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Chillblains

General characteristics

General characteristics

Chilblains are characterised by a burning sensation, redness, swelling and soreness in the extremities such as the toes, fingers, nose and earlobes that usually result from exposure to cold. In many cases however they are caused not so much by the cold but by the sudden exposure to heat (the dramatic change from cold to hot) when coming indoors or immersing the extremities in warm water for instance to heat them up.
The blood capillaries become constricted on exposure to cold and the blood flow to the region is greatly reduced. On sudden exposure to warmth the blood vessels dilate too quickly and blood plasma fluid is forced out of the blood vessels into the surrounding tissues. This escaped fluid gives the swelling, redness, fluid filled blisters and soreness of the chilblains. Sometimes when the chilblains become blister like they crack and burst leaving an open sore that can be very itchy and prone to becoming infected.
Chilblains are more common in the elderly, in those who have poor circulation or circulatory disturbances such as Raynaud's disease, those who work in the cold and in anaemia. They are more commonly observed in those living in cool, humid climates and living conditions.
Natural treatments and herbs aim to improve overall circulation, especially to the peripheries and to therefore reduce the likelihood of them recurring.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Foods rich in calcium and potassium are important to strengthen the blood vessels and connective tissues, foods like dark green leaves, nuts and seeds, bananas and carrots. See also 'minerals' in the 'natural healing' section of this site.

Foods high in Vitamins A, C, E, K and B are also very useful in preventing chilblains, see also 'vitamins' in the 'natural healing' section for more ideas on foods containing these vitamins.

Berry fruits are very rich in anti-oxidants and many other useful nutrients.

Eat plenty of garlic, onions, chilli, ginger, horseradish and mustard as these thin the blood and promote better, more effecient circulation.

Avoid eating sugary and fatty foods as these all impair circulation and are detrimental to health when consumed regularly.


Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Chilli powder (half a teaspoon in water) or a few drops of the tincture in water daily will help to equalise blood pressure, improve circulation and can help both prevent and the speedy resolution of chilblains.
Taking a formula based on bitter herbs for a month or so before the chilblain season starts has been known to help prevent their occurrence. Gentian, dandelion root, yellow dock, centaury and barberry could be used in equal parts. Take half a teaspoon in water before lunch and evening meal.
Elderflower tea can help to improve blood flow to the extremities.
A tea made from a teaspoon of equal parts of nettle and gingko taken once or twice daily will help to reduce the likelihood of chilblains happening. They both both improve blood flow and provide many valuable nutrients.
Make a formula using tinctures of chilli (cayenne), prickly ash, hawthorn and yarrow. For 100ml of formula use 10ml of chilli, 10ml of prickly ash, 40ml of hawthorn and 40ml of yarrow tinctures. Take a teaspoon 3 times daily when the chilblains are present or once daily as a preventative during the chilblain 'season'.
A cup or two of horsetail tea (use a teaspoon per cup) will help heal the damaged tissues due to its rich silica content. It can also be added to baths or bowls to soak affected parts in.
Oak bark and other astringent herbs can be used as a wash or soak to improve the condition.
Make a brew of thyme tea using 2 heaped teaspoons and immerse the affected parts in the warm tea for 10-20 minutes daily.
If the skin or blisters break, dust the wounds witha mix of slippery elm with a pinch of cayenne (chilli) added to it to speed up healing, soothe the soreness and improve circulation.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Exercise regularly as this will help improve circulation and health generally.
Stop smoking as the harmful components in commercial tobacco impairs circulation.
Keep your extremities that are prone to chilblains as warm by wearing warm natural fibred gloves, socks and hats and avoid extremes of temperatures.
Some people swear by rubbing the chilblains with raw, cut onion to relieve swelling and soreness.
An old fashioned remedy is to bathe parts affected in warm potato broth, made by simmering a few potatoes with their skins still on for 20 minutes or so and allowing to cool. Potato skins are very rich in potassium so this may be why it works.
Apply 1 drop each of lavender and geranium essential oils to the chilblains every few hours if the skin is unbroken.

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