* L-arginine. This is a precursor to nitric oxide, which improves circulation, bringing more oxygen to tissues (Stroke, 1994; 25: 429-35). In Raynaud’s, oral L-arginine can reverse tissue damage in the fingers (Mol Cell Biochem, 2003; 244: 139-41). L-Arginine cream applied to the feet of diabetics improved circulation, an effect that was also long-lasting (Diabetes Care, 2004; 27: 284-5).
* Essential fatty acids. Omega-3 oils (found in oily fish) boost tolerance to cold and have anti-clotting effects; evening primrose oil ups prostaglandins, thus improving circulation (Am J Med, 1989; 86: 158-64; Thromb Haemost, 1985; 54: 490-4).
* Antioxidant nutrients. These micronutrients (vitamins C, E, beta-carotene and selenium) help minimise the tissue damage seen with Raynaud’s (J Rheumatol, 1994; 21: 1477-83).
* B vitamins. As patients with Raynaud’s have higher levels of homocysteine, increasing folic acid (vitamin B6), required to metabolise homocysteine, may relieve symptoms (J Rheumatol, 1999; 26: 2383-5). Inositol nicotinate, a form of niacin (vitamin B3), can help relax the arteries (Drugs, 1996; 52: 682-95).
* Herbal supplements. Those known to reduce vasospasm in Raynaud’s include Ginkgo biloba (Vasc Med, 2002; 7: 265-7) and grapeseed extract (Planta Med, 1996; 62: 495-502).
* Traditional Chinese medicine. In Chinese medical terms, Raynaud’s is due to stagnation of blood and too much ‘cold’ yin energy. Acupuncture reinvigorates the blood and improves circulation. One study of primary Raynaud’s found that acupuncture reduced the frequency of attacks by 63 per cent (J Intern Med, 1997; 241: 119-24). Chinese herbals include herbs such as ginseng to strengthen chi (vital energy), ginger to dispel the chills, and aconite to stimulate ‘hot’ yang energy.
* Biofeedback. This essentially involves you ‘believing’ yourself warm by, say, visualising yourself lying on a beach or in a hot bath. This technique reduced the frequency of vasospasms by 7.5 per cent for up to a year, and increased patients’ body temperature as well (Biofeedback Self Regul, 1981; 6: 355-65).
* Watch out for cold triggers such as low temperatures, stress and prolonged exposure to vibration. Cut down on caffeine and stop smoking, as both constrict the blood vessels. Keep your fingers and toes warm, and exercise regularly.