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 feeling of cold, coughing and dizziness in the pattern “Cold-Phlegm in the Lungs”. As you will see below, we have in record five 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 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 hands.

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

In Chinese Medicine cold hands 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 Lungs is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Lungs in Chinese Medicine

Cold-Phlegm in the Lungs

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Slow (Chi)

In addition to cold hands, other symptoms associated with Cold-Phlegm in the Lungs include feeling of cold, coughing and dizziness.

Cold-Phlegm in the Lungs is often treated with Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Poria-Cocos Mushrooms - Fu Ling - as a key herb). Ling Gui Zhu Gan 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 and transforms Phlegm-Fluids".

Read more about Cold-Phlegm in the Lungs here

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

Kidney Yang Deficiency with Water overflowing

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

In addition to cold hands, other symptoms associated with Kidney Yang Deficiency with Water overflowing include palpitations, feeling of cold and coughing.

Kidney Yang Deficiency with Water overflowing 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 Kidney Yang Deficiency with Water overflowing 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, dizziness 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

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, feeling of oppression of the chest 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 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, feeling of cold and shortness of breath on exertion.

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

Five herbal formulas that might help with cold hands

Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Warms and transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Strengthens the Spleen. Resolves Dampness.

Why might Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang help with cold hands?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Cold-Phlegm in the Lungs' of which cold hands is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Cold-Phlegm In The Lungs include feeling of cold, coughing and dizziness.

Read more about Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang 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 hands?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney Yang Deficiency With Water Overflowing include palpitations, feeling of cold and coughing.

Read more about Wu Ling San 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, dizziness and shortness of breath.

Read more about Shen Qi Si Wu 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, feeling of oppression of the chest and purple lips.

Read more about Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang here

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, feeling of cold and shortness of breath on exertion.

Read more about Gui Zhi Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang here

Acupuncture points used for cold hands

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 Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang or Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang 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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with cold hands?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cold hands as a symptom, like Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang or Wu Ling San 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 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 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 Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with cold hands?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cold hands as a symptom, like Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang or Wu Ling San 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 Dried Ginger (Gan Jiang) help with cold hands?

Because Dried Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cold hands as a symptom, like Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang or Gui Zhi Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang for instance.

Dried Ginger is a Hot herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Heart, the Kidney, the Lung and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Warms the Spleen and expels Cold. Restores collapse of Yang and expels Interior Cold. Warms the Lungs and assists expectoration of Cold Phlegm. Stops chronic bleeding caused by Cold.

Read more about Dried Ginger here