Evidence Based Oriental Medicine

How does herbal therapy treat neuropathy?

How can acupuncture, herbal medicine, and tai chi treat peripheral neuropathy?

How does TCM view peripheral neuropathy?

The best way to treat neuropathy is to prevent it from happening. Managing underlying conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and alcoholism can help reduce the risks of developing neuropathy. Living a healthy lifestyle is also recommended. When you eat a diet rich in whole grains, lean protein, fruits, and vegetables, get enough exercise, and avoid exposure to toxins, you will have less of a chance of developing this painful condition.

Those who have peripheral neuropathy have several treatment options. Medicines such as amitriptyline, duloxetine, pregabalin and gabapentin can be used to lessen the pain of neuropathy as can nerve stimulation. Steroids, immunosuppressants, and injections of immunoglobulin may also be used depending on the underlying cause of the condition. 

Like many other conditions such as depression, migraines, and insomnia, peripheral neuropathy is considered to be caused a blockage in energy (qi) and blood in the body by those who practice Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). They believe that if blood and energy are allowed to flow freely in the body, the cells and tissues will receive the nourishment they need and neuropathy will be resolved. Due to this belief, the main components of TCM aim to restore the flow of qi to treat neuropathy. Three TCM techniques are usually suggested for those with the condition: acupuncture, herbal medicine, and Tai Chi. 

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Common treatments for peripheral neuropathy

Your peripheral nervous system is an important part of your overall health and well-being. It sends information from your spinal cord and brain to the rest of your body as well as sending sensory input to your central nervous system. Unfortunately, this system is also easily injured. Infections, exposure to toxins, metabolic issues, diabetes, inherited disorders, autoimmune diseases, and traumatic injuries can all impact the system in a negative way and cause symptoms such as numbness, pain, and weakness in the extremities as well as adversely impacting circulation, urination, and digestions. Fortunately, peripheral neuropathy can be treated and the symptoms improved in many patients.

TCM herbal medicine is another alternative form of treatment that can lead to improvements in neuropathy symptoms. A common combination used to treat neuropathy is the Huangqi Guizhi Wuwu Decoction (HGWD), a mixture of Astragali Radix, Cinnamomi Ramulus, Paeoniae Radix Alba, Zingiberis Rhizoma Recens, and Jujubae Fructus. One study showed this combination of herbs was effective in the treatment of moderate to severe diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Another commonly used compound is DHCB, which comes from the roots of the Corydalis yanhusuo plant. This compound has been shown to diminish both inflammatory pain and injury-induced neuropathic pain. It was also shown that patients who took this compound did not develop a tolerance to it as they did to opioids like morphine. 

How does acupuncture treat neuropathy?

Tai chi, a gentle system of self-paced exercise and stretching that is similar to yoga but involves constant movement, is beneficial for reducing stress, increasing flexibility, and improved overall wellness. It can also be used to treat neuropathy symptoms. One study examined the results of a 24-week Tai chi program on 25 women with peripheral neuropathy. Testing was conducted every six weeks and improvement was found during every testing period. Another study followed 59 patients with diabetic neuropathy and found that, after a 12-week Tai chi intervention, their status was significantly better than those in a control group that did not practice any Tai chi.

Do you suffer from peripheral neuropathy and either want to try an alternative treatment or add a treatment to your current protocol? The experienced team at EBOM would love to explain the options and help you decide which TCM treatments are right for you. Please reach out today for more information. 

The insertion of small, thin needles into specific meridians in the body to increase the flow of qi, acupuncture has been proven to be successful in treating everything from depression to allergies to chronic pain. One study looked at reviews of patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy who received acupuncture treatments and found that it effectively improved nerve conduction and reduced clinical symptoms. Another study looked at 10 patients experiencing large or small fiber neuropathy who were given a minimum of six acupuncture sessions. All ten of the test subjects indicated improvement after the treatments were complete.  

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