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Natural Remedies for Raynaud's Disease

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Updated July 10, 2013

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 Treatment for Raynaud's:

Although there's a lack of scientific support for the use of alternative medicine in treatment of Raynaud's, these approaches may be helpful:

1) Biofeedback

In biofeedback training, patients learn how to consciously control the body's vital functions (including breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure) with the help of relaxation 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 B-3 (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.

What Causes 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
  • artherosclerosis
  • lupus
  • use of artery-narrowing drugs (such as amphetamines and certain types of beta-blockers and cancer medications)
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • frostbite
  • smoking
  • repeated injury
  • Raynaud's Symptoms:

    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.

    How to Prevent Raynaud's Attacks:

    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
  • Sources:

    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.

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