By Cathy Wong, ND
What is Raynaud’s Disease?
In people with Raynaud’s disease (also known as “Raynaud’s syndrome” or “Raynaud’s phenomenon”), cold temperatures and/or stress trigger arterial spasms that, in turn, block the circulation of blood to the fingers, toes, ears, and nose.
Natural Remedies for Raynaud’s
So far, there is a lack of scientific support for the use of alternative medicine in treatment of Raynaud’s, however, these approaches may offer some benefits:
In biofeedback training, patients learn how to consciously control the body’s vital functions (including breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure) with the help ofrelaxation techniques and information delivered by specialized electronic devices.
Although some alternative medicine practitioners encourage using biofeedback to help control body temperature and lessen the severity and frequency of Raynaud’s attacks, a research review published in 2009 concluded that biofeedback does not work for Raynaud’s disease.
2) Nutritional Supplements
Research suggests that taking supplements of essential fatty acids may be mildly effective in treatment of Raynaud’s disease. Vitamin B3 (also known as niacin) is also thought to benefit Raynaud’s patients, since the nutrient causes blood vessels to dilate and stimulates circulation to the skin. However, niacin has not been extensively studied as a treatment for Raynaud’s, and may cause side effects such as diarrhea, headache, stomach upset, and adverse skin reactions.
3) Ginkgo Biloba
Another natural remedy thought to be useful in preventing Raynaud’s attacks, ginkgo biloba has not been extensively studied for its effects on the disease. However, the herb has been shown to boost circulation in a number of studies.
Causes of Raynaud’s Disease
Scientists have yet to determine why the blood vessels of Raynaud’s patients tend to spasm and constrict in response to cold temperatures and stress.
However, the condition appears to be more common among women, as well as people who live in colder climates and/or have a family history of Raynaud’s.
In some cases (known as “secondary Raynaud’s”), the syndrome is associated with other conditions or lifestyle issues, including:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- use of artery-narrowing drugs (such as amphetamines and certain types of beta-blockers and cancer medications)
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- repeated injury
Although symptoms vary from patient to patient, Raynaud’s typically causes the affected body parts to turn white, then blue, in response to stress or exposure to cold. Once blood flow resumes, the affected area tends to turn red before turning to its normal color.
In many cases, people with Raynaud’s show signs of the disease in the same fingers on both hands. Attacks may be as brief as a few minutes or as long as several hours.
While Raynaud’s isn’t always uncomfortable, people with secondary Raynaud’s often experience stinging or burning sensations and can develop painful ulcerations or even gangrene.
Preventing Raynaud’s Flare-Ups
Doctors frequently recommend these lifestyle changes to people with Raynaud’s:
- avoiding caffeine
- wearing protective clothing and accessories (such as mittens or gloves) when exposed to cold
- quitting smoking
- exercising regularly
- managing stress
Supplements haven’t been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get additional tips on using supplements here.
Using Natural Remedies for Raynaud’s Disease
Due to a lack of supporting research, it’s too soon to recommend any alternative medicine for Raynaud’s disease. If you’re considering using it, talk to your doctor to weigh the potential risks and benefits. Keep in mind that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.
Belch JJ, Ho M. “Pharmacotherapy of Raynaud’s phenomenon.” Drugs 1996 52(5):682-95.
Malenfant D, Catton M, Pope JE. “The efficacy of complementary and alternative medicine in the treatment of Raynaud’s phenomenon: a literature review and meta-analysis.” Rheumatology 2009 48(7):791-5.
Wu Y, Li S, Cui W, Zu X, Du J, Wang F. “Ginkgo biloba extract improves coronary blood flow in healthy elderly adults: role of endotheliumf-dependent vasodilation.” Phytomedicine 2008 15(3):164-9.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.