What you need to know...
Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which there are high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period. Symptoms of high blood sugar include frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger. If left untreated, diabetes can cause many complications. Acute complications include diabetic ketoacidosis and nonketotic hyperosmolar coma. Serious long-term complications include cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic kidney failure, foot ulcers, and damage to the eyes.
According to the American Diabetic Association, unlike Western medicine, TCM is not concerned with measuring and monitoring blood glucose levels in diabetic patients. Treatment is individualized and geared toward assessing and treating the symptoms that compose patterns of deficiency and disharmony.
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 demonstrated that acupuncture has a beneficial effect on lowering serum glucose levels.
Peripheral neuropathy, one of the most common complications of type 2 diabetes, occurs most often in the distal extremities and typically affects the sensory, motor, and autonomic systems. Acupuncture has been demonstrated to exert a beneficial effect on neuropathic pain. The effects of acupuncture, particularly on pain, are mediated in part by the release of endogenous opioids from the spinal cord, brainstem, and hypothalamus. In addition, it has been demonstrated that neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and substance P, are released during acupuncture treatments. Increases in local blood flow and vasodilation and increased levels of cortisol have also been demonstrated. A 300% increase in plethysmographic recordings of blood flow has been demonstrated in the digits of limbs stimulated with electroacupuncture.
Many formulations have been developed and are used in the treatment of diabetes. The Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic), which dates from the Han Dynasty 206 B.C.–220 A.D., listed 13 herbal formulations, 9 of which were patent medicines including pills, powders, plasters, and tinctures. The sources of Chinese remedies are varied and include plants, minerals, and animal parts.
These do not increase insulin levels, but rather enhance carbohydrate utilization. Individuals should have their type of diabetes before initiating TCM treatment.