Raynaud’s Syndrome

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Raynaud's

Raynaud's syndrome is much more common than people realise because most of who has it just think they have especially bad circulation and have not considered that this may be a sign of something else in their general health that may need attention.

Raynaud's most commonly affects the hands and/or the feet but sometimes it also affects the nose or ears. It has the classic feature of a marked loss of colour in the extremities when exposed to cold (turning white or even blue) which then, when warmth is restored, is commonly followed by redness and sometimes some degree of uncomfortable swelling to the fingers or toes as the blood returns.

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First-Aid

Before I get into the causes and possible treatments for the Raynaud's syndrome I have to say something incredibly obvious but which nevertheless still has to be said - don't get cold!

The thing is that once you get that Raynaud's reaction going then there's really no stopping it - 'the gate is open and the horse is bolted.' We can work on getting that gate to hold better by treating one or more of the causes as described below but you still have to keep warm! If it is at all possible then I recommend you get as much protection as you can with material made with Possum fur mixed with Merino wool (gloves, socks, scarves etc.) as I believe this can provide the best protection against the cold. You may well find that such products have been made in New Zealand, it gets really cold here down South!

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What causes the syndrome?

It is clearly vital to try to identify the cause of Raynaud's if you are going to successfully treat it but this can be especially tricky with this particular issue because a) the cause is often not obvious and b) there can easily be more than one factor at the same time so you may need to have an open minded outlook from the outset.

Hormonal imbalance

Research into the statistical incidence of Raynaud's makes it clear that, whilst anyone can be affected by it, this is a problem that is particularly likely to affect young women in their teenage years or early 20s. It has therefore naturally enough been thought to be a problem that, in some cases, may be caused by hormonal imbalance.

When we consider the kind of excess circulatory imbalance that can come from the menopausal transition it does not need much of a stretch of the imagination to see how a kind of circulatory deficiency at the other end of the scale could likewise be a result of rapidly changing hormonal levels.

However, there is no simple blood test to determine whether this is the case and, the nature of female hormones in particular being that of constant change, even if a blood test did show an unusually high or low level of a hormone then the same test the following day could give a quite different result.

If the Raynaud's has started for a young woman in her teens or a little later then I suggest that this possibility be explored and especially so if there are any other signs of hormonal imbalance. In the absence of being able to do a simple 'test' we may have to look for a safe and natural way to help balance the hormones and then just see what happens...

In my own practice I have seen how helping some young women with their hormonal balance has made dramatic differences to the Raynaud's syndrome. Herbs can be very effective at helping with hormonal imbalances but there no single herb that will be right for everyone. For a general overview of some of what's involved in this area the article on women's health here should be of help.


Vitex agnus-castus (one of a group of herbs with potent effects on hormonal balance)

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Thyroid health

Also in the arena of hormones and how they can cause or contribute to Raynaud's is the gnarly issue of a potentially under-active thyroid gland.

Under-active thyroids are woefully under-diagnosed in conventional medicine and a low thyroid is called the 'great imitator' because so many other problems can be misconstrued as being from something else when it is really the thyroid that is cause of the trouble.

The first thing is to make sure that it is or isn't an issue and two simple ways to start going about doing that are described in my article on thyroid health here. If it turns out that you do have a low or under-active thyroid then, as you will see talked about in the article, the tonic Withania is one of the most important allies you can have to get your thyroid back to health (more info on it here)

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The migraine profile

It is recognised that people who are more prone to getting migraines also have a higher statistical occurrence of Raynaud's. In fact there are several common links to the two conditions in the way that the nervous system causes blood vessels to firstly constrict and then painfully swell.

In any case it can be seen that the same kind of medicines that help migraine may also help with Raynaud's and in particular in the herbal kingdom I have to mention the herb Feverfew. You can read more about it here. It will also be of help to read the detailed article on migraines found here.


Tanacetum parthenium (Feverfew)

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Food allergy & intolerance

Food allergy & intolerance are problems that affect a great many people without them knowing and I have certainly seen in my own clinic how stopping the intake of foods that are causing ill-health has resulted in remarkably widespread benefits to a great many people -- including restoring to normal what was previously a pretty terrible circulation.

In terms of 'how would you know if this was causing your Raynaud's?' I think it would be highly unlikely that the Raynaud's would be the only problem you would have if you were suffering from ongoing allergies or intolerances. Eczema and/or asthma are the classic childhood signs but in later life it is bloating in the gut and especially dark rings under the eyes that are two of the most common signs.

The whole subject of food allergy & intolerance is fraught with difficulty and needs to be approached in a sensitive and scientific manner. If you need to go further with it then you should read the detailed information in the article here.

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'Secondary' Raynaud's

You may need to consider the possibility that your Raynaud's is being caused by another distinct substance or problem. The list of things that can cause so called 'secondary' Raynaud's is formidable and includes a number of drugs, diseases and other syndromes.

Two things to consider right away are
a) Did my Raynaud's start after I began a new medication?
b) Do I have other health problems that began at the same time as the Raynaud's?

If yes to either of those then you should consider the possibility you have Raynaud's secondary to something else and I suggest you focus your attention there before looking too far further...

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Constitutional health note

If you have Raynaud's then you should definitely take some time to understand how the constitution of a person affects their health. This fascinating subject in introduced here and you can read further from this page into the 'working it out' section to see how it personally fits for you. I would make a bet that every person who has ever lived who had primary Raynaud's naturally veered to the cool side of the constitutional spectrum and in some cases the whole of the problem may simply be that they have gone too far to the cold!

Getting too cold is not good for you and there are some great 'warming' tonics for a constitution that has gone too far to the cold. The herb Cayenne (detailed info including practical guidance on how to use it here) would have to head the list but I also have a great amount of respect for how the herbs Prickly Ash (more here) and Bayberry (more here) can deeply warm a person from within so long as they are taken consistently for long enough to create a 'shift'.

I am also personally likely to use the great herb Hawthorn if a person had gone too far to the cold. Hawthorn is such a tremendous tonic to the heart and it has been so revered since ancient times as herb that can both strengthen the heart muscle and increase blood flow through it. The key thing to know about Hawthorn is that, whilst it is extremely safe and reliable, it is also very slow to work. You have to measure a course of this herb in months, not weeks. You can read more about it here. In any case, as I say, let Nature take the first step. It wouldn't be at all unusual for me to use a combination of several of these medicines at the same time. Some to have a rapid effect, some to build a response from deeper within.

If a person has gone too far to the cold they also need to look at eating more warming foods and maybe looking further in some other areas as well, but that part is written up in the pages linked to constitutional medicine if you need more practical info.


The Four Constitutions

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Emotions & the Blood

I leave this area to the last because it is the trickiest to explore and I feel that it is wise to carefully look at the physical issues before delving too deep into matters of the heart and mind.

The truth is that every person who ever lived is affected in their physical health, including their circulation, by how they feel. How could your emotions not be a part of your Raynaud's is a fairer question than could they be affecting it. To understand, and work, with this we need to take a holistic approach that recognises that people are more than nuts and bolts, flesh and bone. Your thoughts and your feeling are affected by the functioning of your body and at the same time your thoughts and feelings influence that same function in all kinds of ways we can hardly even perceive.

I recommend that if you have Raynaud's you more or less assume that your emotional health is a part of it -- don't try to determine whether it is a cause or merely an effect, just accept that it's a part and then you stop having to be judge or jury on yourself. The question then is - 'do you actually have to do something about it?' and you are the only person who can honestly answer that.

In particular if you know yourself that you are too tense or anxious then you should read the detailed article here for a safe and practical approach that I have seen to work exceptionally well. I think anyone will agree that the more relaxed they are then the better their blood flows and in that regard it may be that some of the exercises or the music put up here may be of help, good luck and never give up on your ability to get better from just about anything!


Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn leaf & berry)

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd