Cold extremities according to Chinese Medicine

cold feet, cold hands and feet and cold in the lower extremities redirect here

Cold extremities can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like cold extremities here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here cold extremities is often associated with night sweats, dizziness and hot flushes in the pattern “/tcm-education-center/patterns/kidney-yang-deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause cold extremities.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of cold extremities we’ve identified five herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat cold extremities.

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause cold extremities

In Chinese Medicine cold extremities is a symptom for 2 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Kidney Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slow (Chi)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Pale

Tongue shape: Swollen

Kidney Yang Deficiency causes Internal Cold and weakness.

In addition to cold extremities, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/kidney-yang-deficiency include night sweats, dizziness and hot flushes.

From a Western Medicine standpoint /tcm-education-center/patterns/kidney-yang-deficiency is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation, Menopausal Syndrome or Irregular Menstruation.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/kidney-yang-deficiency is often treated with Ba Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Ba Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Yang".

Read more about Kidney Yang Deficiency here

The Heart is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Heart in Chinese Medicine

Heart Vessel obstructed

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Knotted (Jie), Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

In addition to cold extremities, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/heart-vessel-obstructed include shortness of breath, palpitations and depression.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/heart-vessel-obstructed is often treated with Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Peach Kernels - Tao Ren - as a key herb). Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Invigorates the Blood".

Read more about Heart Vessel obstructed here

Five herbal formulas that might help with cold extremities

Ba Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Yang. Warms the Kidneys and lower extremities.

Why might Ba Wei Di Huang Wan help with cold extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/kidney-yang-deficiency' of which cold extremities is a symptom.

Read more about Ba Wei Di Huang Wan here

Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates the Blood. Dispels blood Stagnation. Spreads the Liver Qi. Unblocks the channels.

Why might Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang help with cold extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/heart-vessel-obstructed' of which cold hands and feet is a symptom.

Read more about Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang here

Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Source date: 1602

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Disperses Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood. Alleviates pain. Harmonizes Blood.

Why might Chai Hu Shu Gan San help with cold extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/heart-vessel-obstructed' of which cold hands and feet is a symptom.

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San here

Di Tan Tang

Source date: 1470 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Removes Phlegm. Opens the sensory orifices. Tonifies Qi.

Why might Di Tan Tang help with cold extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/heart-vessel-obstructed' of which cold hands and feet is a symptom.

Read more about Di Tan Tang here

Dang Gui Si Ni Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Channels. Disperses Cold. Nourishes the Blood. Unblocks the Blood vessels.

Why might Dang Gui Si Ni Tang help with cold extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/heart-vessel-obstructed' of which cold hands and feet is a symptom.

Read more about Dang Gui Si Ni Tang here

Acupuncture points used for cold extremities

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat cold extremities

Why might Prepared Aconite (Zhi Fu Zi) help with cold extremities?

Because Prepared Aconite is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cold extremities as a symptom, like You Gui Wan or Shen Qi Wan for instance.

Prepared Aconite is a Hot herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Raises the collapse of Yang. Warms the meridians and relieves pain caused by Cold. Reduces Damp caused by Deficiency in Yang.

Read more about Prepared Aconite here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with cold extremities?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cold extremities as a symptom, like Wu Ling San or Wen Qi Hua Shi Tang for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with cold extremities?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cold extremities as a symptom, like Dang Gui Si Ni Tang or Wen Jing Tang for instance.

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Liver and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation.

Read more about Dong Quai here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with cold extremities?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cold extremities as a symptom, like Dang Gui Si Ni Tang or Chai Hu Shu Gan San for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Yam (Shan Yao) help with cold extremities?

Because Yam is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cold extremities as a symptom, like Ba Wei Di Huang Wan or Tu Si Zi Wan for instance.

Yam is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach. Tonifies the Lung Qi and nourishes the Lung Yin. Nourishes the Kidneys and consolidates Jing.

Read more about Yam here