Numbness in the limbs according to Chinese Medicine

Numbness in the limbs 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 limbs 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 limbs is often associated with dizziness, insomnia and scanty periods in the pattern “Blood Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record four patterns that can cause numbness in the limbs.

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

The four "patterns of disharmony" that can cause numbness in the limbs

In Chinese Medicine numbness in the limbs is a symptom for 4 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di huang) is the king ingredient for Si Wu Tang, a formula used for Blood Deficiency

Blood Deficiency

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

Tongue color: Pale

Someone has a Deficiency of Blood when their entire body, a part of body or a particular Organ is insufficiently nourished by Blood. This can be caused by blood-loss, a lack of of Spleen Qi (responsible to produce Blood) or congealed Blood which prevents new Blood from forming.

In addition to numbness in the limbs, other symptoms associated with Blood Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and scanty periods.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Blood Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation or Scanty Menstruation.

Blood Deficiency is often treated with Si Wu Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Si Wu 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: "Restores and nourishes Blood".

Read more about Blood Deficiency here

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

Liver Blood Deficiency

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

Tongue color: Pale

The Liver stores Blood, that is the reason any Blood Deficiency often involves the Liver. This pattern has an impact on areas the Liver relates to, such as the tendons, eyes, nails and menstruation. It arises from the same causes of general Blood Deficiency, such as poor diet, hemorrhages or Kidney Qi or Essence Deficiency.

In addition to numbness in the limbs, other symptoms associated with Liver Blood Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and scanty periods.

Liver Blood Deficiency is often treated with Si Wu Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Si Wu 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: "Restores and nourishes Blood".

Read more about Liver Blood Deficiency here

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

Liver Yin Deficiency

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

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red points on the sides

This is a type of empty Fire pattern arising out of Liver Blood Deficiency or Kidney Yin Deficiency. It shares similar symptoms as Liver Blood Deficiency, but with extra signs of Dryness and Yin-Deficient Heat. It can be caused by excessive activity, overwork, 'burning the candle at both ends' without sufficient rest, and poor and irregular diet.

In addition to numbness in the limbs, other symptoms associated with Liver Yin Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and scanty periods.

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

Read more about Liver Yin Deficiency here

Gastrodia Rhizomes (Tian Ma) is the king ingredient for Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin, a formula used for Interior Wind

Interior Wind

Pulse type(s): Fine (Xi), Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian)

In addition to numbness in the limbs, other symptoms associated with Interior Wind include dizziness, insomnia and scanty periods.

Interior Wind is often treated with Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Gastrodia Rhizomes - Tian Ma - as a key herb). Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin belongs to the category of "formulas that pacify and extinguish internal wind", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Calms the Liver".

Read more about Interior Wind here

Five herbal formulas that might help with numbness in the limbs

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 limbs?

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

Read more about Si Wu Tang here

Bu Gan Tang

Source date: 1742 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and regulates the Blood. Nourishes the Liver Yin.

Why might Bu Gan Tang help with numbness in the limbs?

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

Read more about Bu Gan Tang 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 limbs?

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

Read more about Qi Ju Di Huang Wan here

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 limbs?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Interior Wind' of which numbness in the limbs is a symptom.

Read more about Liu Wei Di Huang Wan here

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 limbs?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Interior Wind' of which numbness in the limbs is a symptom.

Read more about E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang here

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

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

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat numbness in the limbs as a symptom, like Gui Pi Tang or Er Chen 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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with numbness in the limbs?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat numbness in the limbs as a symptom, like Wu Ling San or Er Chen Tang for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with numbness in the limbs?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat numbness in the limbs as a symptom, like Si Wu Tang or Bu Gan Tang 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 White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with numbness in the limbs?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat numbness in the limbs as a symptom, like Si Wu Tang or Bu Gan 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 Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi) help with numbness in the limbs?

Because Tangerine Peel is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat numbness in the limbs as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Tangerine Peel is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Warms the Spleen and regulates the Middle Burner Qi. Dries Dampness and disperses Phlegm from the Lungs and Middle Burner. Reduces the potential for Stagnation caused by tonifying herbs.

Read more about Tangerine Peel here