Raynaud’s Disease


Raynaud’s disease is a condition in which the extremities exhibit a higher sensitivity to cold.  Raynaud’s disease is classically characterized by a white, blue, and red color sequence when the digits lose blood supply then warms up again.  The body’s response to cold is reduction the flow of blood to the hands and feet by narrowing the arterioles (or small arteries).  People afflicted with Rayaud’s have a more pronounced response, and the blood flow to the toes, lips, ears, and tip of the nose are cut off dramatically.  The arterioles may even thicken which will cut the blood supply even more.

Though there is no known cause, the following are risk factors:

  • Tobacco users

  • Those that are aged 15 to 40

  • Female

  • Living in a cold weather or climate

  • Living with autoimmune disease such as lupus, scleroderma, and rheumatoid arthritis

  • Living with high stress

The most common form of Raynaud’s is primary Raynaud’s, which has no known cause at the moment.  Secondary Raynaud’s occurs because of another disease, such as a connective tissue, autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma.  Other conditions that might cause Raynaud’s is Buerger’s disease and carpal tunnel syndrome.  Raynaud’s can also occur after several injuries and use of such medications as beta-blockers and ergot preparations.    


Since there are no known causes of Raynaud’s, there are no known preventions, though it has been highly correlated with smokers since smoking constricts the blood vessels. 


It is important that once an attack beings, to warm the hands or feet by running them in a bowl of lukewarm water. 


Calcium-channel blockers and alpha blockers may provide some relief dilating the small blood vessels.  They may also act against the hormone that constricts the blood vessels. 

Doctors usually treat Raynaud’s with corticosteroids such as prednisone to decrease the swelling.  The only problem is that corticosteroids may cause side effects such as acne, weight gain and irregular heartbeat. 


The Ancient Chinese medicine has been proven effective by reducing the frequency of attacks by more than 60%. 

Herbal treatments

Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis)

Evening primorose (EPO) oil has copious amounts of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) where some studies correlate GLA with helping relieve some of the symptoms of Raynaud’s disease.  In a study that was done to test the effectiveness of evening primrose, a small amount of it was rubbed on the people with the disease.  Half found it effective. 

Garlic (Allium sativum)

In a 12 week long study, researchers were given a daily 800 milligram dose of garlic those experiencing claudication, which is a condition that is caused by a narrow of leg arteries.  A person that is experiencing claudication has a difficult time walking around.  Towards the completion of the study, those that took a placebo had no improvement in walking.   The group in the treatment group had an improvement in walking.  The study suggest that this may be due to the increased blood flow in the legs. 

The current understanding of garlic is that it works to improve circulation.  If someone is at risk for Raynaud’s disease, it may be beneficial to either add more garlic to the diet or take garlic capsules. 

Gingko (Gingko biloba)

Many studies have shown how gingko improves the blood circulation. Most studies focus on the herb’s ability to promote the flow of blood in the brain, which is one reason why Gingko extract is heavily prescribed in Europe for stroke recovery and to help with the processes of mental aging. 

At the same time, gingko has been shown to help with intermittent claudication.  Raynaud’s is very similar to claudication, the only difference is that Raynaud’s has more to do with the digits instead of whole extremities. 

The medicinal part of the plant is the entire leaf.  The active ingredients, the ginkgolides occur in sua very low concentration that it would be more beneficial to take a gingko pill or capsule.  These capsules could be found in herb shops and health food stores.  The recommended dose of gingko biloba is between 60 to 240 milligrams a day.  However it is not recommended to go much higher than tthis since it may cause restlessness, irritability, and diarrhea. 

Borage (Borago officinalis)

This is an effective treatment when massaged into the fingers.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Traditional Chinese herbalists recommend using this to treat different conditions such as cold and the cold fingers that may be caused by Raynaud’s disease.  Gingers can also help lower cholesterol and blodd pressure.  Both of these effects would have the ability to stabilize the flow of blood throughout the body, and in the case of Raynaud’s disease, in the finger. 

Mustard (Brassica nigra, Sinapis alba, and other)

When applied to the skin, it may cause mustard may cause mild irritation, but I can also incrase the local blood supply giving a tingling and warm sensation.  The more formal medical term of this is rubefacients.  To make a mustard prapation, mix four ounces of fresh ground mustard.  Apply to fingers when sympotoms are acting up.  Other effective rubefacients include garlic, ginger, horseradish, peppermint oil, rosemary oil, and rue.

Red chili pepper (Capsicum, various species)

Yet another rubefacient, red chili peppers has been sprinkled in the shoes to keep the feet warm during the cold winter months. 

Indian snakeroot (Rauwolfia serpentine)

The active ingredient in Indian snake root is a chemical called reserpine.  Reserpine works to open or dilate the blood vessel. 

Other alternative treatment of Raynaud’s disease

Another potential treatment of Raynaud’s disease is use of the various Chinese medical systems.  Different symptoms and treatments can be used depending on the particular case or severity of the case in question.  More often than not, Chinese herbs are used in the Chinese medical systems.  One of the more popular Chinese medical system treatment for Raynaud’s disease is something called Tang Kui Decoration for Frigid Extremities.  This treatment varies on a case to case basis and is determined by the Chinese practitioner.  According to the expert panel on Chinese medicine, this treatment is extremely effective in treating Raynaud’s disease.  Acupuncture has also been found to be very effective in treating Raynaud’s disease, with the benefits even lasting long past when the treatment was initially administered.  



  1. Bratman, S. (1998). The Alternative Medicine Ratings Guide: an expert panel rates the best treatments for over 80 conditions. New York: Crown Publishing Group (1998)
  2. Brown, L. (1999). Alternative Medicine. London : Teach Yourself
  3. Deepak Chopra, M.D. (2002). Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. Puyallup, Wash. : Future Medicine Pub.
  4. Duke, J. (2003). The Green Pharmacy: Herbal remedies for common diseases and conditions from the world's foremost authority on healing herbs. London : Rodale
  5. Nancy Allison.(1999). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Body-Mind Disciplines.New York : Rosen Pub. Group
  6. Servan-Schreiber, D.(2006). The Encyclopedia of New Medicine: Conventional & Alternative Medicine For All Ages. London : Rodale

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