Diabetes according to Chinese Medicine

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In Chinese Medicine, diabetes can be associated with six so-called "patterns of disharmony". Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted. It is not equivalent to the Western concept of "disease", as a matter of fact here diabetes can be caused by six different patterns.

To understand whether someone's diabetes might be caused by a given pattern, one needs to look for signs and symptoms associated with the pattern beyond what one might typically experience from diabetes alone. For instance when diabetes is caused by the pattern Bladder Deficiency with Cold, patients also experience symptoms such as urine the color of rice water (grey and cloudy), disorientation, forgetfulness and incontinence. Similarly, patients with Bladder Deficiency with Cold typically exhibit deep (Chen) or weak (Ruo) pulses as well as a pale tongue with thin white coating.

We've listed below a description of the six patterns associated with diabetes so that you can start to get an understanding of the various possibilities according to Chinese Medicine.

Once identified, patterns are often treated using herbal formulas. Drinking herbal infusions is the most common remedy in Chinese Medicine, together with acupuncture. Here we detail below nine formulas that can help treat the various patterns associated with diabetes, depending on which pattern fits your profile.

The six "patterns of disharmony" associated with diabetes

The Bladder is a so-called "Fu" Organ. Learn more about the Bladder in Chinese Medicine

Bladder Deficiency with Cold

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Pale

Recommended herbal formula: Sang Piao Xiao San

Symptoms: Dizziness Incontinence Forgetfulness Disorientation Lower back pain Feeling of cold Frequent urination White urethral discharge Urine the color of rice water (grey and cloudy)

Diabetes might be due to Bladder Deficiency with Cold if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as urine the color of rice water (grey and cloudy), disorientation, forgetfulness and incontinence. Similarly, patients with Bladder Deficiency with Cold typically exhibit deep (Chen) or weak (Ruo) pulses as well as a pale tongue with thin white coating.

Read more about Bladder Deficiency with Cold here

The Liver is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Liver in Chinese Medicine

Liver Yin Deficiency

Diabetes might be due to Liver Yin Deficiency if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as dizziness, numbness in the limbs, insomnia and blurred vision. Similarly, patients with Liver Yin Deficiency typically exhibit empty (Xu) or floating (Fu) pulses as well as a normal (light red) tongue with complete absence of coating.

Read more about Liver Yin Deficiency here

The Lungs is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Lungs in Chinese Medicine

Lung Yin Deficiency

Exterior Heat and Dryness can invade the Lungs and exhausts the Body Fluids. If it is not dealt with for a long time, it leads to Lung Yin Deficiency. Typical manifestations are dry cough, throat and mouth, aversion to speak as well as Hoarse voice. 

Other factors can cause this pattern such as the Deficiency of Kidneys or Stomach Yin as well as prolonged Lung Qi Deficiency due to excessive smoking or use of voice.

Empty-Heat symptoms appear if the Lung Yin Deficiency condition is not treated for a while. Patients can feel malar flush, low-grade fever as well as Heat in the palms and chest, especially in the evenings. 

Lung Yin Deficiency generally occurs in middle-aged and elderly patients as a result of overwork, irregular diet and smoking. However, it can also occur in a child after whooping cough.

Read more about Lung Yin Deficiency here

The Stomach is a so-called "Fu" Organ. Learn more about the Stomach in Chinese Medicine

Stomach Yin Deficiency

The Stomach is responsible for receiving foods and drinks, ripening them and sending them to the Spleen for further digestion. Therefore, the Stomach is the origin of Body Fluids. It is also an Organ that likes Cold and Dampness which are both Yin characteristics. Stomach Yin Deficiency harms this functions and cause Dryness and Heat. As a result, symptoms such as thirst, dry stools, dry mouth and dry throat appear. It also cause the tongue coating to fall off. 

Due to lack of Body Fluids, there is constipation with dry stools. Retching and hiccups may also occur as Stomach's Qi downward function is impaired. 

If the Yin Deficiency situation last for a long period of time, it can potentially develop Empty-Heat. It's typical manifestations are often quite mild and appears only in the afternoon or evening, such the mild fever or feeling of heat. The patients experiences thirst or hunger but there is no desire to drink or eat, or they only drink in small sips. They also prefer warm liquids and their appetite is poor.

Read more about Stomach Yin Deficiency here

The Stomach is a so-called "Fu" Organ. Learn more about the Stomach in Chinese Medicine

Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

Recommended herbal formula: Yu Nu Jian

Symptoms: Toothache Headaches

Diabetes might be due to Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as toothache and headaches. Similarly, patients with Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat typically exhibit slippery (Hua) or floating (Fu) pulses as well as a red tongue with yellow coating.

Read more about Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat here

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Kidney Yin Deficiency

This pattern often accompanies Kidney Essence Deficiency, as Kidney Yin includes Essence. When both element are depleted in the Kidneys, not enough Marrow is generated to fill the Brain, thus the symptoms of dizziness, tinnitus, vertigo and poor memory. The dizziness is mild and the tinnitus is often gradual and slow, like a rushing water sound. Marrow is also essential for nourishing the bones, thus the pattern also leads to symptoms like back and bone pain. 

Essence Deficiency also gives rise to symptoms like nocturnal emissions, infertility or little sperm. 

Body Fluids is also a form of Yin, therefore Yin Deficiency causes some degree of Dryness, resulting constipation, scanty dark urine as well as a dry mouth and throat, especially at night. 

When Kidney Yin Deficiency proceed for a long time without being treated properly, it can develop some Empty Heat symptoms such as night sweats, five palm heat, feeling of heat or fever in the afternoon or evening, malar flush, thirst but only with desire to drink in small sips and anxiety in the evening. 

Read more about Kidney Yin Deficiency here

The nine herbal formulas that might help with diabetes

Mai Men Dong Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Stomach. Generates Body Fluids. Directs Rebellious Qi downward.

Why might Mai Men Dong Tang help with diabetes?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help with the patterns Lung Yin Deficiency and Stomach Yin Deficiency which are sometimes associated with diabetes. If any of these patterns look like something you might suffer from, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Mai Men Dong Tang here

Yu Nu Jian

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Drains Heat from the Stomach. Nourishes Yin.

Why might Yu Nu Jian help with diabetes?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help with the patterns Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat and Kidney Yin Deficiency which are sometimes associated with diabetes. If any of these patterns look like something you might suffer from, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Yu Nu Jian here

Sang Piao Xiao San

Source date: 1116 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Regulates and tonifies the Heart and Kidneys. Stabilizes the Essence. Stops leakage.

Why might Sang Piao Xiao San help with diabetes?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Bladder Deficiency with Cold, a pattern sometimes associated with diabetes. If it looks like you might suffer from Bladder Deficiency with Cold, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Sang Piao Xiao San here

Qi Ju Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1350 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin. Improves vision.

Why might Qi Ju Di Huang Wan help with diabetes?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Liver Yin Deficiency, a pattern sometimes associated with diabetes. If it looks like you might suffer from Liver Yin Deficiency, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Qi Ju Di Huang Wan here

Yi Wei Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Strengthen the Stomach. Creates Body Fluids.

Why might Yi Wei Tang help with diabetes?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Stomach Yin Deficiency, a pattern sometimes associated with diabetes. If it looks like you might suffer from Stomach Yin Deficiency, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Yi Wei Tang here

Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Stabilizes the Kidneys. Binds up the semen.

Why might Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan help with diabetes?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat , a pattern sometimes associated with diabetes. If it looks like you might suffer from , this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan here

Ge Geng Huang Qin Huang Lian Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Releases the Exterior. Drains Heat.

Why might Ge Geng Huang Qin Huang Lian Tang help with diabetes?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat , a pattern sometimes associated with diabetes. If it looks like you might suffer from , this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Ge Geng Huang Qin Huang Lian Tang here

Bai Hu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Clears Qi-level Heat. Drains Stomach Fire. Generates fluids. Alleviates thirst.

Why might Bai Hu Tang help with diabetes?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat , a pattern sometimes associated with diabetes. If it looks like you might suffer from , this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Bai Hu Tang here

Da Chai Hu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Harmonizes and releases the Lesser Yang. Drains internal clumping due to Heat.

Why might Da Chai Hu Tang help with diabetes?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat , a pattern sometimes associated with diabetes. If it looks like you might suffer from , this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Da Chai Hu Tang here