Cold extremities according to Chinese Medicine

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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 “Kidney Yang Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record five 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 five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause cold extremities

In Chinese Medicine cold extremities is a symptom for 5 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 Kidney Yang Deficiency include night sweats, dizziness and hot flushes.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney Yang Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation, Menopausal Syndrome or Irregular Menstruation.

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

Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Weak (Ruo), Fine (Xi)

Tongue color: Pale

In addition to cold extremities, other symptoms associated with Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency include frequent urination, pale complexion and oedema of face.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Lupus.

Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency is often treated with Wu Ling San, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Water Plantain - Ze Xie - as a key herb). Wu Ling San belongs to the category of "formulas that promote urination and leach out dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Promotes urination,".

Read more about Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency here

Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) is the king ingredient for Xiao Yao San, a formula used for Qi and Blood Stagnation

Qi and Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red), Red, Red sides

In addition to cold extremities, other symptoms associated with Qi and Blood Stagnation include dizziness, hot flushes and irritability.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi and Blood Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Absence Of Menstruation or Menopausal Syndrome.

Qi and Blood Stagnation is often treated with Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Yao San belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize liver-spleen", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen".

Read more about Qi and Blood Stagnation here

Prepared Aconite (Zhi Fu Zi) is the king ingredient for Fu Zi Tang, a formula used for Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp

Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Deep (Chen), Minute (Wei), Slow (Chi)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

In addition to cold extremities, other symptoms associated with Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp include generalized body pain and aching bones and joints.

Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp is often treated with Fu Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Prepared Aconite - Zhi Fu Zi - as a key herb). Fu Zi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm and transform water and dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms the Meridians".

Read more about Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp here

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

Deficiency of both the Kidney Yin and Yang

In addition to cold extremities, other symptoms associated with Deficiency of both the Kidney Yin and Yang include night sweats, dizziness and hot flushes.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Deficiency of both the Kidney Yin and Yang is associated with health issues such as Menopausal Syndrome.

Deficiency of both the Kidney Yin and Yang is often treated with Er Xian Tang, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Curculigo Rhizomes - Xian Mao - as a key herb). Er Xian Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify yin and yang", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes Yin and tonifies Yang of the Kidneys".

Read more about Deficiency of both the Kidney Yin and Yang here

Five herbal formulas that might help with cold extremities

You Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Warms and tonifies Kidney Yang. Replenishes the Essence. Tonifies the Blood.

Why might You Gui Wan help with cold extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Yang Deficiency' of which cold extremities is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney Yang Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about You Gui Wan here

Wu Ling San

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Promotes urination,. Warms the Yang. Strengthens the Spleen. Promotes Qi transformation function. Drains Dampness. Clears edema.

Why might Wu Ling San help with cold extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency' of which cold extremities is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Lupus.

Read more about Wu Ling San here

Fu Zi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Meridians. Assists the Yang. Dispels Cold. Transforms Dampness.

Why might Fu Zi Tang help with cold extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp' of which cold extremities is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Yang Deficiency With Cold-Damp include generalized body pain and aching bones and joints.

Read more about Fu Zi Tang here

Wen Jing Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Uterus and vessels. Nourishes Blood. Dispels Cold. Dispels Blood Stagnation.

Why might Wen Jing Tang help with cold extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi and Blood Stagnation' of which cold extremities is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Qi and Blood Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Wen Jing Tang here

Er Xian Tang

Source date: 1950 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Yin and tonifies Yang of the Kidneys. Clears Empty Heat. Regulates the Directing and Penetrating Vessels.

Why might Er Xian Tang help with cold extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Deficiency of both the Kidney Yin and Yang' of which cold extremities is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Deficiency of both the Kidney Yin and Yang can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Er Xian Tang here

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 Spleen, the Heart and the Kidney.

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 Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with cold extremities?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cold extremities as a symptom, like Wen Qi Hua Shi Tang or Fu Zi Tang for instance.

Atractylodes Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Fortifies the Spleen Yang and dispels Damp through urination. Tonifies Qi and stops sweating. Calms restless fetus when due to Deficiency of Spleen Qi.

Read more about Atractylodes Rhizomes 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 Wen Jing Tang or Er Xian Tang for instance.

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

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 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 Fu Zi Tang for instance.

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

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 Cornelian Cherry (Shan Zhu Yu) help with cold extremities?

Because Cornelian Cherry is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cold extremities as a symptom, like Ba Wei Di Huang Wan or Shen Qi Wan for instance.

Cornelian Cherries is a Warm herb that tastes Sour. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Preserves and tonifies the Kidney, Liver and Essence. Stops sweating and benefits the Yang and Qi. Assists menstruation and stops bleeding.

Read more about Cornelian Cherries here

Conditions associated with cold extremities

Lupus Menopausal syndrome