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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan and Physician Brandon Yew on September 1, 2022

Natural Yet Effective Treatments For Raynaud’s Disease

Raynaud's disease is a circulatory disorder that limits blood flow throughout the body, causing discoloration and numbness in certain areas. Here's what you can do about it.

Raynauds disease min scaled

Have your fingers or toes ever changed color during the winter season? If so, you could be suffering from something called Raynaud’s disease.

The condition occurs when there is a problem with your circulatory system. Blood flow is restricted to certain parts of your body.

In addition to changing color, these body parts may also become numb. Read on to learn the causes behind Raynaud’s disease and what you can do to treat it.

What Is Raynaud’s Disease?

The above image shows the different colors your hands may turn based on the level of blood that reaches this area of your body.

Named after Maurice Raynaud, Raynaud’s disease is also known as Raynaud’s phenomenon.

It’s a term coined in 1862 to describe the first episode of vasospasms – an obstruction of blood flow due to narrow blood vessels – involving the fingers and toes.

It can also affect the nose, lips, ear lobes, and even nipples, turning them cold, numb, and a purple or bluish shade.

The disease can be categorized as Primary or Secondary Raynaud’s. Primary Raynaud’s refers to the occurrence of the disease on its own. Secondary Raynaud’s happens comorbid to several medical conditions.

Primary Raynaud’s is milder and more prevalent than Secondary Raynaud’s. The former occurs in 75% of women between the ages of 15 and 40 and is less severe than the latter. People who develop Primary Raynaud’s also rarely develop related health conditions.

Secondary Raynaud’s is common in people with connective tissue diseases. The secondary type tends to be more serious. These can reduce blood flow to the fingers and toes, resulting in thickened blood vessel walls. 

What Causes It?

The causes of Raynaud’s disease are yet to be determined. In addition, the disease is not treatable but manageable with a combination of clinical and alternative modalities.

Here are some possible risk factors:

Icy cold temperatures 

Usually, when a person’s body is exposed to low temperatures, it will respond by slowing heat loss. It’ll induce the blood vessels to move blood from the surface arteries to the deep veins.

However, this normal body response will intensify in people with Raynaud’s disease. It’ll contract the small blood vessels linked to the fingers and toes, prompting skin discoloration. Separately, emotional stress can also have the same effect on these limbs. 

Disarrayed body constitutions  

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that the Heart ensures optimal blood circulation while the Lungs support the Heart’s circulatory function. Meanwhile, the Spleen produces Blood and governs the limbs and extremities – an appendage of the body like the feet and hands. The Kidneys store primordial qi (vital life force) and yang (active energy).

According to Brandon Yew, Senior Physician at Real Health Medical, “Deficiencies of Blood, Qi and Yang in the Heart, Spleen, Lungs, and Kidneys will enable pathogens to accumulate or form within the meridian channels. These include Cold, Phlegm, Dampness, Blood Stasis, and Qi Stagnation. They’ll thereby disrupt blood and qi circulation to the extremities.” 

In other words, Blood Deficiencies (the Spleen produces blood), Qi Deficiency, and Yang Deficiency (the Kidneys store qi and yang) result in pathogens being able to ‘attack’ the meridian channels, causing syndromes like Cold, Phlegm, Dampness, Blood Stasis, and Qi Stagnation. This disrupts blood and qi circulation, resulting in Raynaud’s Disease.

Tips For Managing Raynaud’s Disease  

A healthcare provider may perform a cold stimulation test to properly diagnose the disease. It’ll require you to place your fingers in an ice water bath. If the color of your hands and fingers changes, it can indicate Raynaud’s disease.

Next, you will undergo a diagnostic test called a nail fold capillaroscopy – a study of capillaries under a microscope – to differentiate between the two types of Raynaud’s disease.

Avoid the cold

Keeping your hands and feet warm when it’s cold outside can help improve blood flow.

According to TCM, the best way to fend off Raynaud’s disease is to refrain from consuming cooling foods and beverages. It’s also advisable to avoid activities performed in a cold environment.

Some of the foods and beverages that need to be limited or avoided are: 

  • Uncooked salads or raw sashimi 
  • Beer
  • Brinjal 
  • Cabbage 
  • Celery 
  • Cucumber 
  • Dragon fruit 
  • Eggplant 
  • Kelp 
  • Kiwi 
  • Mangosteen 
  • Papaya 
  • Pear 
  • Bitter gourd 
  • Lotus root 

TCM also advises that you steer clear of air-conditioned spaces, cold baths or showers, or water sports and activities. Instead, you should expose your skin to morning or evening sunlight for up to ten minutes daily. Taking warm baths or showers or visiting the sauna occasionally can also help.

Enjoy foods that are served warm or warming foods like chicken, sweet potatoes, and durian. Beverages like coffee or black and red teas can be consumed too. These foods and beverages should be consumed in moderation. 

Use medications and herbal formulas

The use of medication is more frequent among people with Secondary Raynaud’s disease.

Calcium-channel blockers are the safest and most effective medications for relaxing smooth muscles – involuntary muscle tissues with many functions – and dilating the small blood vessels.

These have been found to reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms in two-thirds of people with the disease.

Alpha-blockers can be used to prevent norepinephrine hormones from shrinking blood vessels. Vasodilators relax blood vessels and can be applied to the fingers to heal skin ulcers. 

Herbal formulas can support the suppression of Raynaud’s disease symptoms by correcting specific body constitution imbalances. Examples of these are: 

  • Fu Ling Wan: Dispels Phlegm and Dampness and restores and enhances qi circulation  
  • Si Ni San: Dissipates Qi Stagnation and restores and enhances qi circulation  
  • Si Ni Tang: Dispels Cold, regenerates yang energy in the Heart and Kidneys, and restores and enhances Blood and Qi circulation  
  • Dang Gui Si Ni Tang: Dispels Cold, regenerates blood and yang energy, and restores and enhances Blood and Qi circulation  
  • Bu Yang Huan Wu Tang: Regenerates qi, dissipates Blood Stasis, and restores and enhances blood and qi circulation  
  • Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang: Dispels Cold and Dampness, restores and enhances blood and qi circulation, and regenerates blood, qi, and yang energy in the Spleen, Heart, and Lungs 

Research shows that medicinal mushrooms, such as Lingzhi Cracked Spores and Cordyceps, help improve blood circulation, which can help reduce symptoms. You may also wish to include warm herbal soups in your diet to keep your body temperature up when it’s cold outside, such as Dang Gui Nan Zao soup. You can also try warming teas made with black sugar cubes with galangal and black sugar cubes with red date longan.

Try acupressure to stimulate blood flow

Applying pressure to specific points on the meridians, too, may reverse the effects of Raynaud’s disease in the fingers and toes. You can do this right at home by applying pressure with your fingers to certain acupoints. A few of the acupressure points that can benefit the body are: 

  • Tai Xi (KI3): Strengthens the Kidneys, and regenerates blood and qi  
  • He Gu (LI4): Dissipates Qi Stagnation, and restores and improves qi circulation 
  • San Yin Jiao (SP6): Regenerates blood and qi, and strengthens the Liver, Spleen, and Kidneys 
  • Nei Guan (PC6): Dispels Blood Stasis, strengthens the Heart, and restores and enhances blood circulation 
  • Zu San Li (ST36): Strengthens the Spleen, dispels Dampness, Phlegm, and Qi Stagnation, and restores and enhances qi circulation 
  • Tai Chong (LR3): Regenerates Blood, soothes the Liver, dispels Blood Stasis and Qi Stagnation, and restores and enhances blood and qi circulation 

Managing Raynaud’s Disease Symptoms Holistically

While Raynaud’s disease is an incurable disease, early intervention can help you be more mindful of its triggers and recognize the steps to help manage symptoms. 

Traditional formulas should be considered after speaking to a licensed TCM practitioner. It will enable you to identify the modalities suitable for your body constitution and evade the detrimental effects of self-medication.

If your symptoms persist or worsen, do promptly seek professional medical help from a qualified TCM physician. For more effective acupuncture treatment, a qualified TCM acupuncturist should be consulted.

References

  1. Medscape. 2020. Raynaud Phenomenon.
  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Raynaud’s Phenomenon.
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Raynaud’s Phenomenon
  4. MedlinePlus. Cold Stimulation Test

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