Insulin is the cornerstone of diabetic treatment. However, most patients are reluctant to administer insulin due to the fear of injection. This article reviews clinical and pharmacological studies of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the treatment of diabetes.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
TCM is both an art and a science in healing patients. Its diagnosis looks at the well-being of body, mind, and spirit. Even though most Chinese medicines have not been tested under rigorous clinical trials, its clinical value has been evaluated in millions of Chinese patients over the past 5000 years.
The philosophy of TCM is rooted in Chinese cultures of Taoism (to follow nature’s way) and Confucius (to nurture humanity and morality) and the religion of Buddhism (to free from suffering).
TCM doctors are usually pharmacists and pharmacologists who themselves identify and collect herbs, prepare formulation and follow up their patients. TCM includes Chinese herbal medicine (CHM), acupuncture and specialized disciplines of surgery, orthopedics, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
CHM is the major modality in TCM practice. A prescription for CHM, referred to as compound recipe (Fu Fang), usually consists of four major types of herbs: 1) principal herbs, 2) assistant herbs, 3) adjuvant herbs, and 4) guiding herbs in order to maximize the therapeutic effectiveness and minimize the toxic effects.
The ingredients and the quantity of herbs in a CHM prescription are individualized and changed on a weekly basis to tailor for the patient’s age, gender, symptoms, anthropological characters, geological location and living environment.
TCM doctors have started documenting the efficacy of Chinese Herbal Medicine (approximately 1,200 recipes and 150 herbs for diabetes) for diabetes, metabolic syndrome and associated complications in western medicine database since 1980. Table 1 lists the Chinese herbs and classic recipes that were used commonly in clinical trials in diabetes and diabetic complications.
Table 1: Traditional Chinese medicine for diabetes mellitus