Essential Oils for Raynaud's Disease

Aromatherapy A-Z: Raynaud

Raynaud's is a common condition that affects blood supply to the extremities of the body - it normally occurs in the fingers and toes but the ears, nose, lips and even nipples can be affected too. It is caused by the blood vessels going into temporary spasm, which stops the flow of blood and leaves the affected area white in colour and feeling numb. When the circulation returns the sufferer experiences anything from a mild throbbing sensation to excruciating pain. It is not fully understood what causes the blood vessels to narrow in this way but it is usually triggered by cold temperatures. Stress and anxiety can also be a trigger, as can hormone changes, excess caffeine, smoking and the use of beta blockers. 

There are two different types of Raynaud's, Primary and Secondary. With Primary the symptoms are usually mild and manageable with no complications. Secondary is commonly caused by an autoimmune condition such as lupus or scleroderma. This can be more severe and needs further investigation and monitoring to help prevent complications such as sores and ulcers. With management, Raynaud's is generally not a serious threat, but in very severe cases it could lead to tissue death and gangrene - this is extremely rare however and is usually connected to other health conditions.

How to manage Raynaud's

Unfortunately there is no cure for this condition. The key thing is to try and prevent an attack by keeping warm. So try to avoid cold temperatures, and fluctuating temperatures and wear lots of thin, loose layers of clothing to keep as warm as possible. Try to avoid stressful situations if stress and anxiety are the triggers for an attack.

A healthy, balanced diet is important too. Certain foods such as ginger, garlic, chillies, cayenne pepper and other spicy foods are thought to help. Buckwheat is particularly recommended, along with rye, as both are high in rutin which helps to improve the circulation. Buckwheat leaf tea is also useful for those with circulatory issues. Food supplements such as Evening Primrose Oil, Borage Seed/Starflower Oil, Linseed/Flaxseed Oil and fish oils can be helpful as can antioxidant Vitamin E and Vitamin C with bioflavonoids, which can help maintain capillary walls and promote circulation. In clinical trials Gingko biloba has also been shown to lower the number of attacks. I particularly recommend working with a nutritional therapist who can devise a mini detox to help free arteries and veins from any deposits in order to boost the circulation. Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided.

Aromatherapy can be an effective treatment for Raynaud's, especially when used preventatively, and is even recommended by the Raynaud's Association. The choice of essential oils should always relate to your usual 'holistic health' consultation, as options will vary according to the specifics of each case. The aim is to tonify the circulatory system in general, to help reduce the likelihood of an attack. The choice of oils will usually encompass those that are analgesic, anti-spasmodic, circulatory stimulants, and anti-inflammatory. Remembering the stress related element of this condition, we also recommend using stress relieving, mood enhancing essential oils.

Essential oils to help with Raynaud's:

Black Pepper, Ginger, Plai, Marjoram, Rosemary, Patchouli, Nutmeg, Cypress, Orange, Ylang Ylang, Lemon and Geranium essential oils are particularly helpful and can be used for massage, baths, compresses, inhalation and vaporising.

Try the following blend for body massage to help stimulate the circulation. Use all over the body (except the face) paying particular attention to the fingers and toes.

5ml Neem Oil
5ml Rosehip Oil
20ml Olive Oil
4 drops Orange essential oil
4 Rosemary essential oil
3 Ylang Ylang essential oil
3 Patchouli essential oil
1 Ginger essential oil

Tip: Remember to warm your carrier oils first!!

For a mild attack i.e. 1 or 2 fingers begin to turn white, symptoms can be alleviated by massaging the back of the hand and flicking your hand to help stimulate the blood flow.

Joannah Metcalfe

Consultant Aromatherapist

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