Chinese medicine is based on a system of beliefs. It is based on traditional concepts and theories of health and wellness more so, than documented and concrete, scientific data. The theories pertain to the human body, “harmony between two opposing yet complementary forces, called yin and yang” (Xie, 2011) and five elements including Earth. These elements are: water, wood, fire and metal. The stages, functioning and diseases of human life are believed to be represented by these elements. The Yin and Yang supports optimal health. If a person is diseased, then the Yin and Yang are not in balance. In some cases, TCM can be paired with western medicine to maximize the body’s potential to heal. Author Weidong Xie explained in a medical journal that, “Xiaoke Wan (XKW) contains several herb medicines and a western compound, glibenclamide. It is used to treat T2DM.” (2011) This validates the premise that Chinese medicine can be beneficial and therapeutic for patients who are diabetic.
Chinese herbs were involved in a limited study to investigate effectiveness in treating type 2 diabetes mellitus. The research that included clinical trials were included in the Xiaoke Wan’s study. The herbs that demonstrated antidiabetic effects were very few, but showed potential for further research. One example of an effective Chinese herb is, Ginseng. The whole Ginseng plant had “significant antihyperglycemic effect in many animal models.” (Xie, 2011) It did this by promoting the secretion of insulin, stimulating the uptake of glucose and protecting the pancreas. In addition, there were no indications of side effects unlike typical Western prescription drugs. Another example that was useful with treating diabetes is Golden Thread, which is commonly used by Chinese people today. The active ingredient (Berberine) offered a reduction in hyperglycemia in patients with different clinical diabetic issues.
Many herbs have been combined into formulas approved by the China SFDA. They do not have clinical trials available to validate their effectiveness. However, they are used in combination with glibenclamide since they lower blood glucose and improve the symptoms of the disease. Lastly, there are several other Chinese medicinal herbs used for treating diabetes. They include, Yuquan Wan, Jinqi Jiangtang Pian, Xiaotangling Jiaonang, Jiangtangjia Pian and Kelening Jiaonang, Shenqi Jiangtang Keli, Yangyin Jiangtang Pian, Xiaoke Jiangtang Pian and Yijin Jiangtang Jiaonang. (Xie, 2011)
In conclusion, TCM is great as an approach for alleviating symptoms and consequences of Type 2 diabetes. However, it has not been proven to cure diabetes or reverse severe damage such as blindness or required amputations. Uniting Western medicine with TCM works towards the same goal of reducing the severity of symptoms and to prevent further complications of the disease. On the other hand, “their approaches to conceptualizing, diagnosing, and treating the disease are very different.” (Covington, 2001) Perhaps the best medicine is prevention by avoiding excessive consumption of the typical Western diet while incorporating Chinese herbs into meals and teas.
- Centers for Disease Control. “Diabetes | At A Glance Reports | Publications | Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2016, www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/diabetes.htm.
- Covington, M. B. (2001). Traditional Chinese Medicine in the Treatment of Diabetes. Diabetes Spectrum, 14(3), 154-159. doi:10.2337/diaspect.14.3.154
- Xie, W., Zhao, Y., & Zhang, Y. (2011). Traditional Chinese Medicines in Treatment of Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2011/726723/