Conditions :

Raynaud's Phenomenon

Principal Proposed Natural Treatments
††ē None
Other Proposed Natural Treatments
††ē Acupuncture; Arginine; Biofeedback; Fish Oil; Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA); Ginkgo; Inositol Hexaniacinate; Vitamin C

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†† Proposed Natural Treatments
†† References

Raynaud's phenomenon is a little understood condition in which the fingers and toes show an exaggerated sensitivity to cold. Classic cases show a characteristic white, blue, and red color sequence as the digits lose blood supply and then rewarm. Some people develop only one or two of these signs.

The cause of Raynaud's phenomenon is unknown. It can occur by itself, as primary Raynaudís (also called Raynaudís disease), or as a consequence of other illnesses, such as scleroderma . In the latter case, it is called secondary Raynaudís.

Conventional treatment consists mainly of reassurance and the recommendation to avoid exposure to cold and the use of tobacco (which can worsen Raynaud's). In severe cases, a variety of drugs can be tried.

Proposed Natural Treatments

Preliminary evidence supports the use of several natural supplements in the treatment of Raynaudís phenomenon. Most of the positive evidence regards primary Raynaudís.

In a 17-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 35 people with Raynaudís, fish oil (taken at a dose that provided a total of 3.96 g of EPA and 2.64 g of DHA daily) reduced reaction to cold among those with primary Raynaudís disease, but did not seem to help those with Raynaudís caused by other illnesses. 2

In an 84-day, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 23 people with primary Raynaudís, use of inositol hexaniacinate significantly reduced the frequency of attacks. 1

The herb Ginkgo biloba has been found to increase circulation in the fingertips 6 and thus has been proposed as a treatment for Raynaudís. A 10-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 22 people with primary Raynaudís found that use of ginkgo at the very high dose of 120 mg 3 times daily reduced the number of Raynaudís attacks. 8

One very small double-blind study found suggestions that evening primrose oil might help primary or secondary Raynaudís. 4,5

A double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial of 10 individuals failed to find arginine at 8 g daily helpful for primary Raynaudís. 7

A small double-blind trial tested the effects of a single dose of 2 g vitamin C on Raynaudís caused by scleroderma and found no benefit. 9

Current evidence suggests that biofeedback is at most no more than marginally effective for Raynaudís. 10,11 The same is true of acupuncture . 12


1. Sunderland GT, Belch JJ, Sturrock RD, et al. A double-blind randomised placebo controlled trial of hexopal in primary Raynaudís disease. Clin Rheumatol . 1988;7:46-49.

2. DiGiacomo RA, Kremer JM, Shah DM. Fish-oil dietary supplementation in patients with Raynaudís phenomenon: a double-blind, controlled, prospective study. Am J Med . 1989;86:158-164.

3. Ringer TV, Hughes GS, Spillers CR, et al. Fish oil blunts the pain response to cold pressor testing in normal males [abstract]. J Am Coll Nutr . 1989;8:435.

4. Belch JJ, Shaw B, OíDowd A, et al. Evening primrose oil (Efamol) as a treatment for cold-induced vasospasm (Raynaudís phenomenon). Prog Lipid Res. 1986;25:335-340.

5. Belch JJ, Shaw B, OíDowd A, et al. Evening primrose oil (Efamol) in the treatment of Raynaudís phenomenon: a double-blind study. Thromb Haemost . 1985;54:490-494.

6. Jung F, Mrowietz C, Kiesewetter H, et al. Effect of Ginkgo biloba on fluidity of blood and peripheral microcirculation in volunteers. Arzneimittelforschung . 1990;40:589-593.

7. Khan F, Litchfield SJ, McLaren M, et al. Oral L-arginine supplementation and cutaneous vascular responses in patients with primary Raynaud's phenomenon. Arthritis Rheum . 1997;40:352-357.

8. Muir AH, Robb R, McLaren M, et al. The use of ginkgo biloba in Raynaud's disease: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Vasc Med . 2002;7:265-267.

9. Mavrikakis ME, Lekakis JP, Papamichael CM, et al. Ascorbic acid does not improve endothelium-dependent flow-mediated dilatation of the brachial artery in patients with Raynaud's phenomenon secondary to systemic sclerosis. Int J Vitam Nutr Res . 2003;73:3-7.

10. Raynaud's Treatment Study Investigators. Comparison of sustained-release nifedipine and temperature biofeedback for treatment of primary Raynaudís phenomenon. Results from a randomized clinical trial with 1-year follow-up. Arch Intern Med . 2000;160:1101-1108.

11. Freedman RR, Ianni P, Wenig P. Behavioral treatment of Raynaud's phenomenon in scleroderma. J Behav Med . 1984;7:343-353.

12. Hahn M, Steins A, Mohrle M et al. Is there a vasospasmolytic effect of acupuncture in patients with secondary Raynaud phenomenon? J Dtsch Dermatol Ges . 2005;2:758-762.

Last reviewed August 2013 by EBSCO CAM Review Board

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