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Many people have cold hands and feet, especially in cold-weather months. Aside from what the popular proverb says, cold hands aren’t always a sign of a warm heart. Cold hands and feet can indicate more serious conditions such as autoimmune diseases or hypothyroidism. Furthermore, according to traditional Chinese medicine, having cold hands and feet gives a lot of information about a person’s general state of well-being and any energy imbalances they may have.

To further understand what deficiency causes cold hands and feet, and to learn natural remedies for this ailment, keep on reading.

How to improve blood circulation:

Natural remedies for cold hands and feet

1) Diet and lifestyle: 

Diet and lifestyle interventions are some of the most efficient ways to deal with having cold hands and feet. The first thing to do is to stay away from cold or damp environments and to wear gloves and socks if being exposed to such conditions. Smoking fewer cigarettes or quitting altogether is another good thing to do.

A low body temperature causes blood vessels to constrict [5]. On the other hand, increasing body temperature is a great way to dilate blood vessels and improve blood circulation. 

Rigorous physical exercise is a great way to increase heat and Yang energy in the body. Either in the form of jogging, aerobic exercise, or dynamic yoga types like the Ashtanga method.

Diet can also influence blood flow. Consuming a diet high in foods that have a hyperthermic effect will increase body temperature and will improve blood circulation. Such foods include ginger [6], warming spices like pepper and nutmeg, as well as warm foods like soups, chilies, and sipping on warm teas all through the day.

It makes sense to stay away from cold foods such as ice cream, or other heavy foods that are high in fat or difficult to digest. Such foods cause blood flow to be diverted to the digestive system [7], compromising blood flow to the extremities and thus causing cold hands and feet.

What causes cold hands and feet?

Hands and feet are the farthest body parts from the heart, for this reason, blood flow problems can be observed more frequently in those areas than in others. Having cold hands and feet is a frequent but generally benign symptom, usually caused by cold weather or stress. It can also be caused by smoking, since nicotine directly constricts blood vessels, thus limiting blood flow to the hands and feet [1].

In other cases, having cold hands and feet is a symptom of more serious conditions. It can be a sign of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as lupus or Buerger’s vasculitis. It can also indicate hypothyroidism, low blood pressure, anemia, high cholesterol, neuropathy from diabetes or B12 deficiency, and many other things.

Since having cold hands and feet can be a sign of so many serious diseases, it’s a good idea to consult a doctor if you suffer from this symptom. Especially if you find that your hands and feet are constantly cold, feel numb, are painful, swollen and easily turn blue.

But western medicine isn’t the only approach available to understanding cold hands and feet. According to traditional Chinese medicine, this symptom can indicate so many things about a person’s general state of health.

The Traditional Chinese medicine approach to cold hand & feet

What deficiency causes cold and feet

Traditional Chinese medicine [2] believes that Qi energy circulates throughout the body, flowing through energy canals known as the meridians. Any obstacle to the circulation of the Qi energy can result in physical or mental disease. 

Qi or chi energy which is the life force flowing through all of us is made of dual and opposite energies known as the Yin and Yang. Yin energy symbolizes the feminine and the, whereas Yang energy symbolizes masculinity, the sun, and heat.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, having cold hands and feet can be explained by two models.

The first model is the Liver Qi stagnation model, which is linked to stress and depression [3]. The second model is the yang energy deficiency. Yang energy symbolizes movement and heat, and so a deficiency in Yang energy can manifest as insufficient blood flow to the hands and feet resulting in cold limbs, as well as a wide variety of other poor blood circulation symptoms.

Symptoms of poor blood circulation:

Many other signs can tell if a person is suffering from poor blood circulation. For instance: fluid retention, constipation, irritability, menstrual irregularities in women, sluggishness and feelings of heaviness, phlegm and difficulty breathing, varicose veins, weight gain and difficulty losing weight, and problems with lymphatic drainage.  Having one or many of these signs can indicate poor blood flow in the body, which can be a sign of a serious disease, stagnant Qi energy, or a deficiency in Yang energy.

 The good news is: there are so many natural remedies to fight cold hands and feet and to establish energy harmony in the body.

If cold hands and feet are caused by an underlying medical condition such as hypothyroidism or an autoimmune disease, the solution is to take care of that condition.

In other cases where cold hands and feet are not caused by any medical diagnoses, certain medications can be prescribed, such as nifedipine or topical steroids to apply on any cold sores that may develop [4].

These medications when taken in the long term can have adverse effects, so they are not the best solution. The good news is, many natural and holistic remedies can help with increasing Yang energy in the body:

2) Other natural treatments for cold hand & feet:

Acupuncture is an ancient traditional Chinese treatment that frees up any Qi energy blockage resulting in harmony and healthy blood circulation. Other traditional treatments are helpful, such as an Ayurvedic massage technique known as Abhyanga which is traditionally performed with warm sesame oil.

Other self-care practices like taking a warm shower, spending time in a sauna or a steam room, moxibustion, dry brushing, or simply treating yourself to a massage can also improve blood circulation.

3) Herbs and supplements:

If you are looking for a simple yet effective way to improve blood circulation and help with cold hands and feet, learn about chinese herbs for poor blood circulation. Herbs and supplements have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to improve blood flow. There is a wide body of research that supports the benefits of these herbs.

  • The most popular Chinese herbs for cold hands and feet and improving blood circulation is red sage root, also known as Dan Shen. Red sage root is proven to enhance the function of the cardiovascular system [8] and to have immunomodulatory benefits [9]. Such unique benefits make red sage root an excellent supplement for cold hands and feet.
  • Other supplements include cinnamon (Rou Gui), which is proven to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering, and cardiovascular enhancing properties [10], making it an excellent cure for cold hands and feet.
  • Ginseng has been used for centuries as one of the most effective Chinese herbal medicine for blood circulation. It is scientifically proven to enhance cardiovascular health and have antioxidant properties [11].
  • Last but not least, Angelica root (Dong Gui) has been used for centuries to promote blood circulation. Research has shown that Angelica root can improve cardiovascular function and immune response, and has antioxidant properties [12].

Not sure what supplement to choose? Get help from our TCM experts!


Having cold hands and feet is a common but annoying symptom. Luckily simple natural remedies exist. They range from lifestyle and diet interventions, natural treatments, to traditional herbal medicine such as red sage root and cinnamon supplements, which have successfully been used for centuries to treat such ailments.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We can’t guarantee the treatment result, as the symptoms of conditions are unpredictable and vary greatly from person to person. The treatment length and recovery time also varies for individual. Please visit our consultation page where a specialists will discuss your care and provide a consultation, and the treatment will be designed to meet your individual needs.

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