Treatment of type II diabetes by Traditional Chinese Medicine
Here we are discussing about the treatment of type II diabetes,
not the type I diabetes. Diabetes is the concept of conventional
medicine, not one in TCM. The conventional medicine believes
that the reason for the type II diabetes is the blockage of
Insulin to its receptor on cell membrane. The insulin works to
improve the transport of blood sugar into the cell and for
further metabolism into energy allowing the cells to use. Due to
the slow down or block of the insulin to its receptor, the blood
sugar becomes accumulated in the blood to cause high blood sugar
level, and also cause the cells being hungry for energy.
Therefore, the pathological background for type II diabetes are:
the increased high level of blood sugar in blood, and the hungry
of cells for energy.
Due to the high level of blood sugar, the body starts its own
way to reduce it, such as to secrete more insulin, to speed up
synthesize of sugar into glucogen and fat, to secrete extra
sugar into the urine, etc. Accumulation of too much sugar in
tissue under skin stimulates end of nerves to cause itch and
slow down wound healing.
The insufficient energy in cells causes retina disease,
peripheral neuritis, nephropathy, myocarditis, cerebrovascular
diseases, gastritis, enteritis, etc.
So, we know that the main target to cure the diabetes is to
improve the binding of insulin to its receptors on cell
membrane. What the conventional medicine can do it to reduce the
blood sugar level rather than to improve the binding of insulin
to its receptors, so it is not sufficient to solve the hungry of
cells for energy (the breakdown of sugar into energy).
Therefore, the blood sugar can be reduced into so called
“normal” level, but the cells are still in a hungry status. The
rate of complications of diabetes might be reduced, but not
When the blood sugar level is brought into “normal” but the
cells are still hungry, it would be easy to have low blood sugar
syndrome due to irregular diet, sudden emotional stress, heavy
labor, extreme cold, etc. Upon the low blood sugar level, body
cells are to be damaged more, especially for the heart cells and
nerve cells, since they need the metabolism of sugar to supply
energy. Also, upon the low blood sugar syndrome, the body
activate the breakdown of fat, but the fatty acids so largely
created cannot be utilized completely and sufficiently by the
cells, so as to cause ketoacidosis to risk life.
Then, how TCM understand the type II diabetes? Here we should
tell you that there are different styles of TCM actually. It
means that different TCM styles recognize the diabetes in a
different view too, so as to make different diagnosis and use
different herbal formula to treat the diabetes. This is true for
any diseases. The TCM
style that we introduce here is the one we called classical TCM
or Jing Fang TCM, which is different from the textbook TCM that
is taught in TCM school, nor from the so called Shi Fang TCM
style, both of which make TCM diagnosis based on the Organ and
Five Element theory.
No matter it is classical TCM or textbook TCM, both believe the
type II diabetes is not an individual disease condition, but
pretty much a syndrome or a symptom. Its meaning is similar to a
fever, or diarrhea.
Many reasons can cause a fever and a diarrhea, so does type II
diabetes. A conventional medicine defined “type II diabetes” can
be seen in many TCM defined diseases. Therefore, for the
treatment of type II diabetes, there are many herbal formula
that can be used for the treatment with good results.
In the early stage of diabetes, the clinic manifestations are
largely variable. Only in the later stage, the patients have
typical frequent drink, frequent eat, frequent urination and
loss body weight. In the middle to later stages, the patients
can have diabetes complications, such as numbness in hands and
feet, poor vision, extreme fatigue, hard-to-heal ulcer on skin,
leg swelling, palpitation, etc.
In the Jing Fang TCM, the early stage of diabetes belongs to the
TCM Shao Yang and Yang Ming stages. The later stage of the
diabetes belongs to the TCM Tai Yin, Shao Yin and Jue Yin
In the early Shao Yang stage, the patient may feel dry mouth and
throat, bitter taste in mouth, or blocked feeling in the ears,
dry eye and red eye, or hot-cold shift feeling, anxiety and easy
to get upset, bloating or pain feeling in the upper-side
abdomen. We use herbal formula that contains herb Chai Hu, such
as Chai Hu Gui Zhi Tang, or Chai Hu Ge Gen Tang.
When the diabetes
is in the TCM Yang Ming stage, we use herbal formula Bai Hu
Tang, Zhi Zi Chi Tang, Xiao Xiang Xiong Tang, Liang Ge San, Ge
Gen Qin Liang Tang, San Huang Xie Xin Tang, Fu Zi Xie Xin Tang,
Gan Cao Xie Xin Tang, Gan Jiang Xie Xin Tang, or use Huang Lian
Jie Du Tang, Huang Lian Shang Qin Wan, Xuan Ming Sheng Xiong
Wan, even Da Qing Long Tang or Da Chai Hu Tang. TCM doctor would
have detailed assessment for the patient to decide the exact
herbal formula to use.
In the Yang Ming stage, if the patient feels very thirst and dry
mouth, we use Bai Hu Ren Shen Tang, or Zhu Ye Shi Gao Tang. If
the body is hot, the patient feels dry mouth and thirsty but
also difficult in urination, we may consider the use of Wu Ling
When the disease comes into the Tai Yin stage, the patient feels
cold, bloating in abdomen and pain in the abdomen from time to
time, and has vomit or diarrhea. We use Li Zhong Tang, Fu Zi Li
Zhong Tang, or Xiao Jiang Zhong Tang, or Huang Qi Jiang Zhong
When the disease comes into the TCM Shao Yin stage, the patient
feels very tired, likes to lie down and the pulse is deep, thin
and weak. There are two major subgroups in the Shao Yin stage:
the Heart Yin deficiency and the Kidney Yang deficiency. In
typical Kidney Yang deficiency, the patient feels frequent
urination or difficulty in the urination. We use Jin Kui Shen Qi
Wan for the treatment. In typical Kidney Yin deficiency,
the person feels dry in mouth, skin, hot in hands and
feel at night, the tongue is slim and dry, and the pulse is thin
and fast. We use Liu Wei Di Huang Wan. People with Heart Yin
deficiency fells palpitation, short of breath, dry mouth and
thirsty, poor sleep; the tongue is red with little or no
covering; and the pulse is fast and week. We use Huang Lian A
Jiao Tang. People with Heart Yang deficiency feels also
palpitation and short of breath, feel cold and fear cold. We use
Zhi Gan Cao Tang. If the person feels difficult or pain in the
urine tract, dry mouth and thirsty, annoyed and poor sleep, we
consider the use of Zhu Ling Tang. If the person is with
frequent diarrhea, we need to think about Bai Tong Tang. The
Shao Yin Stage is a critical stage. Many people die in this
stage, especially for the Type II diabetes.
Another later stage is called Jue Yin stage. It is characterized
of the Cold-Hot co-exist and cold hands and feet. The most
commonly used herbal formula is Wu Mei Wan. If the person feels
nausea and vomit, pain in stomach, cold hands and feet, but
likes to drink cold water, use Gan Jiang Qin Lian Tang.
Another characteristics of the Jue Yin stage is the Yang
floating due to Yin overwhelming. If the floating Yang Qi is in
the upper part of the body, the person feels very thirsty (we
call it upper exhausting syndrome). If it is in the middle part
of the body, it causes very hungry (Middle exhausting syndrome).
If it is located in lower part of the body, it causes frequent
urination (Lower exhausting syndrome). For the treatment of the
upper exhausting syndrome, use Li Zhong Tang; for middle
exhausting syndrome, use Li Zhong Tang or Xi Chun Yu Ye Dan; for
the lower exhausting syndrome, use Shen Qi Wan. For all of these
syndromes, we can also try large dose of Feng Sui Dan, Qian Yang
Dan, to bring back the floating Yang Qi into the Ming Men, where
the Yang Qi is originally stored and saved.
In the view of the TCM, the type II diabetes has to be regarded
as a symptom, not a single disease, similar to fever. Many
reasons can cause a fever, so can type II diabetes. We need to
reduce the fever, but also need to stop the reason that causes
the fever, so for the treatment of type II diabetes. Different
patients have different reasons for the increased blood sugar
level and the clinic manifestations are also different. However,
the symptoms indicate where the body defense system and life
energy is insufficient. Working to solve the symptoms (the TCM
syndromes) would be able to improve the life energy flow in that
part of the body. Therefore, targeting to the TCM syndromes, but
not the increased blood sugar per se, allows the cure of the
conventional medicine defined ‘type II diabetes”.
It should be pointed out that, even if we use the herbal formula
above, but if we use the herb dose as most current TCM used (we
call it small dose), it is not hard to solve symptoms, but hard
to cure the type II diabetes. Low dose use of herbs might one of
the most important reasons why most TCM doctor have no
confidence to treat diabetes.
After TCM treatment, the blood sugar level can turn to normal.
The person becomes energized with normal diet and ability to
work. No need for any continuous herbs for a maintenance,
neither need for a life-long herbal therapy. We cannot tell if
the TCM treatment solves the disorder of sugar metabolism inside
the cells, but based on the clinic reality that the TCM
treatment can stop diabetes and its various complications, it is
possible that the TCM treatment has normalized the cell sugar
metabolism and the cells are no longer in an hungry status. This
is the job for medical researchers to confirm. It should be a
very interesting topic for them.
To take the TCM herbal therapy, the herbs extract (herb
decoction) needs to be drink every day, for 2 to 5 months. After
the blood sugar level returns to normal, start to reduce the
dose of the herbal therapy for 1 to 2 months. If the patient has
already taken blood sugar drugs in the beginning of the herbal
therapy, the dose of the drugs can be reduced gradually, so as
to be able to see the effect of the herbs and eventually quit
the conventional drugs.
The healing effect of TCM herbal therapy is affected by the
conventional drugs. It was experienced that the healing effect
is not as satisfied if the patient has been using insulin
products. The longer the insulin use, the poorer the healing
effect. Possibly the use of external insulin makes the beta
cells in the pancreas shrink or even die (since the body sensed
enough insulin in the blood, so stops to send signal to the
pancreas asking the beta cells to secrete boy its own insulin).
It would be more difficult to activate or to regenerate the beta
cells by the herbs. This is why the patient has to keep using
the insulin and use higher and higher dose of insulin for the
treatment, after the external insulin product has been used for
a longer time.
Therefore, we recommend our clients, once you are diagnosed as
type II diabetes and if your doctor remind you to take medicine
for ever, you may had better come to consult TCM, to see if we
can help you with TCM (herbal therapy or acupuncture) first. We
do not recommend to use the conventional medicine and TCM the
same time from the beginning. Sometime, such combination may not
be a good thing, especially if the conventional medicine is to
Generally speaking, in the classical TCM, we do not ask the
patient to restrict their diet to low carbohydrate and high
protein (the textbook or the Shi style TCM do). In fact, some
herbal formula contains high amount of sugar in it, but they can
be used to solve the diabetes, such as Xiao Jian Zhong Tang, or
Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang, or Zhi Gan Cao Tang, or Gan Mai Da Zao
Tang. They contain either sugar, or Gancao, or Chinese daze, but
we cannot eliminate them from the formula.
It was found that the healing effect of the herbal therapy is
much better if we do not restrict the diet of patients than to
restrict it. Upon taking restricted diet, the patients feel very
tired. In TCM, it means that the body defense energy or healing
energy is very low. This should be easy to understand: a disease
should be easier to recover in a strong person than in a very
In the early stage of the herbal therapy, the blood sugar level
in some patients might not reduce, but even higher. The overall
conditions of the body of these patients however become better,
indicating that the disease is getting better. Such increase in
the blood sugar level is usually a short time. It will go down
eventually along with the treatment. It may take about one to
two weeks. The explanation for such
temporary increase in the blood sugar is that the herbs
activates the cleansing mechanism of the body to move the sugar
that previous accumulated in the tissue into the blood.
This is as to clean a room. Once you start to clean it,
the room would become more mass or dirty, but it would become
real clean after you finish the cleaning.
It is important to understand this phenomenon. Such temporary
“worse” of lab test or symptoms can be seen in many diseases.
For example in the treatment of hypertension, the blood pressure
may be even higher in some persons. Also in the treatment of
sciatic pain, some person may feel more pain after the first
acupuncture session. In the treatment of psoriasis, some person
may feel more itch, etc. The goodness for this phenomenon is
that the person who experienced such temporary “healing crisis”
would usually get better mush sooner than those who do not have.
Surely not everyone will have such temporary worse experience.
It may happen in about 5% of the people. Those persons usually
are those who suffer from TCM Yin syndromes (Yai Yin, Shao Yin
and Jue Yin stages) and after the use of Warm herbs for the
The treatment of no-symptom patient
If the patients have no any symptoms after the TCM treatment but
still have high blood sugar, or if the patients have only the
higher level of blood sugar but no any symptoms the first time
they visit us, we will use body constitution therapy.
The commonly seen body constitution for a person with type II
diabetes is the Da Chai Hu Tang constitution. The person is
overweight, fullness in upper abdomen, which feels discomfort or
pain upon press, constipation from time to time, and bad mouth
odor or odor in the feet.
If the person feels hot, dislikes hot, likes cold drink, we try
the use of Bai Hu Tang. Such body constitution can be seen more
among western people. They are the Fire body constitution.
If the person usually fears cold, dislikes to stay in cold room,
likes to drink or eat hot or warm food, the person is Cold body
constitution. The hands and feet are also commonly cold and
frozen in winter. Such body constitution is more seen in Asia
people. They need warm herbal formula, such as Gui Zhi Tang, or
Dang Gui Shao Yao San.
There are some other types of body constitutions which need TCM
doctor to verify and to use corresponding herbal formula for the
treatment. Such body constitution treatment needs about one to
two months. The high blood pressure can usually come down to
normal or basically normal. If not, we need to consider if the
“high” level of the blood pressure is a genetic. It means that,
for this family, such level of blood pressure should be regarded
as “normal”. The so called “normal” level of the blood pressure
is deduced from a statistic data of a large group of healthy
people, among which 90% of their blood pressure values are
regarded as “normal”, a 5% of them are lower than the “normal”
but they are healthy; another 5% is with their blood pressure is
higher than the “normal” but they are also healthy. We should
not regard this 5% of healthy people as “sick” people just
because their blood pressure is higher than the “normal”. If we
do so and force them to take blood pressure drugs, we would make
their blood pressure lower than what they should be and to cause
extra, doctor-origin diseases. If indeed it is so, we are bad
If the hypertension person has only and mostly emotional
disorders, such as stress, anxiety, depression, frustrated,
annoyed, worry, fear, phobia, we also use herbal formula for the
treatment. If interested, please refer to our brochure for “the
treatment of stress by TCM way”. The most commonly used herbal
formula is the Huang Lian Jie Du Tang, San Huang Xie Xin Tang,
Fu Zi Xie Xin Tang, Huang Lian Shng Qing Wan, or Zhi Zi Chi
If it is difficult to even make a body constitution diagnosis,
we will apply the Rising-falling theory of the TCM. Based on
this theory, we use herbal therapy to activate or to motivate
the function of middle stomach area, by which the body Qi can
move more easily to go up and fall down to form a complete Qi
circulation circle, so as to reduce the increased blood
pressure. The most commonly used herbal formula in such
situation is the Ping Wei San.
Treatment of diabetes complications
As we mentioned before, the type II diabetes is caused by
various reasons in the view of Chinese medicine. Different
patient, in different stage of the disease, needs different
herbal formula for the treatment. The herbal formula must match
the body condition of each individual. Only keeping this way, is
it possible to cure the type II diabetes. Once the diabetic
complications happen, the clinic manifestations become much more
complex and the herbal formula need more personalized. The
herbal formula we introduced here for the treatment of diabetic
complications is only for an introduction to tell which kinds of
clinic types/syndromes are commonly seen and which herbal
formula are mostly used in clinic. It is for a reference for TCM
Generally speaking, to treat type II diabetes, the herbal
therapy is used mostly, and the acupuncture, less. In the
treatment of diabetic complications, either the Chinese herbal
therapy or acupuncture can be used separately or in combination.
Surely the combination of them would work much better.
Diabetic peripheral neuritis
Diabetic peripheral neuritis is very common in type II diabetic
patients. The patients feel numbness of pain, or cold or hot, in
the fingers and/or toes, hands and/or feet. In severe cases, the
hands or feet may become ulcer and need amputation.
Chinese medicine works very well in the treatment of diabetic
peripheral neuritis. We also have a lot of such clients in our
clinic. The commonly used herbal formula is Huang Qi Gui Zhi Wu
Wo Tang (the patients are usually overweight, have good social
or life, and have white skin color and the age is more than 40).
If the person is strong, shorter, skin is tight (mostly a labor
worker), we use Wu Yao Sun Qi San. If the patient mostly feels
cold hands and feet, we either use Si Ni San, or Dang Gui Si Ni
Tang (they need to be further more distinguished). If the most
problem is the severe pain in the fingers or toes, we consider
the use of either Wu Tou Tang (for cold syndrome), Gan Cao Fu Zi
Tang (cold syndrome), Dang Gui Nian Tong Tang (hot syndrome), or
Bai Hu Jia Gui Zhi Tang (hot syndrome).
Diabetic retinopathy is a kind of bleeding syndrome in the eyes.
The ways to treat this complication is largely various among TCM
hospitals and individual TCM doctors. Most of TCM doctors agree
that the mechanism for this complication is the Qi stagnation,
which turns Fire, and further causes the Qi-Yin both deficiency
and later both Yin-Yang deficiency. The Qi-Yin and Yin-Yang
deficiency is mixed with bleeding, phlegm accumulation and blood
stagnation. Therefore, the principle for the treatment is to
nourish the Qi and Yin, activate blood circulation, and to clear
Phlegm and stagnated blood clots.
In practice, the diabetic peripheral retinopathy is classified
into Liver stagnation with Qi stagnation; Spleen deficiency with
meridian blocks; Liver-Kidney deficiency. Some doctor classifies
it into Lung-stomach dry-hotness; Spleen deficiency with
wetness; Phlegm block in meridians; Yin deficiency with inner
hotness; Qi-Yin deficiency; Spleen-Kidney deficiency; Blood
stagnation. Some separate it into non-hyperplasia,
pre-hyperplasia, and hyperplasia stages.
To treat this complication, the herbal formula are largely
variable. The herbs work either to nourish the Qi, the Yin, the
Yang, or to clear the Fire, the phlegm, or the stagnated blood.
In most clinic reports, the effective rate is more than 70%. For
the clinic report with acupuncture, the effective rate is much
Diabetic skin itch
Many diabetes patients have obstacle skin itch. The use of blood
sugar reducing drugs do not work to eliminate the itch. The use
calcium, Vitamin C, etc, in most cases, does not work either.
The reason for the skin itch in diabetes might be due to
accumulation of extra sugar in skin tissue, that stimulate the
sense nerves, or due to the breakdown the sugar in skin to cause
accumulation of lactate, which also stimulate the sense nerve,
or cause dry skin to cause itch.
The itch is treated according to Wind-Fire, Blood deficiency,
Dampness-Hotness, or Cold coagulation of the body. For Wind-Fire
syndrome, we use Xiao Fang San; for Blood deficiency, use Dang
Gui Yin Zi; for Dampness-Hotness, use Bi Xie Shen Shi Tang and
for Cold coagulation, use Jing Fang Bai Du San. If none of the
work, consider to use Li Ke Wu She Rong Pi Tang, or Da Huang Zhe
Chong Wang. Generally speaking, the treatment of skin itch in
diabetes is not a big challenge to TCM doctors.
Diabetic nephropathy is the most severe complication for
diabetes. It is the most common reason for the death of people
with diabetes. Once the patient has evidence of kidney damage,
the kidney function would go down continuously and quickly until
Chinese medicine has built up lots of clinic experience in the
treatment of diabetic nephropathy. As the same as other diabetic
complications, the clinic manifestations are largely variable.
Therefore, the herbal formula used for the treatment of this
complication is also largely different from patient to patient.
It is hardly to say which formula works better than others,
though we can say that in classical TCM, the mostly used herbal
formula are Shen Qi Wan, Zhen Wu Tang, Guo Lu Ju Mai Wan, Tao He
Cheng Qi Tang, and Da Huang Zhe Chong Wan. Even for these basic
formula, we need to modify them by addition of more other herbal
ingredients with the aim to clear Blood stagnation, Phlegm
accumulation, or Wetness coagulation.
Overall, the effective rate for the diabetic nephropathy is
between 70% and 90%. TCM is no doubt the most promising
alternative for the treatment of diabetic nephropathy, though it
takes longer time for the treatment than that for any other