Numbness in the limbs according to Chinese Medicine

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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 blurred vision in the pattern “Spleen and Liver Blood Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record five 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 five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause numbness in the limbs

In Chinese Medicine numbness in the limbs 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 Spleen is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Spleen and Liver Blood Deficiency

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

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

Spleen and Liver Blood Deficiency is often treated with Gui Pi Tang, a herbal formula made of 12 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Gui Pi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi and blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood".

Read more about Spleen and Liver Blood Deficiency here

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for Phlegm

Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

The concept of Phlegm is much wider and important in Chinese Medicine than in the West. Broadly speaking, Phlegm is a substance produced when the body fails to handle Body Fluids properly.

In addition to numbness in the limbs, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include dizziness, scanty periods and depression.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Phlegm is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Late Menstruation or Scanty Menstruation.

Phlegm is often treated with Er Chen Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Er Chen Tang 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: "Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm here

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang, a formula used for Wind-Phlegm

Wind-Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating

Tongue shape: Deviated, Swollen

Wind-Phlegm is when Phlegm invades the Channels and sensory orifices, leading to such symptoms as dizziness, vertigo, or headache.

In addition to numbness in the limbs, other symptoms associated with Wind-Phlegm include dizziness, headaches and stifling sensation in the chest.

Wind-Phlegm is often treated with Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that transform phlegm and extinguish wind", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dries and dissolves Phlegm".

Read more about Wind-Phlegm 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 blurred vision.

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 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 limbs, 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

Five herbal formulas that might help with numbness in the limbs

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 limbs?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Spleen And Liver Blood Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and blurred vision.

Read more about Gui Pi Tang here

Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1148 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm. Regulates Qi and harmonizes the Middle Burner (Stomach and Spleen).

Why might Er Chen Tang help with numbness in the limbs?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm include dizziness, scanty periods and depression.

Read more about Er Chen Tang here

Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang

Source date: 1732 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Dries and dissolves Phlegm. Strengthens the Spleen. Smoothes the Liver and calms Liver Wind (antispasmodic).

Why might Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang help with numbness in the limbs?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Wind-Phlegm include dizziness, headaches and stifling sensation in the chest.

Read more about Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma 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 limbs?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Blood Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and blurred vision.

Read more about Si Wu Tang here

Zuo Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Strengthens the Kidneys. Fills the Essence. Augments the marrow.

Why might Zuo Gui Wan help with numbness in the limbs?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney And Liver Yin Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and blurred vision.

Read more about Zuo Gui Wan 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 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 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 Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

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 Crow-Dipper Rhizome (Ban Xia) help with numbness in the limbs?

Because Crow-Dipper Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat numbness in the limbs as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang for instance.

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Drains Dampness and reduces Phlegm. Reverses the flow of Rebellious Qi. Reduces hardenings and relieves distention.

Read more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes here

Why might Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with numbness in the limbs?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat numbness in the limbs as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang for instance.

Fresh Ginger is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Warms and circulates Qi in the Middle Burner. Calms a restless fetus and treats morning sickness. Treats seafood poisoning.

Read more about Fresh Ginger 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 Zuo Gui 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