Numbness in the extremities according to Chinese Medicine

Numbness in the extremities 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 numbness in the extremities 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 numbness in the extremities is often associated with numbness in the limbs, numbness of the muscles and stifling sensation in the chest in the pattern “Phlegm in the Channels joints and muscles”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause numbness in the extremities.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of numbness in the extremities 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 numbness in the extremities.

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause numbness in the extremities

In Chinese Medicine numbness in the extremities is a symptom for 3 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Phlegm in the Channels joints and muscles

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Wiry (Xian)

The bone deformities that occur in chronic rheumatoid arthritis are seen as a form of Phlegm.

In addition to numbness in the extremities, other symptoms associated with Phlegm in the Channels joints and muscles include numbness in the limbs, numbness of the muscles and stifling sensation in the chest.

Phlegm in the Channels joints and muscles is often treated with Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula made of 12 herbs (including Peach Kernels - Tao Ren - as a key herb). Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that regulate blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Invigorates Blood".

Read more about Phlegm in the Channels joints and muscles here

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

Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Yang Rising

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Wiry (Xian), Fine (Xi), Floating (Fu)

Tongue color: Red

Liver Yang Rising can create Interior Wind if the condition is not treated for a long time. It can be divided to three categories based on the cause of the pattern: Liver Yin Deficiency, Liver and Kidney Yin Deficiency or Liver Blood Deficiency.

In addition to numbness in the extremities, other symptoms associated with Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Yang Rising include dizziness, insomnia and tinnitus.

Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Yang Rising is often treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Liu Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system)".

Read more about Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Yang Rising here

Peach Kernels (Tao Ren) is the king ingredient for Tao He Cheng Qi Tang, a formula used for Blood Stagnation

Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Firm (Lao), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Reddish-Purple

Blood Stagnation, like the name indicates, is when Blood flow becomes Stagnant. It can happen in the whole body or in specific Organs. It is one of the most important diagnostic conditions in Chinese Medicine because it is frequently the cause of intractable pain syndromes anywhere in the body.

In addition to numbness in the extremities, other symptoms associated with Blood Stagnation include dizziness, dark face and abdominal pain.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Blood Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Scanty Menstruation, Abnormal Uterine Bleeding or Heavy Menstruation.

Blood Stagnation is often treated with Tao He Cheng Qi Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Peach Kernels - Tao Ren - as a key herb). Tao He Cheng Qi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dispels Heat and".

Read more about Blood Stagnation here

Five herbal formulas that might help with numbness in the extremities

Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates Blood. Unblocks painful obstruction. Relieves pain. Invigorate Qi. Dispels Blood Stagnation. Unblock Channels.

Why might Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang help with numbness in the extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm in the Channels joints and muscles' of which numbness is a symptom.

Read more about Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang here

Feng Yin Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Extinguishes and pacifies Wind with heavy medicinals. Calms the Mind. Clears Heat.

Why might Feng Yin Tang help with numbness in the extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Yang Rising' of which numbness in the extremities is a symptom.

Read more about Feng Yin Tang here

Tao He Cheng Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Dispels Heat and. Eliminates Blood Stagnation.

Why might Tao He Cheng Qi Tang help with numbness in the extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Blood Stagnation' of which numbness is a symptom.

Read more about Tao He Cheng Qi Tang here

Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Clears Stagnant Heat in the intestines. Reduces swelling and disperses lumps.

Why might Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang help with numbness in the extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Blood Stagnation' of which numbness is a symptom.

Read more about Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang here

Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Promotes Blood and lymphatic circulation, thus eleminates Blood Stagnation. Softens and resolves hard lumps such as cysts and fibroids.

Why might Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan help with numbness in the extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Blood Stagnation' of which numbness is a symptom.

Read more about Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan here

Acupuncture points used for numbness in the extremities

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat numbness in the extremities

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with numbness in the extremities?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat numbness in the extremities as a symptom, like Feng Yin Tang or Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with numbness in the extremities?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat numbness in the extremities as a symptom, like Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang or E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang for instance.

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Liver and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain.

Read more about White Peony Roots here

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with numbness in the extremities?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat numbness in the extremities as a symptom, like Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang or Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang for instance.

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Liver and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation.

Read more about Dong Quai here

Why might Peach Kernel (Tao Ren) help with numbness in the extremities?

Because Peach Kernel is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat numbness in the extremities as a symptom, like Tao He Cheng Qi Tang or Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang for instance.

Peach Kernels is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Large intestine and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Moves Blood and breaks up Stasis. Moistens the Intestines. Relieves coughing.

Read more about Peach Kernels here

Why might Rhubarb (Da Huang) help with numbness in the extremities?

Because Rhubarb is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat numbness in the extremities as a symptom, like Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang or Da Huang Zhe Chong Wan for instance.

Rhubarb is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Large intestine, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Drains Excess Heat and eliminates Dampness, especially when in the Bright Yang stage according to the Six Stages Theory. Cools the Blood and stops bleeding. Invigorates Blood, breaks up Stasis and relieves pain. Clears Heat and toxins from Excess. Applied topically for Hot sores and Blood Stasis.

Read more about Rhubarb here

Other symptoms often associated with numbness in the extremities

Dizziness Depression Insomnia Fatigue Tinnitus Blurred vision Dark face Dry mouth Night sweats Lower back pain