Have you ever heard the expression, “cold hands, warm heart”? don’t know if one has anything to do with the other, but if you suffer the painfully cold, bluish-white fingers you might be suffering from Raynaud’s disease. Raynaud’s disease is a condition in which the fingers and toes become pale, splotchy, or bluish as a result of arterial spasms in the extremities-usually upon exposure to cold. Uncomfortable numbness, tingling, and burning sensations in the hands and feet are common complaints. Warming the extremities provides relief, but treating the disorder from the inside out with natural remedies can help heal bluish finger and toes naturally, reducing the severity of the condition.
Why it happens – The cause
Raynaud’s disease seems to be caused by constriction and spasms of the small arteries (arterioles) that bring blood to the fingers. As blood flow diminishes, the fingers become painful and turn white or bluish. Raynaud’s also occasionally occurs in the nose and toes. It is much more common among women. With Raynaud’s, a glitch in the circulatory’ system causes tiny blood vessels in the fingers and toes to spasm in response to cold. ‘With blood flow cut off, the fingers and toes become so cold that they ache. They also change color: first white, then blue, then back to red once they warm up.
How to heal bluish fingers and toes naturally
Doctors sometimes recommend surgery to correct extreme cases of Raynaud’s. While Raynaud’s may occur independently of other conditions, sometimes it’s a symptom of scleroderma, a rare and serious disease that involves hardening of the skin and damage to the intemal organs. Doctors often prescribe corticosteroids such as prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone) to treat both Raynaud’s and scleroderma. But corticosteroids have many potentially troubling side effects, such as weight gain, acne and irregular heartbeat. And they sometimes make Raynaud’s disease worse. Before you go that route, try these self-care measures to minimize your discomfort.
Relax in a scented bath
Sitting in a warm (not hot) bath helps increase circulation to the extremities. When Raynaud’s hits, maximize the therapeutic power of the bath. Mix one teaspoon of combined essential oils such as birch, cypress, rosemary, and savory with a cup of milk and add to the bathwater. Cypress oil may help the circulatory system, savory serves as an external stimulant, and the birch and rosemary may soothe muscular pains.
Put up your dukes
If Raynaud’s strikes you when walking from one heat zone to another, ball your hands into loose fists. Give your body a few minutes to adjust to the temperature change before releasing your fists.
To improve circulation, take between 400 and 1,200 international units (IU) of vitamin E a day.
Whether From coffee, tea, cola, or over-the-counter medication, caffeine constricts blood vessels and aggravates Raynaud’s disease. To get comfort avoid or reduce your caffeine intake.
Retrain your cold response
This technique can help either your hands or feet re-adapt to cold, reducing a Raynaud’s reaction. Fill two buckets or plastic foam coolers with 100 degree F water. Place one container in a cold area—on an outside patio, for example-and the other in a warm room. Wearing lightweight clothes, immerse your hands in the indoor water for 2 to 5 minutes, the outdoor water for 10 minutes. Go back inside and immerse your hands in the indoor water for 2 to 5 minutes.Wrap your hands in a towel, go out Repeat six or seven times every other day.
This procedure, called the submersion technique, trains your blood vessels to dilate rather than constrict in response to cold.
Calcium: Take 1,000 mg daily (older women: 1,500-2,000 mg).
Coenzyme Q10: Take 60 mg daily
Take Complete all-natural multivitamin/mineral complex rich in antioxidants.
Magnesium: Take 400 mg daily.
MSM: Take 1,000 mg, three times daily.
Herbal remedies for Raynaud’s disease
Because of the problems sometimes caused by corticosteroids, it makes a lot more sense to treat Raynaud’s with selections from the natural herbal remedies.
The oil made from evening primrose (EPO) contains a good deal of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Some studies suggest that GLA helps relieve symptoms of Raynaud’s disease. In one study, EPO was massaged into the fingers of people with Raynaud’s disease. About half improved, more than you would expect if this were simply a placebo response.
Take 500 mg, twice daily. In one study that lasted 12 weeks, researchers gave a daily dose of 800 milligrams of garlic to people with intermittent claudication, a condition caused by a narrowing of the arteries in the legs. People with severe claudication have difficulty walking. By the end of the study, those who took an inactive substance (a placebo) showed no improvement in walking, but the group taking garlic walked significantly better, strongly suggesting that the blood flow to their legs had improved.
Garlic works to improve circulation, in fact, more than one alternative medicine advocate suggests using garlic and ginkgo, which is also known to help circulation, in combination to treat Raynaud’s disease . Simply adding more garlic to your diet can help heal Raynaud’s symptoms. You can also take capsules, if you prefer.
Warm herbal soup
Make a vegetarian minestrone liberally spiced with cayenne, garlic, ginger and mustard, plus oils of borage, currant and evening primrose. Make a lot. Eat until you’re satisfied. Then stain out some broth and rub it on your frigid fingers. Finally, follow up your anti Raynaud’s soup by taking the herb ginkgo.
Literally dozens of studies show that ginkgo improves blood circulation. Most of the research has focused on this herb’s ability to promote blood flow through the brain, which is why ginkgo extract is widely prescribed in Europe for recovery from stroke and the mental slowing of old age. But several studies have explored ginkgo’s on intermittent claudication. When people who have severe claudication take ginkgo, over time the herb improves their ability to walk. While the reasons for the impaired circulation are many. Raynaud’s is somewhat similar to claudication, except that it affects the fingers instead of the legs.
European physicians frequently recommend ginkgo for Raynaud‘s, and there are many European case reports of people with Raynaud’s experiencing improvement after taking it.
The medicinal part of the plant is the leaf, but the active constituents (ginkgolides) occur in such low concentration that there’s little point in using the leaves to make tea. If you want to try this herb, buy ginkgo pills or capsules made from standardized extract. It‘s usually is a 50:1 ratio, meaning that 50 pounds of ginkgo leaves are processed to yield 1 pound of extract. Look for these extracts in health food stores and herbshops. You can try 60 to 240 milligrams a day, but don’t go any higher than that.
In large amounts, ginkgo may cause diarrhea, irritability and restlessness.
Like evening primrose, borage contains GLA, which helps treat Raynaud’s when massaged into the fingers.
Chinese herbalists often recommend this “hot” herb to treat conditions involving cold, including the cold fingers caused by Raynaud’s. Ginger lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and both effects help normalize blood flow all over the body, including the fingers.
I’m sure you’ve heard of mustard plasters. When applied to the skin, they cause mild irritation that increases the local blood supply, resulting in a warm, tingling sensation. Medically known as rubefacients, mustard and other herbs with this effect have long been used to treat Raynaud’s disease.
You can make a mustard plaster by mixing four ounces of fresh ground mustard seed with warm water to make a thick paste. Try applying this to your fingers when symptoms are acting up. Other rubefacients, according to British herbalist David Hoffmann, author of The Herbal Handbook, include cloves,garlic, ginger, horseradish, stinging nettle, peppermint oil, rosemary oil and rue. Any of these can be applied to the fingers.
Red pepper (Capsicum, various species)
This is the classic rubefacient. Back in the old days, people used to sprinkle it in their shoes to keep their feet warm in winter. Try mixing some with vegetable oil and rubbing it the fingers. (Just be sure not to touch your eyes if you have any on your fingertips.) You might even add some to EPO, borage oil or currant oil. You can use it externally, but of course red pepper is a spicy addition to any food‘ especially salad dressing
This herb contains the chemical reserpine, which opens (dilutes) the blood vessels. It has often been used to treat Raynaud’s disease, according to medicinal herb experts.