Frostbiteaccording to TCM

Symptom family: Skin Reactions to Cold

Did you mean? Chilblains

What is Frostbite?

Frostbite is the medical condition that results from the freezing of skin and underlying tissues due to extreme cold exposure. The condition often leads to numbness and discoloration in affected areas, and severe cases can result in tissue death and gangrene. Frostbite typically affects extremities like the fingers, toes, nose, and ears, which are farthest from the heart and more vulnerable to heat loss.

How does TCM View Frostbite?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) interprets frostbite as an invasion of cold that blocks the flow of Qi (energy) and Blood within the body. The skin and limbs, according to TCM, are ruled by the Yang aspect of the body, which is responsible for warmth and activity.

When the external pathogenic Cold overwhelms the Yang, it leads to the constriction of vessels and Stagnation of Qi and Blood, manifesting as frostbite. Thus, TCM focuses on restoring Yang and promoting the normal flow of Qi and Blood to heal frostbite.

Causes of Frostbite According to TCM

In TCM, frostbite is chiefly caused by two patterns: an invasion of pathogenic Cold and a Deficiency in Yang Qi. When the body is exposed to severe cold, the pathogenic Cold penetrates the meridians, leading to a constriction of blood vessels and Sstagnation of Qi.

Meanwhile, individuals with inherent Yang Qi Deficiency may have an impaired ability to warm and circulate Qi and Blood, making them more susceptible to cold injuries like frostbite. Treatment in TCM thus aims to expel the pathogenic Cold and strengthen the body's Yang Qi, re-establishing a harmonious balance between the body's Yin and Yang energies.

TCM Herbal Formulas for Frostbite

To counteract the effects of frostbite, TCM practitioners might recommend formulas that warm the Interior and dispel Cold. For example, Dang Gui Si Ni Tang is a formula enriched with Dong quai, an herb known for its warming properties and its ability to invigorate Blood.

This formula is especially beneficial in cases where frostbite is coupled with an underlying Heart Vessel obstruction, a condition in TCM characterized by impeded blood flow that is exacerbated by cold. Additionally, external applications of warming herbs, moxibustion, and acupuncture may be used to stimulate the affected areas, promoting Qi flow and Blood circulation to facilitate healing and prevent further tissue damage.

See more details below about Dang Gui Si Ni Tang, a herbal formula used to address frostbite.

  • By Formula Type
  • Formulas that warm interior cold

TCM Herbs for Frostbite

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

  • By Herb Category
  • Cathartic herbs that drain downward
  • Tonic herbs for blood deficiency
  • Warm/Acrid herbs that release the exterior