Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cold hands and feet

Are you one of those people who always has cold hands and feet once the temperature drops below 70 degrees? Well, if it isn't a case of low blood pressure, hypothyroidism or Raynaud's syndrome, it's most likely to be caused by poor circulation. Or what is known in TCM as ''si ni'' - frigid extremities. If the hands are cold, there is said to be a deficiency in heart energy. The old saying "cold hands, warm heart'' won't apply in Chinese terms! If it's cold feet that are the problem, then there is a deficiency in kidney energy. When the body is cold in its core it will first of all take heat from the extremities to provide the necessary warmth, resulting in freezing hands and feet. Women are more susceptible to the problem despite a slightly higher core body temperature than men, who tend to have more fat and muscle to keep their extremities warm. Fluctuating hormones can also contribute to cold feet. In TCM it is said that yang brings qi to the limbs, while yin brings qi to the organs. A disconnection between yin and yang is most often caused by pathogenic cold and deficient yang qi and blood. Blood vessels contract in cold weather making it harder for blood to circulate, and deficient yang qi is too weak to reach the limbs. Other factors may be accumulated heat and dampness from hot humid summers, leading to a warm core but cold limbs. In this case, herbal remedies and acupuncture can be most beneficial.
To reduce cold hands and feet caused by cold weather or deficient energy and blood, aerobic exercise is recommended. Brisk walking or tai chi will promote blood circulation and metabolism. Avoid overexertion however, as heavy sweating will only result in releasing yang energy from the body and will, therefore, aggravate the problem.
Keep the core warm by eating warming yang foods and, in particular black foods for the kidneys (black walnuts, beans, sesame seeds and fungus). Drink TCM herbal teas and soups to activate blood circulation and regulate yin and yang energy. Use dan shen (red sage root), cinnamon, or dang gui (angelica root).
Increase circulation in the limbs by rubbing hands together and soaking feet in warm water to which either cinnamon, ginger, or chamomile essential oil has been added. If your feet are cold at night, soak them in warm water for 20 minutes, then dry the feet and wear warm socks to bed.
Acupressure can also be beneficial for increasing blood circulation. Stimulate hegu (LI 4), neiguan (P 6)zusanli (St 36) or yong quan (K 1)