Peripheral neuropathy is a common problem that occurs due to a wide range of health problems. It may occur due to nerve damage caused by metabolic or hormonal changes, mechanical compression, or even due to the toxic effect of some drugs.
As causes of peripheral neuropathy vary, so do the symptoms. Every person with peripheral neuropathy may have a different kind of presentation, thus complicating the diagnosis. However, most common symptoms are numbness and tingling sensation in the limbs, pain in some regions of the body, and even changes in the functioning of specific internal organs like alterations in bowel movement.
Once the person has been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, primary treatment would be to cure or manage the underlying disease. Thus, in diabetic peripheral neuropathy, mainline treatment would be to treat diabetes, try to manage the blood glucose level. In practice, managing or controlling the underlying disease is not always an option. Take an example of chemotherapy, which often leads to peripheral neuropathy.
Modern medicine has very few options to treat the numbness of limbs or painful peripheral neuropathy. Most of the doctors would start with non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, and in severe cases, they may prescribe opioids. In some instances, doctors may use anti-seizure and antidepressant medications. Problem with most of the chemical drugs is low efficacy and a high number of side effects. Thus, no surprise that traditional or alternative medicine has an important role to play in the treatment of peripheral neuropathy.
Chinese herbs and peripheral neuropathy
Chinese herbal medicine is perhaps one of the oldest medical systems in the world. It has evolved a lot over the centuries. Like many other traditional medicine systems, it has some particular approach towards the diseases.
Chinese herbal medicine has been in use for thousands of years, and during last few centuries, its use has spread to many countries outside China, including the US. In recent times lots of studies or clinical trials have been done, and most trials demonstr
ated the beneficial effects of Chinese herbs in peripheral neuropathy. There is substantial evidence that certain Chinese herbs and their extracts can alleviate pain, improve nerve conduction, reduce inflammation, help nerve to recover.
Chinese herbs are non-addictive, they act by reducing the oxidative stress and free radicals, they help to regulate the metabolic disorder, activate protein kinase C, they help to reduce the advanced glycation end products. Chinese herbs may also help to increase the levels of Nerve Growth Factors (NGF), insulin-like growth factor-1, these herbs have a positive effect on microcirculation and hemodynamics. Chinese herbs may inhibit various inflammatory responses; they may reduce the levels of endothelin, reduce the production of cytokines, suppress inflammation. Chinese herbs have proven analgesic effect thus helping in painful neuropathy.
Chinese herbs or Chinese herbal medicine has a particular role to play in the treatment of peripheral neuropathy, considering that current conventional medicine has lots of limitations.
Like other traditional medicine systems, Chinese traditional medicine looks at the body as a whole; it has a universal approach towards the disease. It does not believe in just treating the symptoms, it trusts in addressing the root cause. As per traditional Chinese medicine peripheral neuropathy occurs due to four reasons:
- Chronic ailments lead to the deficiency of yin and burning of fluids which results in an empty It increases the viscosity of blood, leads to blood stasis, blockage of channels and sinews.
- High sugar and fat-containing food disturb the balance of spleen and stomach. It leads to the dampness, accumulation of phlegm and thus worsening the stasis.
- Sinews and channels suffer from low nourishment due to the weakness of liver and kidney.
- Deficiency of yin leads to the deficit of yang, causing inner cold and macrovascular coagulations.
All these factors decrease the flow of qi (life energy), disturbs the flow of blood to muscles, channels, and sinews. Disturbances in qi, yin, and yang lead to blood stasis and phlegm accumulation, and the aim of any herbal therapy in Chinese medicine is to correct this balance and thus cure the disease from root level.
Chinese traditional medicine is quite complicated, and thus prescription of Chinese herbs requires years of experience, it is not something that can be done by self. To get the correct prescription of herb, it is always better to consult the specialist. Further, it must be understood that Chinese medications are mostly the combination of various herbs, use of the single herb is uncommon. Some of the Chinese medicines may contain non-herbal extracts too.
Some of the most common Chinese herbs used to treat peripheral neuropathy are ordinally milkvetch root (Radix Astragali seu Hedysari), suberect spatholobus stem (Caulis Spatholobi), peony root (Radix Paeoniae Rubra), sichuan lovage rhizome (Rhizoma Ligustici Chuanxiong), danshen root (Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae), to name the few.
Some of the most common Chinese herbal medications (each containing several herbs) used are Guizhi Shaoyao Zhimu Tang, Xiaoke Tongluo Capsule, YiqiWenyanghuoxue Tang, Tangpingluotong Yin, and many more.
In conclusion, one needs to understand that Chinese herbs may help in cases when other ways have failed. However, it is essential to know that self-medication in case of Chinese herbs is not possible, and one should better consult the specialist on the subject.