Natural Remedies for Raynaud's Phenomenon

Woman looking at fingers
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Raynaud's phenomenon (also known as "Raynaud's syndrome" or "Raynaud's disease") is a condition where cold temperatures and/or stress cause small blood vessels to narrow and, in turn, temporarily restricts blood flow to your fingers, toes, ears, and nose.

Causes

Scientists have yet to determine why the blood vessels of people with Raynaud's 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:

Symptoms

Although symptoms vary from person to person, Raynaud's typically causes the affected body parts to turn white, then blue, in response to stress or exposure to cold. An attack can last a few minutes to more than an hour. Once blood flow resumes, the affected area may turn red before returning to its usual 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.

Natural Remedies

So far, there is a lack of scientific support for the use of remedies in the treatment of Raynaud's, however, these approaches may offer some benefits:

Biofeedback

In biofeedback training, people learn how to consciously influence the body's vital functions (including breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure) with the help of relaxation techniques and information feedback delivered by specialized electronic devices.

Although some 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.

Nutritional Supplements

Preliminary research suggests that taking essential fatty acid supplements may be mildly effective in the treatment of Raynaud's phenomenon. Vitamin B3 (also known as niacin) is also thought to benefit people with Raynaud's, 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.

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. The available research includes a small study published in Clinical Rheumatology which compared Ginkgo biloba extract to nifedipine sustained-release (a type of medication known as a calcium channel blocker). After treatment for eight weeks, nifedipine was found to be more effective at reducing the number of attacks, with improvement in those taking nifedipine at 50.1 percent, compared to 31.0 percent in those taking Ginkgo.

Preventing Flare-Ups

Your health care provider may recommend lifestyle changes:

  • Avoiding caffeine
  • Wearing protective clothing and accessories (such as mittens or gloves) when exposed to cold
  • Quitting smoking
  • Exercising regularly
  • Managing stress

The Bottom Line

Due to a lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend any remedy to treat Raynaud's phenomenon. If you're considering trying a natural approach, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider first to weigh the potential risks and benefits and to discuss whether it is appropriate (and safe) for you.

Sources:

Choi WS, Choi CJ, Kim KS, et al. To compare the efficacy and safety of nifedipine sustained release with Ginkgo biloba extract to treat patients with primary Raynaud's phenomenon in South Korea; Korean Raynaud study (KOARA study). Clin Rheumatol. 2009 May;28(5):553-9.

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.

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.

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