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 six 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

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Recommended herbal formulas: Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang, Mai Men Dong Tang

Symptoms: Insomnia Dry cough Dry mouth Tiredness Weak voice Dry throat Malar flush Night sweats Hot palms and soles Thin body lacking strength

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. 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. Emotional stress such as sadness and grief may also deplete Lung Qi and Yin.

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. 

The treatment principle is to tonify Lung Yin, nourish Body Fluids and clear Empty Heat if it is needed. 

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 the Organ's functions and cause Dryness and Heat. As a result, symptoms such as thirst, dry stools, dry mouth and dry throat appear. 

However, this is just Empty Heat due to lacking of Yin (and not the Excess of Yang), so the feeling of Heat often only happens in the afternoons or evenings. 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. Due to lack of Body Fluids, there is constipation with dry stools. Retching and hiccups may occur as Stomach's Qi downward function is impaired. 

Unbalanced diet and bad eating habits are the major reasons for this pattern. The patients may often consume spicy and acrid foods, which deplete Stomach Fluids and Yin. Prolonged irregular eating habits also have similar negative impact, such as eating on the run, skipping meals, eating while working, having late meals or working right after eating. Finally chronic Stomach disease can also be a cause. In additional to above reasons, a high fever during an infectious disease or overconsumption of antibiotics can also lead to an acute Stomach Yin Deficiency. 

The treatment principle is to nourish Stomach Yin and Body Fluids.

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

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Tongue shape: Cracked

Recommended herbal formulas: Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, Yu Nu Jian

Symptoms: Vertigo Tinnitus Dizziness Dry mouth Bone ache Back pain Dry throat Poor memory Night sweats Nocturnal emissions

Kidney Yin Deficiency causes false Heat symptoms, such as night sweats, thirst and five palm heat. These signs are from a depletion of Body Fluids and Essence. It can also lead to an insufficient amount of Marrow to fill the Brain, causing poor memory and dizziness. Yin Deficiency of the Kidneys is often paired together with Deficient Liver Yin and/or Deficient Lung Yin.

It can be caused by overwork over a period of several years. Another common cause is excessive sexual activity that consumes both Kidney Essence and Kidney Yin. Other causes include chronic long term illness, consumption of Body Fluids by Heat, prolonged blood loss, overdosage of Yang tonic herbs, smoking and Kidney-depleting foods such as coffee, alcohol, sugar and fruit juices.

Read more about Kidney Yin Deficiency here

The six 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