Cold hands according to Chinese Medicine

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Cold hands 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 hands 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 hands is often associated with palpitations, shortness of breath on exertion and fatigue in the pattern “Heart Yang Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause cold hands.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of cold hands we’ve identified three 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 hands.

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause cold hands

In Chinese Medicine cold hands is a symptom for 3 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

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

Heart Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Knotted (Jie), Weak (Ruo)

This pattern has similar symptoms to Heart Qi Deficiency, though they are usually more severe and include symptoms of Coldness. It is from similar causes as Heart Qi Deficiency, or can be from a Deficiency of Kidney Yang since that is the body's source of Yang.

In addition to cold hands, other symptoms associated with Heart Yang Deficiency include palpitations, shortness of breath on exertion and fatigue.

Heart Yang Deficiency is often treated with Gui Zhi Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Cinnamon Bark - Rou Gui - as a key herb). Gui Zhi Jia Long Gu Mu Li 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: "Rectifies relationship between Yin and Yang".

Read more about Heart Yang Deficiency here

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

Heart Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Knotted (Jie)

Tongue color: Bluish-Purple

This is a severe pattern deriving from other Heart patterns such as Heart Yang or Blood Deficiency, or Heart Qi Stagnation. Prolonged emotional stress such as grief, worry, resentment, anxiety or anger can seriously harm the Heart's functions of controlling Blood and Blood vessels as well as housing the spiritual Mind.

In addition to cold hands, other symptoms associated with Heart Blood Stagnation include palpitations, chest pain and purple lips.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Heart Blood Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Postpartum Depression.

Heart Blood Stagnation 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 Blood Stagnation here

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

Pericardium Blood Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Fine (Xi)

In addition to cold hands, other symptoms associated with Pericardium Blood Deficiency include palpitations, chest pain and shortness of breath.

Pericardium Blood Deficiency is often treated with Shen Qi Si Wu Tang, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Shen Qi Si Wu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Restores and nourishes Blood".

Read more about Pericardium Blood Deficiency here

Three herbal formulas that might help with cold hands

Gui Zhi Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Rectifies relationship between Yin and Yang. Harmonizes Heart and Kidney. Stabilizes and secures Essence.

Why might Gui Zhi Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang help with cold hands?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Heart Yang Deficiency include palpitations, shortness of breath on exertion and fatigue.

Read more about Gui Zhi Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang 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 hands?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Heart Blood Stagnation' of which cold hands is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Heart Blood Stagnation include palpitations, chest pain and purple lips.

Read more about Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang here

Shen Qi Si Wu Tang

Source date: 846 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Restores and nourishes Blood. Stimulates Blood circulation. Tonifies Qi.

Why might Shen Qi Si Wu Tang help with cold hands?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Pericardium Blood Deficiency' of which cold hands is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Pericardium Blood Deficiency include palpitations, chest pain and shortness of breath.

Read more about Shen Qi Si Wu Tang here

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

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

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cold hands as a symptom, like Gui Zhi Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang or Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang for instance.

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

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 White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with cold hands?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cold hands as a symptom, like Gui Zhi Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang or Shen Qi Si Wu Tang for instance.

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Spleen and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain.

Read more about White Peony Roots here

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

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cold hands as a symptom, like Shen Qi Si Wu Tang or Xue Fu Zhu Yu 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 Szechuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong) help with cold hands?

Because Szechuan Lovage Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cold hands as a symptom, like Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang or Shen Qi Si Wu Tang for instance.

Szechuan Lovage Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Gallbladder, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Regulates and moves the Blood. Relieves Wind-Cold and pain. Circulates the Qi in the Upper Burner, relieving headaches.

Read more about Szechuan Lovage Roots here

Why might Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with cold hands?

Because it is a key herb in Shen Qi Si Wu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Pericardium Blood Deficiency' (a pattern with cold hands as a symptom)

Prepared Rehmannia is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Tonifies the Yin of the Kidneys.

Read more about Prepared Rehmannia here