In TCM diabetes is described as xiao-ke syndrome which means “wasting and thirsting” or what is known as diabetic exhaustion. The more modern term, tang-niao-bing, means “sugar urine illness.”  TCM focuses on three parts of the body, 1) upper- excessive thirst, 2) middle-excessive hunger and 3) lower-excessive urination. Each one of these types is closely associated with the lungs, stomach, and kidneys, respectively.

As an example, a diagnosis of Kidney Yin Deficiency with internal heat is a pattern that would describe a patient with symptoms of feeling thirsty, fatigued, irritable with over consumption of fatty foods, sugars, alcohol and/or coffee/tea.

Acupuncture and moxibustion traditionally have been used in the treatment of diabetes to reduce blood glucose levels and normalize endocrine function. Clinical and experimental studies have shown that acupuncture has a beneficial effect on lowering serum glucose levels.

Peripheral neuropathy is one of the most common complications of type 2 diabetes. Acupuncture has been demonstrated to exert a beneficial effect on neuropathic pain.

Chinese herbs have been used for over 2,000 years for diabetes with classical formulas such as:  Rehmannia Eight Formula (Ba Wei Di Huang Tang)- which could be used for the example above. Some of the main ingredients of this formula are rehmannia root,cornelian cherry fruit & astragalus,

Ginseng and Gypsum Combination (Bai Hu Jia Ren Shen Tang) is used more in modern Japan than China. This formula is indicated originally for severe thirst and fatigue and is considered ideal for diabetes of recent onset.These formulas have been shown to have hypoglycemic effects in animal studies.

Since diabetes is a Yin Deficient condition with heat, foods considered to be cooling would be beneficial for diabetic patients. Foods such as spinach, celery, pumpkin, soybeans, string beans, sweet potato/yam, turnips, tomato, wheat bran, and millet. Fruits include crab apple, guava, plum, strawberry, and mulberry. Diabetics should eat smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day.

  1. Chen DC, et al., Clinical and experimental studies in treating diabetes mellitus by acupuncture, 1994 Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine; 14(3): 163-166.
  2. Percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation: a novel analgesic therapy for diabetic neuropathic pain. Diabetes Care 23:365-370, 2000
  3. Choate C: http://www.jcm.co.uk/SampleArticles/DIABETES1.html 

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