To keep your hands and feet warm during the winter, you need to improve your circulation. I recommend the herb hawthorn (a 600-milligram supplement daily), which gets the heart pumping more forcefully and stimulates circulation. Other natural circulation enhancers include ginkgo biloba and the amino acid l-arginine, which may help restore the health of blood vessels. Essential fatty acids (found in fatty fish, flaxseed, and supplements like borage oil and evening primrose) are also healing for blood vessels since they help to reduce inflammation. And applying a topical cream made from the extract of capsicum–the chili pepper plant–can help boost circulation by promoting blood flow in the capillaries. These creams are available in most drugstores or natural-foods stores.—Damien L. Brandeis, N.M.D., Chandler, Ariz.
To protect your hands and feet from the cold, you must insulate them adequately and shield them from moisture. Applying a roll-on antiperspirant to your feet will help keep them dry; so will wearing socks made with a synthetic material that wicks sweat away from your skin. People with Raynaud’s disease (a circulation disorder that causes blood vessels in the fingers and toes to constrict, making hands and feet more susceptible to cold) may find relief with this remedy: Place your bare feet in a bucket of hot water for about five minutes, then take them out. Every five minutes, alternate between having your feet in the water and out. After about 40 minutes, the shifts in temperature should help stop blood vessel constriction and get your blood flowing normally.—William Roberts, M.D., professor of family medicine at the University of Minnesota
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When your body loses heat, it tends to pull warm blood away from your extremities in order to protect your core. To minimize heat loss overall, start by donning a tightly knit woolen hat that covers your ears. To keep your metabolism up (which helps warm you), be sure to stay well-hydrated and well-nourished, taking care to include a mix of fat and protein (eating a blend of raisins and peanuts, for example) in your diet, especially if you’re going to be spending extended periods of time outside in cold weather. Drink plenty of water and other fluids, but avoid diuretics like caffeinated coffee and tea–they can contribute to dehydration and could also speed up the rate at which your body releases heat.—Jody Conrad, consultant at the Nova Scotia Department of Health Promotion and Protection Naturopathic Medical Doctor