Numbness in the extremities according to Chinese Medicine

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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 dizziness, insomnia and tinnitus in the pattern “Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Yang Rising”. As you will see below, we have in record five 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 five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause numbness in the extremities

In Chinese Medicine numbness in the extremities is a symptom for 5 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

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

Coco-Grass Rhizomes (Xiang Fu) is the king ingredient for Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan, a formula used for Damp-Phlegm in the Uterus

Damp-Phlegm in the Uterus

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua)

In addition to numbness in the extremities, other symptoms associated with Damp-Phlegm in the Uterus include dizziness, depression and fatigue.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Damp-Phlegm in the Uterus is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation, Scanty Menstruation or Absence Of Menstruation.

Damp-Phlegm in the Uterus is often treated with Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Coco-Grass Rhizomes - Xiang Fu - as a key herb). Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that dry dampness and transform phlegm", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Resolves Dampness and Phlegm".

Read more about Damp-Phlegm in the Uterus here

Peach Kernels (Tao Ren) is the king ingredient for Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a formula used for Qi And Blood Stagnation

Qi And Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Deep (Chen), Fine (Xi)

In addition to numbness in the extremities, other symptoms associated with Qi And Blood Stagnation include dizziness, depression and insomnia.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi And Blood Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Absence Of Menstruation or Menopausal Syndrome.

Qi And Blood Stagnation is often treated with Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Peach Kernels - Tao Ren - as a key herb). Xue Fu Zhu Yu 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: "Invigorates the Blood".

Read more about Qi And Blood Stagnation here

Painful Obstruction with Qi and Blood Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Slowed-down (Huan)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

In addition to numbness in the extremities, other symptoms associated with Painful Obstruction with Qi and Blood Deficiency include general sensation of heaviness and difficulty in moving.

Painful Obstruction with Qi and Blood Deficiency is often treated with Juan Bi Tang, a herbal formula made of 9 herbs (including Notopterygium Roots - Qiang Huo - as a key herb). Juan Bi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dispel wind-damp", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies and harmonizes the Protective and Nutritive Qi".

Read more about Painful Obstruction with Qi and Blood Deficiency here

Dong Quai (Dang Gui) is the king ingredient for Sheng Yu Tang, a formula used for Blood and Qi Deficiency

Blood and Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Fine (Xi), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue coating: Partial absence of coating

Tongue color: Pale

In addition to numbness in the extremities, other symptoms associated with Blood and Qi Deficiency include dizziness, depression and insomnia.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Blood and Qi Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Menstrual Cramps or Absence Of Menstruation.

Blood and Qi Deficiency is often treated with Sheng Yu Tang, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Dong Quai - Dang Gui - as a key herb). Sheng Yu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Qi and Blood".

Read more about Blood and Qi Deficiency here

Five herbal formulas that might help with numbness in the extremities

E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang

Source date: the Qing dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Yin. Nourishes Blood. Calms the Liver. Extinguishes Wind.

Why might E Jiao Ji Zi Huang 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.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Wind Agitating Internally Due To Liver Yang Rising include dizziness, insomnia and tinnitus.

Read more about E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang here

Juan Bi Tang

Source date: 1178 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and harmonizes the Protective and Nutritive Qi. Dispels Wind. Eliminates Dampness.

Why might Juan Bi Tang help with numbness in the extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Painful Obstruction with Qi and Blood Deficiency' of which numbness in the extremities is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Painful Obstruction With Qi And Blood Deficiency include general sensation of heaviness and difficulty in moving.

Read more about Juan Bi Tang here

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang

Source date: 1247

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi of the Spleen and Stomach (Middle Burner). Raises the Yang. Detoxifies. Lifts what has sunken.

Why might Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang help with numbness in the extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Phlegm in the Uterus' of which numbness in the extremities is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Damp-Phlegm in the Uterus can contribute to many health issues, including Absence Of Menstruation.

Read more about Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang here

Gui Pi Tang

Source date: 1529 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood. Tonifies Heart and Spleen.

Why might Gui Pi Tang help with numbness in the extremities?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Blood and Qi Deficiency' of which numbness in the extremities is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Blood and Qi Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Absence Of Menstruation.

Read more about Gui Pi Tang here

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 'Qi And Blood Stagnation' of which numbness in the extremities is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Qi And Blood Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Absence Of Menstruation.

Read more about Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang 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 Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang or Gui Pi 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 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 Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with numbness in the extremities?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat numbness in the extremities as a symptom, like Shi Quan Da Bu Tang or Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang for instance.

Atractylodes Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Fortifies the Spleen Yang and dispels Damp through urination. Tonifies Qi and stops sweating. Calms restless fetus when due to Deficiency of Spleen Qi.

Read more about Atractylodes Rhizomes 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 E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang or Juan Bi 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

Conditions associated with numbness in the extremities

Absence of menstruation

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