Traditional Chinese Medicine and Diabetes

December 28, 2021

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has recorded knowledge of diabetes and is said to be able to significantly control glucose levels, improve clinical indices in patients, as well as effectively delay the progression of diabetes.

In Western Medicine, diabetes is divided into two types, and different types of diabetes have different characteristics and treatment methods. The main difference between the two types of diabetes is that Type 1 diabetes is a genetic disease that usually appears early in life, while Type 2 diabetes is mainly related to diet and develops over time.[1]

Recently, INTI International University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences held a virtual symposium titled “TCM and Diabetes” featuring speakers from different backgrounds who came together to share about treating diabetes using TCM and its diagnosis, syndrome differentiation, pathogenesis, and treatment methods.

Zhang Fu Li (right), a professor from Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine, and Dr Yong Yii Pin (left) from the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, INTI International University.

According to Zhang Fu Li, a Professor from the Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine, although traditional Chinese medicine is recognized as a prescription for drugs with no toxic side effects, misuse can also cause serious harm. Therefore, differentiation of disease and syndromes are extremely important.

He said Type 2 diabetes should be divided into three stages, namely spleen heat stage, consumptive stage, and complication of consumption and heat stage based on the patient’s constitution. Not every diabetes patient is diagnosed as being in the spleen heat or consumptive stages.

The spleen heat stage is considered the early stage of Type 2 diabetes. It is mostly caused by food stagnation and internal accumulation due to fats and sweets from overeating. This then leads to internal accumulation of dampness and heat and internal accumulation of fat, which directly leads to obesity, Professor Zhang Fu Li explained.

Professor Zhang Fu Li added that obesity can cause insulin resistance. The body compensatively produces too much insulin to maintain a stable blood sugar level in the body, thereby causing hyperinsulinemia. Obesity and insulinemia creates a vicious cycle. When the body is decompensated, it will cause blood sugar rise. The abnormal amount causes Type 2 diabetes.

“In the past, we all thought that diabetes is treated from the consumptive stage. Therefore, the physician will use prescriptions for the treatment of consumptive stage patients to treat Type 2 diabetic patients since there is a different diagnosis. Therefore, the prescriptions were only effective for consumptive patients, not for all Type 2 diabetes patients, he added.

Emily Gan Siou Wen, who is an attending physician at Sin He Chinese Medical Centre, mentioned that when blood glucose level is between 6.1-7.0mmol/L after fasting or when blood sugar level is between 7.8-11.1 mmol/L two hours after a meal is considered as prediabetes.

A group photo during a virtual symposium organised by the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences titled “TCM and Diabetes”.

“The consumptive stage is different from Type 2 diabetes. Consumptive is a major clinical disease with polydipsia, polyphagia, polyuria, fatigue, lose weight or sweet urine. But for Type 2 diabetes with obesity is mostly attributed to spleen heat, In this stage, the core pathogenesis is middle stagnation with internal heat, liver and stomach stagnant heat, gastrointestinal heat syndrome, and phlegm heat syndrome, which are the main manifestations of this stage, she explained.

Emily Gan Siou Wen said that the major Chinese herb used for diabetes patients is Coptis Chinensis. However, during this medication, sour properties are also required. Herbs with sour properties are able to prevent over consuming of Yin by the heat. It also has a mild effect in nourishing the Yin.

Dr Fu Shih Shi, a substitute lecturer from the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at INTI International University said the most common prescription used in treating consumptive patients is Yu Ye Tang, a medicinal soup composed of Astragalus membranaceus, Anemarrhena asphodeloides, Common Yam Rhizome, Mongolian Snakegourd Root, and others.

“Though Yu Ye Tang can be used for diabetes patient, every patient has different characteristics. Some patients not only suffer from diabetes, but some also suffer from heart problems, blood pressure and other diseases. Therefore, we need to understand the efficacy, dosage and strength of each medicine and prescription in order to treat it and achieve a better effect,” he concluded.