Q The doctor told me years ago that I had Raynaud's disease (it had been a cold day when I went to the GP's surgery). This year I found that I was even getting chilblains in early summer in the early evenings and even sitting down meant my feet went a little numb.
Is Raynaud's triggered or worsened by overeating? Is there any way of relieving or getting rid of it? I already take Ginkgo, ginger and garlic, but I am not sure of quantities or types, and I still have very bad circulation. - PD, Bristol
A Named after Maurice Raynaud, the French physician who first recognised the condition in 1862, Raynaud's disease occurs when there is an interrupted blood flow to the extremities (fingers, toes, ears and nose). The skin becomes very pale and then turns bluish; redness follows. Sufferers also experience numbness, tingling, burning and often pain. It's often brought on by exposure to cold and emotional stress rather than over-eating, although we often overeat as a comfort for stress (BMJ, 1995; 310: 795).
You can treat Raynaud's symptoms by keeping your hands and feet well covered in cold weather. If you are a smoker, stop - because nicotine will make your condition worse. You can also fight stress and anxiety by taking regular exercise. Hypnosis and relaxation techniques can also help.
Ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) is one of the most successful treatments for peripheral vascular insufficiency. A review of over 40 studies (nine double-blind) with GBE showed it to be an effective antioxidant, inhibiting platelet aggregation and improving blood flow to ischaemic areas (Lancet, 1992; 340: 1136-9).
Garlic is well known for cleaning out your arteries. Other remedies include Centella asiatica, shown to improve circulation (Angiology, 1987; 38: 46-50; J Herbs Spice Med Plants, 1988; 3: 146- 73; Minerva Cardiol Angiol, 1982; 30: 201-7). Its main constituents (asiatic acid, madecassic acid and asiaticoside) may be used on their own as an effective remedy known as titrated extract of Centella asiatica (TECA).
You might also try vitamin E (found in fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts), magnesium (from seeds and nuts, fish, beans and dark-green vegetables), and fish oils. Several types of herbs have been suggested, including peony (Paeonia lactiflora) and dong quai (Angelica sinensis).
In addition to ginger (Zingiber officinale), try prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum), which enhances circulation to the extremities.
One WDDTY reader grinds fresh cayenne pepper (Capsicum frutescens) - the best (and hottest) are Haba~nero or Scotch Bonnet - with root ginger and garlic into a paste, with a drop of olive oil. African birdseye pepper may be easier to find, but is not so effective. He takes a full teaspoon of this paste, mixed with an ounce of tomato juice, not less than three times, and up to 16 times, a day. The results are almost immediate. But remember to wash your hands thoroughly after mixing the peppers.