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 blurred vision in the pattern “Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency”. 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 Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency

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

Tongue coating: Partial absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to numbness in the extremities, other symptoms associated with Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and blurred vision.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Absence Of Menstruation, Menopausal Syndrome or Vaginal Itching.

Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency is often treated with Zuo Gui Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Zuo Gui 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: "Nourishes the Yin".

Read more about Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency 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 blurred vision.

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 Phlegm in the Uterus

Phlegm in the Uterus

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua)

Tongue color: Normal (light red)

In addition to numbness in the extremities, other symptoms associated with Phlegm in the Uterus include fatigue, chest fullness and overweight.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Phlegm in the Uterus is associated with health issues such as Absence Of Menstruation.

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 Phlegm in the Uterus here

Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) is the king ingredient for Xiao Yao San, a formula used for Qi and Blood Stagnation

Qi and Blood Stagnation

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

Tongue color: Normal (light red), Red, Red sides

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 Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Yao San belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize liver-spleen", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen".

Read more about Qi and Blood Stagnation 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): Weak (Ruo), Fine (Xi)

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

Liu Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system).

Why might Liu Wei Di Huang Wan help with numbness in the extremities?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Absence Of Menstruation.

Read more about Liu Wei Di Huang Wan 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 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 blurred vision.

Read more about Qi Ju Di Huang Wan 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 'Phlegm in the Uterus' of which numbness in the extremities is a symptom.

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

Read more about Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang here

Si Wu Tang

Source date: 846 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Restores and nourishes Blood. Stimulates Blood circulation.

Why might Si Wu 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 Si Wu 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

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 Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

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 Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with numbness in the extremities?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat numbness in the extremities as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Qi Ju Di Huang Wan for instance.

Prepared Rehmannia is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Tonifies the Yin of the Kidneys.

Read more about Prepared Rehmannia 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 Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang or Si Wu Tang for instance.

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

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 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 Si Wu Tang or Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang for instance.

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

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 Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with numbness in the extremities?

Because Ginseng is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat numbness in the extremities as a symptom, like Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang or Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang for instance.

Ginseng is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Very strongly tonifies the Qi. Tonifies the Lungs and Spleen. Assists the body in the secretion of Fluids and stops thirst. Strengthens the Heart and calms the Shen (mind/spirit).

Read more about Ginseng here

Conditions associated with numbness in the extremities

Absence of menstruation

Other symptoms often associated with numbness in the extremities

Dizziness Depression Insomnia Blurred vision Fatigue Tinnitus Dry mouth Night sweats Poor memory Lower back pain