re on a prescription medication that thins your blood, these herbal supplements may cause excessive blood thinning and bruising.
  • In most healthy individuals, eating garlic in normal quantities as part of a balanced diet is unlikely to cause abnormal bruising or bleeding. However, taking garlic supplements can cause bruising in some individuals as a result of the blood-thinning properties of garlic
  • If you are using blood-thinning drugs such as heparin, aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin), talk to your doctor before using garlic supplements or large amounts of raw garlic, as these may increase your risk of bruising.
Take precautions if you eat garlic and are pregnant or will undergo surgery:
  • Patients may be advised to avoid or limit garlic consumption before surgery, in order to prevent unnecessary bleeding.
  • Pregnant women approaching their due date may be advised to avoid garlic due to it’s blood-thinning properties. If you are due to undergo any surgery or are pregnant, talk to your doctor about the use of garlic.
  • In addition to blood-thinning drugs (heparin, aspirin, warfarin), there are several other drugs that may interfere with garlic. While these medications may not cause your skin to bruise after eating garlic or using garlic extracts, they may cause other unwanted health effects when combined with garlic. These medications include, but are not limited to, antiviral drugs and birth control pills.
Supplements which can increase blood vessel fragility and make the appearance of bruising more intense: 

Herbs and roots:

  • Dong Quai
  • Garlic
  • Ginseng
  • Ginger
  • Ginkgo Biloba
  • Sweet Clover
  • Sweet Woodruff
  • St. John’s Wort


  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B6
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Fish oil/Omega-3 fatty acids
While herbs and supplements are often used to improve one’s health, some can cause side effects or interact with other herbs, supplements, and medications. 
 Supplements to the natural diet can do more harm than good in some cases, raising the risk of ulcers, bleeding, and bruising within your skin and internal organs. Always consult your doctor before taking such products and report any unusual bruising or side effects as soon as possible.

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