Chilblainsaccording to TCM

Symptom family: Skin Reactions to Cold

Did you mean? Frostbite

What is Chilblains?

Chilblains, also known as pernio, are skin sores or bumps that occur after exposure to cold temperatures. This condition is not just discomforting; it is a painful inflammation of small blood vessels in your skin that occurs in response to repeated exposure to cold but not freezing air. Commonly affecting the extremities, chilblains can cause itching, red patches, swelling, and blistering on hands and feet.

How does TCM view Chilblains?

From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), chilblains are viewed through the lens of imbalance and the flow of Qi and blood within the body. Unlike Western medicine that focuses on the physical exposure to Cold causing symptoms, TCM suggests that chilblains arise when the body's defensive energy (Wei Qi) is weak, and cold invades, leading to stagnation of Qi and blood in specific areas.

This interpretation emphasizes the importance of identifying and correcting the underlying disharmony, highlighting a tailored approach to treatment.

Causes of Chilblains according to TCM

TCM identifies various patterns that may lead to the development of chilblains, each associated with different underlying imbalances. Two common patterns include Spleen and Liver Blood Deficiency, where the body lacks the necessary nutrients to nourish and warm the skin, and Wind-Cold invasion, where external cold enters the body, disrupting the flow of Qi and Blood.

Blood Deficiency often results from a lack of adequate nutrition or underlying conditions that impair the Spleen and Liver's ability to produce and regulate blood. In contrast, Wind-Cold invasion is typically due to exposure to cold weather without adequate protection, leading to the constriction of blood vessels and subsequent symptoms of chilblains.

TCM Herbal Formulas for Chilblains

In TCM, the treatment of chilblains depends on the underlying pattern identified. For conditions stemming from Blood Deficiency, formulas like Dang Gui Shao Yao San, containing ingredients such as White Peony Roots (Bai Shao), aim to nourish the blood and improve circulation. This formula is particularly suited for those with Spleen and Liver imbalances, addressing both the deficiency and the stagnation.

For chilblains caused by Wind-Cold invasion, Ma Huang Tang, with key components like Ephedra (Ma Huang), works by expelling cold and promoting the flow of Qi, addressing symptoms associated with cold's external invasion. Additionally, external treatments like Zi Dang Gao, utilizing Lithospermum Roots (Zi Cao), are applied to directly alleviate skin symptoms by clearing heat and detoxifying. These treatments underscore TCM's holistic approach, focusing on restoring balance and enhancing the body's natural defenses.

Explore below some TCM herbal formulas used to address chilblains, organized by formula type.

  • By Formula Type
  • Formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation
  • Formulas that clear wind-Cold
  • External formulas for external disorders

TCM Herbs for Chilblains

Explore below some TCM herbs used to address chilblains, organized by herb category.

  • By Herb Category
  • Tonic herbs for blood deficiency
  • Warm/Acrid herbs that release the exterior
  • Herbs that clear heat and relieve toxicity

"Tonic herbs for Blood Deficiency" recommended for chilblains

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
White Peony Roots (Bai Shao) Dang Gui Shao Yao San
Dong Quai (Dang Gui) Zi Dang Gao