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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Andre Budihardjo and Physician Peh Wei Jie on November 29, 2022

Find Out Why You’re Having Cold Sweats Here

Do you get cold sweats when you feel like you're stressed, anxious, or under pressure? These remedies can help.

Cold sweat min scaled

Unlike normal sweat that you may experience when exercising or exposed to hot weather, cold sweats are usually a sign of a psychological condition, such as anxiety.

You may even notice that cold sweats occur on different parts of your body, like your palms and underarms as opposed to the back or face.

So, what’s the difference between cold sweats and regular sweating and how do you stop it? Our experts weigh in here.

What Causes Cold Sweats?

Image of a nervous man's clenched fists during a job interview
A stressful job interview can provoke cold sweats.

Regular sweating cools the body by releasing salt-containing liquids from the sweat glands. This bodily function happens during exercise or exposure to hot weather.

However, cold sweats don’t stem from a rise in temperature or physical exertion. It happens more in the palms and underarms, but not on the face or back. 

Cold sweats are a fight-or-flight response to stress. It often involves episodes of sudden and overwhelming tension. These can be physical or psychological and may include:  

  • Anxiety 
  • Fear 
  • Gout 
  • Lymphoma 
  • Vomiting 
  • Infections 
  • Parkinson’s disease 
  • Rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Trauma pain 
  • Kidney stones 
  • Panic attacks 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) 
  • Hormonal changes during menopause  
  • Heart attack 
  • A life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) 
  • An overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) 
  • Alcohol withdrawal or excessive use of the substance 

Cold Sweats, According To TCM

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), cold sweats relate directly to imbalances in the Heart and Lung organ systems. Excessive internal Heat also induces abnormal sweating. It can occur from eating spicy food, yin (passive energy) Deficiency, or a weak body constitution.

“Yin is created when yang (active) energy evaporates body fluids. A disruption of the yin–yang balance will prevent wei qi – superficial energy that protects the body against harmful pathogenic factors – and skin pores from functioning properly. Consequently, it can lead to unexpected episodes of cold sweats.”

TCM Physician Peh Wei Jie

How To Get Rid Of Cold Sweats

A clinical physician will ask questions to learn why you have cold sweats. Examples of these are: 

  • “Are you currently in pain?” 
  • “Are you anxious or stressed?” 
  • “Have you recently been bitten by an insect?” 
  • “Have you recently consumed unfamiliar foods or beverages?” 
  • “How long have you been breaking out in cold sweats?” 
  • “Are you recovering or have recently recovered from a fever or other infection-related symptoms?” 

A TCM practitioner will carefully examine multiple factors, such as: 

  • The location of the sweat 
  • Time of the day that it happens 
  • The nature of sweating (cold or warm) 
  • The smell of sweat 

They’ll also classify people according to body types before proposing herbal medications that correct cold sweats.

Change your lifestyle habits

A woman sitting on her couch having an anxiety attack
Cold sweats can be a symptom of anxiety attacks. Finding healthy ways to control stress can help.

Limit your intake of hot and spicy foods like ginger, cinnamon, pepper, and mutton. Refrain from consuming too many caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. Rather, eat cooling foods to remove Heat, and nourishing foods to boost yin levels in the body. These include Chinese cabbage, sea cucumber, white fungus, pears, and lotus seeds.

If you have frequent night sweats, try striking a balance between work and rest. Relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation are good stress relievers. Keeping the bedroom cool and ventilated can help maintain sleep hygiene. Absorbent footwear can be worn to keep the feet dry.

Use herbal formulas 

Palpitations, shortness of breath, cold or night sweats, a pale tongue, and weak pulse are signs of Heart Blood Deficiency. Gui Pi Tang can be used to nourish blood, invigorate the Heart, and stop sweating. It combines astragalus (Huang Qi), magnolia berries (Wu Wei Zi) and jujube seeds (Suan Zao Ren).

In TCM, Lok Mei Pa Pills are often used for excessive sweating. If your cold sweats are due to anxiety, then Lingzhi may help calm the nervous system to bring down cortisol levels. Sweating due to hormonal imbalances can be corrected in part by taking Bak Foong pills.

Constipation, recurring night sweats, warm palms and soles, a red tongue, and rapid pulse indicate Yin Deficiency with internal Heat. Dang Gui Liu Huang Tang or Yu Ping Feng San are two formulas that may be combined with grounded oyster shells (Mu Li), Bupleurum root (Yin Chai Hu) or smoked plums (Wu Mei). These can enrich yin and decrease sweating by getting rid of Heat.

Stimulate acupoints

Regulating the yin and yang balance of your body is necessary to reduce the number of cold sweat episodes. Acupuncture treatment can be used to achieve this goal by nourishing yin and curbing excessive yang levels.

The points that can be worked on are Yin Xi (HT6), Shen Men (HT7) and Nei Guan (PC6). These can enrich the Heart yin, clear Heat, and regulate the Heart, reducing irregular sweating and easing palpitations and irritability. 

Consultation with a clinical healthcare provider can help identify why you’re experiencing cold sweats. In addition, a TCM practitioner will suggest suitable remedies to support treatment while ensuring they’re safe for your specific constitution.

References

  1. Healthgrades. What is a Cold Sweat? 
  2. Slumber Yard. 2021. Night Chills And Cold Sweats, Explained
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Anxiety Disorders
  4. Cleveland Clinic. Gout
  5. American Diabetes Association. Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Glucose)
  6. National Health Service (NHS). Treatment – Anaphylaxis

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