Feeling the Cold

Vigorous exercise such as running, aerobics, badminton and swimming is a great way to get your heart pumping and blood circulating efficiently, but gentler forms, like yoga, tai chi and qi gong, are also good circulation boosters.

It might sound obvious, but eating warming foods such as porridge, soups, baked potatoes, pasta, curries and other spicy dishes will help. So will using plenty of stimulating herbs and spices, like ginger, garlic, turmeric and cayenne in your cooking.

Specific disorders caused or exacerbated by the cold include Raynaud's disease and chilblains.

  • Raynaud's disease is characterized by cold fingers, and sometimes toes, which turn pale and numb, and tingle or burn. This is caused by the small arteries which supply the fingers and toes suddenly contracting in the cold and cutting off the blood flow. It most commonly affects young women.
  • Chilblains are red, inflamed swellings which usually appear on the toes and are caused by the blood vessels below the surface of the skin constricting more than usual when they are exposed to the cold. As the toes warm up, the chilblains often become itchy or painful.

Natural remedies, along with regular exercise and dietary factors, can be remarkably effective at counteracting 'the big chill', whether you suffer from Raynaud's, chilblains or just seem to feel the cold more than most.

Nutritional supplements to keep out the cold

Vitamin C with bioflavonoids, vitamin E and magnesium can all improve circulation and are best taken as part of, or alongside, a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Make sure you're getting 1-2g of vitamin C, 100iu of vitamin E and 200-400mg of magnesium daily. A 50mg vitamin B complex may also help.

One study has shown that fish oil supplements can significantly reduce, and in some
patients totally eliminate, the symptoms of Raynaud's. Take a high-dosage supplement as directed on the packaging.

Evening primrose oil was also found to reduce the number and severity of attacks of Raynaud's. Start with 2g a day for a month. Caution: high doses may lead to diarrhoea.

Homeopathic remedies that can help

For Raynaud's disease take one of the following remedies every half-an-hour until your fingers and/or toes start to warm up, to a maximum of 12 doses:

  • Arsenicum Album 6c is particularly suitable if you are a very anxious person who feels generally cold.
  • Carbo Vegetabilis 6c is most suitable for older people, whose fingers and/or toes are icy cold and mottled.
  • Cactus Grandiflorus 6c if your hands are freezing cold and you have restless legs.

If you develop chilblains, take one of the following every half-an-hour until symptoms improve, to a maximum of ten doses:

  • Calcarea Carbonica 6c often works for people who are overweight and generally feel the cold.
  • Agaricus Muscarius 6c for chilblains that burn and itch, and then become red and swollen.
  • Petroleum 6c is recommended for chilblains that burn and itch, and release a watery discharge.

Herbs to boost your circulation

  • Ginkgo biloba appears to improve the circulation in small blood vessels and is often recommended as a remedy for Raynaud's and chilblains by holistic practitioners. Take as directed on the packaging.
  • Ginger, garlic and cayenne pepper are all warming herbs which boost the circulation. They can be bought in capsules. Take as directed on the packaging.
  • Calendula or Urtica urens (nettle) cream helps relieve itching chilblains.
  • Panax (Korean) ginseng is traditionally used in Chinese medicine to pep up a sluggish circulation. Take as directed on the packaging.
  • Hawthorn flowers, horse chestnut and yarrow are all circulatory stimulants. You can combine them to make a tea, using 1-2 tsp of the dried herbs per cup and leave to infuse for five minutes before drinking.

Warming oils

When you come in from the cold, there are few things more warming and comforting than a bath containing aromatic essential oils. Black pepper, cypress, geranium, ginger, lavender, lemongrass, marjoram and rosemary are just a few of the oils recommended for boosting a sluggish circulation and warming you up generally. Use 5-6 drops (you can combine a few of the oils according to preference) in the bath, or for a quick warm-up 2-3 drops in a hand or foot bath. You could also use 5-6 drops in one tablespoon of sweet almond or grapeseed oil for a stimulating massage. Neat lavender oil dabbed onto broken chilblains is very soothing and will help them heal.


Posted by Brian on Tue, Dec 9th, 2008
I have also found some relief from using tanning beds to treat the symptoms, especially if caught early
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