Diabetes Treatment with Chinese Medicine and Herbs

Diabetes is often referred to as Xiao Ke Disease(wasting and thirsting), by Chinese

Medicine practitioners. Xiao Ke suggests thirst, hunger, and frequent urination, as

well as muscle wasting. While there is some overlap between Xiao Ke and diabetes,

the two terms are not interchangeable with one another. Xiao Ke is most similar to

Type I diabetes, but Type II diabetes is more typically a disease of diet and lifestyle

overindulgence, and the patients do not usually experience the “wasting” and

muscle atrophy. Treatment for diabetes is similar to treatment for Xiao Ke, but there

are more factors that need to be taken into consideration when treating diabetics.


There are several classic formulas to treat Xiao Ke, depending on whether it

primarily affects the upper, middle or lower jiao. The classic formula to treat upper

jiao Xiao Ke is Bai Hu Tang; Yu Nu Jian or Qing Wei San are used to treat middle

jiao Xiao Ke; and Liu Wei Di Huang Wan is for the lower jiao. However, use of

these formulas alone will not be sufficient to treat diabetes, because as mentioned

before, diabetes is more than just Xiao Ke – it also involves complications of eyes,

blood vessels, infections, neuropathies, and nephropathies. Therefore, in order to

effectively treat diabetes with Chinese herbal medicine, it is essential to choose

the appropriate Kiao Ke formula, and then add herbs for blood sugar control and

address complications from the diabetes.


There are many “anti-diabetic” herbs in the Chinese material medica, or herbal remedies for Diabetes, so choosing

the right herbs for the patient just comes down to whichever are the most

appropriate for the presenting pattern. Zhi Mu (Rhizoma Anemarrhenae) and

Huang Qi (Radix Astragali) are among the most commonly prescribed herbs to treat

diabetes. Huang Qi has a marked effect to lower plasma glucose levels and alleviate

insulin resistance. The antihyperglycemic action of Huang Qi appears to be due to

increased production and release of insulin. Zhi Mu, which also has an antidiabetic

effect, has the benefits of increasing insulin secretion, decreased insulin resistance,

and prevention of pancreatic atrophy. These herbs are great to include in an herbal

formula for a Type II diabetic patient, but if a patient has Type I diabetes, which

is more similar to Xiao Ke, the pancreas is no longer functioning, and so herbal

medicine treatment can really only be targeted to manage complications and signs

and symptoms.


In order to treat complications and manifestations in the diabetic patient, it is

important to remember that most problems that are occurring are due to the

fact that increased viscosity of the blood due to hyperglycemia leads to poor

circulation. Therefore, it is a good idea to add some blood moving herbs to the

formula to make sure that the medicinal compounds are able to make it through

the circulatory system and get to the diseased areas. Dan Shen (Radix et Rhizoma

Salviae Miltorrhizae) is the perfect herb to accomplish this; is will open up the blood

vessels, bringing blood to the periphery, and acting as an envoy to treat diabetic

neuropathy. Using a small amount of herbs that invigorate the blood, should be


essential in the herbal treatment of any patient suffering from diabetes, and will

increase the efficacy of the herbal formula used to treat their presenting pattern.

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