Also indexed as: Raynaud’s Syndrome
Fingertips that feel tender or numb after being exposed to chilly
temperatures may point to Raynaud’s disease. According to research or other evidence,
the following self-care steps may provide relief:
- Fight back with fish oil
- Reduce the severity of blood vessel spasm by taking a daily
supplement supplying 4 grams of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) for 6 to 12 weeks; after that, ask
your healthcare provider to recommend an amount for long-term supplementation
- Discover inositol hexaniacinate
- With the supervision of a knowledgeable healthcare provider, take
3 to 4 grams a day of this form of vitamin B3 to reduce arterial spasm and improve peripheral
- Say good-bye to smoking
- Kick the habit to avoid the damaging effects of nicotine on blood
- Keep in the heat
- Avoid unnecessary exposure to cold and dress warmly to prevent
attacks of Raynaud’s disease
These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace
the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Continue reading the full Raynaud’s disease
article for more in-depth, fully-referenced information on medicines, vitamins, herbs, and
dietary and lifestyle changes that may be helpful.
About Raynaud’s disease
Raynaud’s disease is a condition caused by constriction and spasms of small arteries,
primarily in the hands after exposure to cold. Frequently, white or bluish discoloration of
the hands (and sometimes toes, cheeks, nose, or ears) will occur after exposure to cold or
The cause of Raynaud’s disease is unknown. A condition called Raynaud’s
phenomenon causes similar symptoms, but it is the result of connective tissue disease or
exposure to certain chemicals. The same natural remedies are used to treat both disorders.
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What are the symptoms?
Fingers (generally not the thumb) or other affected parts of the body may feel numb or cold
during an episode, and later, after warming, may become bright red with a throbbing painful
Prescription drug treatment includes calcium
channel blockers, such as nifedipine
(Adalat, Procardia), diltiazem (Cardizem), felodipine (Plendil), and amlodipine (Norvasc), and sympatholytic agents,
including reserpine, prazosin (Minipress), doxazosin (Cardura), terazosin (Hytrin), methyldopa (Aldomet), guanethidine (Ismelin), and pentoxifylline (Trental).
In severe cases, sympathectomy (surgical interruption of sympathetic nerve pathways) may be
recommended. People with Raynaud’s disease are commonly advised to dress warmly during
the winter and to avoid tobacco use and unnecessary exposure to cold, especially of the
Lifestyle changes that may be helpful
Dressing warmly and wearing gloves or mittens often help prevent attacks of Raynaud’s
disease. Individuals with Raynaud’s disease should not smoke, because nicotine decreases
blood flow to the extremities. Women with Raynaud’s disease should not use birth control pills, as this method of contraception
can adversely affect circulation.
Vitamins that may be helpful
In a double-blind trial, supplementation with 12 large capsules of fish oil per day (providing 4 grams of
eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] per day) for 6 or 12 weeks reduced the severity of blood-vessel
spasm in 5 of 11 people with Raynaud’s phenomenon.1 Fish oil was effective in
people with primary Raynaud’s disease, but not in those whose symptoms were secondary to
Inositol hexaniacinate—a variation on
the B vitamin niacin—has been used with some success for relieving symptoms of
Raynaud’s disease.2 In one study, 30 people with Raynaud’s disease
taking 4 grams of inositol hexaniacinate each day for three months showed less spasm of their
arteries.3 Another study, involving six people taking 3 grams per day of inositol
hexaniacinate, again showed that this supplement improved peripheral circulation.4
People taking this supplement in these amounts should be under the care of a doctor.
Fatty acids in evening primrose oil (EPO)
inhibit the formation of biochemical messengers (prostaglandins) that promote blood vessel
constriction. A double-blind trial of 21 people with Raynaud’s disease found that,
compared with placebo, supplementation with EPO reduced the number and severity of attacks
despite the fact that blood flow did not appear to increase.5 Researchers have used
3,000–6,000 mg of EPO per day.
In one study, 12 people with Raynaud’s disease were given L-carnitine (1 gram three times a day) for 20
days.6 After receiving L-carnitine, these people showed less blood-vessel spasm in
their fingers in response to cold exposure.
Abnormalities of magnesium metabolism have
been reported in people with Raynaud’s disease.7 Symptoms similar to those
seen with Raynaud’s disease occur in people with magnesium deficiency,8
probably because a deficiency of this mineral results in spasm of blood vessels.9
Some doctors recommend that people with Raynaud’s disease supplement with 200–600
mg of magnesium per day, although no clinical trials support this treatment.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Refer to the individual supplement for information about any side effects or interactions.
Herbs that may be helpful
Ginkgo biloba has been reported to
improve the circulation in small blood vessels.10 For that reason, some doctors
recommend ginkgo for people with Raynaud’s disease. One preliminary trial found that 160
mg of standardized ginkgo extract per day reduced pain in people with Raynaud’s
disease.11 Larger clinical trials are needed to confirm ginkgo’s
effectiveness for this condition. Ginkgo is often used as a standardized extract (containing
24% ginkgo flavone glycosides and 6% terpene lactones). Doctors who recommend use of ginkgo
often suggest that people take 120–160 mg per day.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Refer to the individual herb for information about any side effects or interactions.
1. Digiacomo RA, Kremer JM, Shah DM. Fish-oil dietary supplementation in
patients with Raynaud’s phenomenon: a double-blind, controlled, prospective study.
Am J Med 1989;86:158–64.
2. Aylward M. Hexopal in Raynaud’s disease. J Int Med Res
3. Holti G. An experimentally controlled evaluation of the effect of
inositol nicotinate upon the digital blood flow in patients with Raynaud’s phenomenon.
J Int Med Res 1979;7:473–83.
4. Ring EF, Bacon PA. Quantitative thermographic assessment of inositol
nicotinate therapy in Raynaud’s phenomenon. J Int Med Res
5. Belch JJF, Shaw B, O’Dowd A, et al. Evening primrose oil
(Efamol) in the treatment of Raynaud’s phenomenon: A double-blind study. Throm
6. Gasser P, Martina B, Dubler B. Reaction of capillary blood cell
velocity in nailfold capillaries to L-carnitine in patients with vasospastic disease.
Drugs Exptl Clin Res 1997;23:39–43.
7. Leppert J, Aberg H, Levin K, et al. The concentration of magnesium in
erythrocytes in female patients with primary Raynaud’s phenomenon; fluctuation with the
time of year. Angiology 1994;45:283–8.
8. Smith WO, Hammarsten JF, Eliel LP. The clinical expression of
magnesium deficiency. JAMA 1960;174:77–8.
9. Turlapaty P, Altura BM. Magnesium deficiency produces spasms of
coronary arteries; relationship to etiology of sudden death ischemic heart disease.
10. Kleijnen J, Knipschild P. Ginkgo biloba. Lancet
11. Clement JL, Livecchi G, Jimenez C, et al. Modifications vasomotrices
des extrémités lors l’exposition à des conditions thermiques
défavorables. Méthodologie et résultant de l’étude de
l’extrait de Ginkgo biloba. Acutal Angiol 1982;7:3–8.