TCM View of Diabetes (Part 1)

1 Sep

Today, let us discuss another common ailment in today’s society – Diabetes. Many are intimidated by the word “diabetes” whenever their blood glucose levels shoot above the normal range of about 4.4 – 6.1mmol/L. However, it is really the complications that arise due to high levels of blood glucose in the body that is worrying.

Western medicine group diabetes into 3 main categories, namely Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. But for today, let us forget about blood glucose levels momentarily and focus on Traditional Chinese Medicine’s(TCM) view on diabetes.

In TCM, diabetes is characterised by polydipsia (drink a lot), polyphagia (eat a lot), polyuria (urinate a lot), fatigue, sweetness in urine and loss of weight in certain cases. Anyone who has a combination of at least 3 symptoms as stated above can be treated using the TCM method, whether or not their Western doctors have diagnosed them as diabetic.

Like Western medicine, we also group diabetes into 5 different groups. But contrary to their system of grouping, TCM categorises diabetes according to its cause – Heatiness in the lungs causing fluids to be lost; Severe heatiness in the stomach; Deficiency in qi and yin; Deficiency in kidney yin; Deficiency in yin and yang. Whichever the category, the root cause is a huge deficiency in yin, indicated by dryness and heatiness. Hence, in treating patients with diabetes, we have to tackle the “dryness” and “heatiness” caused by the yin deficiency and our main focus is still on the deficiency in yin. If the root cause is not eliminated, no amount of “miracle” medicine can be able to control the uncomfortable symptoms associated with diabetes.


Main objective for all cases: Nourish/Replenish yin and eliminate the “dryness” and “heatiness”


1. Lung heatiness and loss of fluid
Symptoms: Thirst, polydipsia, dry mouth and tongue, frequent high volume urination, hot flushes, high volume of perspiration.
Treatment: As this is caused by heatiness in the lungs, we will focus on clearing the lung heat and replenish the loss of fluid, thereby eliminating the symptoms.
Herbs commonly used: Radix Trichosanthis (Mongolian Snakegourd Root), Radix Puerariae, Radix Ophiopogonis (Dwarf Lilyturf Tuber), Radix Rehmanniae (Dried Rehmannia Root), Rhizoma Anemarrhenae, Lotus Root Juice, Fructus Mume, Lily Bulb.

2. Severe Stomach Heatiness
Symptoms: Polyphagia, easily hungry, thirst, polyuria, loss of weight, dry stools or rabbit/goat-like stool.
Treatment: Clear stomach heat, nourish yin and replenish fluid.
Herbs commonly used: Gypsum, Rhizoma Anemarrhenae, Fructus Gardeniae (Dried Cape Jasmine Fruit), Radix Scrophulariae, Radix Rehmanniae (Dried Rehmannia Root), Radix Ophiopogonis (Dwarf Lilyturf Tuber), Radix Cyathulae, Chinese Yam, Ginseng, Licorice.

3. Qi andYin Deficiency
Symptoms: Thirst, severe polydipsia, fatigue, loss of energy in limbs, weight loss, polyphagia coupled with loose stools or loss of appetite.
Treatment: Tonify qi, strengthen the spleen and replenish fluid.
Herbs commonly used: Astragalus, Ginseng, Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae, Chinese Yam,  Indian Buead Tuckahoe, Licorice, Radix Puerariae, Asparagus, Radix Ophiopogonis, Cranberry.

4. Kidney Yin Deficiency
Symptoms: Frequent high volume murky/milky urination, sweet urine, sore lower back and weak knees, fatigue, dizziness, tinnitus, dry mouth and lips, dry itchy skin.
Treatment: Nourish and strengthen kidney yin.
Herbs commonly used: Cranberry, Wolfberry (Goji Berries), Chinese Yam, Radix Rehmanniae Preparata, Fructus Schisandrae Chinensis, Indian Buead Tuckahoe, Rhizoma Alismatis, Astragalus.

5. Yin and Yang Deficiency
Symptoms: Frequent murky/milky urination, direct urination after drinking in certain cases, haggard, dry helix of ears, sore lower back and weak knees, chilly limbs, unable to withstand coldness, erectile dysfunction or irregular menstrual period.
Treatment: Nourish yin, tonify yang, strengthen kidney.
Herbs commonly used: As this is very severe, immediate medical attention is advised.


The commonly used herbs recommended above are only for use in cases with symptoms similar to their respective category. However, please note that each and every one of us has different body types and needs. Therefore, if you suspect that you might have diabetes or you have family history of diabetes, please do a proper health screening and see a doctor if necessary.


Preivew for next few posts: We will be exploring herbal soups that can help condition those with milder symptoms for each category. So please stay tuned!

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