Diabetes according to Chinese Medicine

Diabetes can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like diabetes here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here diabetes is often associated with insomnia, night sweats and dry cough in the pattern “Lung Yin Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause diabetes.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of diabetes we’ve identified five herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat diabetes.

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause diabetes

In Chinese Medicine diabetes is a symptom for 2 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

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

Exterior Heat and Dryness invades the Lungs and exhausts the Body Fluids. It eventually leads to Lung Yin Deficiency, if not intervened for a long time.

In addition to diabetes, other symptoms associated with Lung Yin Deficiency include insomnia, night sweats and dry cough.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Lung Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Absence Of Menstruation.

Lung Yin Deficiency is often treated with Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Unprepared Rehmannia - Di Huang - as a key herb). Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that enrich yin and moisten dryness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes the Yin".

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

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

Tongue coating: Partial absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Stomach Yin Deficiency causes Dryness and Heat, which harms the Organ's ability of receiving and ripening foods and drinks. It is the result of prolonged unbalanced diet and irregular eating habits.

In addition to diabetes, other symptoms associated with Stomach Yin Deficiency include dry mouth, bleeding gums and constipation.

Stomach Yin Deficiency is often treated with Mai Men Dong Tang, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Dwarf Lilyturf Roots - Mai Dong - as a key herb). Mai Men Dong Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that enrich yin and moisten dryness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes the Stomach".

Read more about Stomach Yin Deficiency here

Five herbal formulas that might help with diabetes

Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang

Source date: the 18th century

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Improves throat. Resolves toxicity. Clears the Lungs.

Why might Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang help with diabetes?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Lung Yin Deficiency' of which diabetes is a symptom.

Read more about Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang here

Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang

Source date: 1658 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Clears dryness. Moistens the Lungs.

Why might Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang help with diabetes?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Lung Yin Deficiency' of which diabetes is a symptom.

Read more about Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang here

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 treat the pattern 'Stomach Yin Deficiency' of which diabetes is a symptom.

Read more about Mai Men Dong Tang 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 treat the pattern 'Stomach Yin Deficiency' of which diabetes is a symptom.

Read more about Yi Wei Tang here

Shen Ling Bai Zhu San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Augments the Qi. Strengthens the Spleen. Leaches out Dampness. Stops diarrhea.

Why might Shen Ling Bai Zhu San help with diabetes?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach Yin Deficiency' of which diabetes is a symptom.

Read more about Shen Ling Bai Zhu San here

Acupuncture points used for diabetes

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat diabetes

Why might Mudan Peony Bark (Mu Dan Pi) help with diabetes?

Because Mudan Peony Bark is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat diabetes as a symptom, like Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang or Ba Wei Di Huang Wan for instance.

Mudan Peony Bark is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Cools the Blood, activates Blood circulation and resolves Blood stasis.

Read more about Mudan Peony Bark here

Why might Dwarf Lilyturf Root (Mai Dong) help with diabetes?

Because it is a key herb in Mai Men Dong Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Lung Yin Deficiency' (a pattern with diabetes as a symptom)

Dwarf Lilyturf Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Replenishes Yin Essence and promotes secretions. Lubricates and nourishes the Stomach. Soothes the Lung. Nourishes the Heart.

Read more about Dwarf Lilyturf Roots here

Why might Cornelian Cherry (Shan Zhu Yu) help with diabetes?

Because it is a key herb in Ba Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern '' (a pattern with diabetes as a symptom)

Cornelian Cherries is a Warm herb that tastes Sour. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Preserves and tonifies the Kidney, Liver and Essence. Stops sweating and benefits the Yang and Qi. Assists menstruation and stops bleeding.

Read more about Cornelian Cherries here

Why might Water Plantain (Ze Xie) help with diabetes?

Because it is a key herb in Ba Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern '' (a pattern with diabetes as a symptom)

Water Plantain is a Cold herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Bladder and the Kidney.

Its main actions are: Causes urination and removes Damp-Heat

Read more about Water Plantain here

Why might Unprepared Rehmannia (Di Huang) help with diabetes?

Because it is a key herb in Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Lung Yin Deficiency' (a pattern with diabetes as a symptom)

Unprepared Rehmannia is a Cold herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Expels Heat by Cooling Blood. Tonifies Yin by promoting Fluid production. Soothes the Heart by calming Blazing Fire. Cools and nourishes.

Read more about Unprepared Rehmannia here

Other symptoms often associated with diabetes

Insomnia Night sweats Asthma Dizziness Fever Dry cough Edema Nosebleed Tinnitus Hypertension