Diabetes in Chinese Medicine

Diabetes is not a new disease. It was recorded in the “Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon”, written during the period of time known as the “Warring States” (475-221 BC). Within the Canon, the ancient physicians noted that those with larger waistlines were more prone to the disease.

The pathogenesis and treatment of diabetes is also recorded in “Jin Gui Yao Lue – Essential Prescriptions from the Golden Chamber”. Written during the East Han Dynasty 25-220 AD) by Zhang Zhongjing, it is still used by practitioners for the treatment of diabetes.

To TCM practitioners, diabetes is caused by weak internal organs (the root) which manifests in external pathogens, emotional stress, obesity and weak internal organs (hereditary). The effects are an accumulation of Internal-Heat (the branch).

According to the pathology of diabetes, TCM categorises diabetes into four different phases.

  • 1st phase – Stagnation (Pre-diabetes)
  • 2nd phase – Heat (Diabetes)
  • 3rd phase – Deficiency (Diabetes)
  • 4th phase – Impairment (Diabetic complications)

Benefits of TCM:

  • Improve insulin resistance
  • Improve blood glucose management
  • Protect and improve β-cells function
  • Improve clinical symptoms
  • Prevent and improve complications
  • Improve quality of life

What is the role of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in Diabetes Management (DM)?

 

Is Chinese Medicine Effective in Managing Diabetes?

Herbs

There have been many studies run on TCM herbs and their effects on treating diabetes. Study results have been published in both Mandarin journals as well as international journals of medicine.

In one study1, a herb was shown to have five hypoglycaemic effects:

  • It promoted insulin secretion and glucagon antagonism;
  • It increased insulin sensitivity as well as improved insulin resistance;
  • It suppressed gluconeogenesis, improving glucose utilisation and glycogen synthase;
  • It suppressed activity of α-glucosidases and delayed glucose absorption in bowels;
  • It suppressed βcell apoptosis

1 (卢兆莲(第⼆军医⼤学). 中药降糖作⽤机理的研究进展[J]. 中医药导报, 2009, 15(11): 76-78)