How acupuncture, herbal remedies and lifestyle changes can make a difference in Type 2 Diabetes

By Yi Luo, Acupuncturist, LAc, NCCAOM Diploma, Sponsored by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care’s Eastern Harmony program


Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing complications to the eyes, heart, blood vessels, nervous system, teeth and gums, feet, skin or kidneys. The following symptoms of diabetes are typical of diabetic patients:

• Frequent urination

• Thirst

• Hunger despite normal diet

• Extreme fatigue

• Blurry vision

• Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal

• Tingling, pain or numbness in the hands or feet

However, some people have Type 2 diabetes, a condition characterized by high blood glucose levels caused by either a lack of insulin or the body’s inability to use insulin efficiently. Type 2 diabetes develops most often in middle-aged and older adults, but can appear in young people.

Chinese medicine looks to improve or treat these symptoms. According to the theory of Chinese medicine, diabetes has three symptom levels:

The Upper Level may involve lung “heat” issues, which cause thirst, restlessness, dry coughing, dry skin, hoarseness, dry red tongue with or without cracks, a thin yellow tongue coating and a rapid pulse in the limbs.

The Middle Level may involve stomach “fire”, which causes excessive appetite and constant hunger, the desire to drink cold liquids, a burning sensation in the chest, constipation, a red tongue with thick yellow coating and a slippery-forceful-rapid pulse.

The Lower Level may involve a kidney Yin deficiency, causing excessive urination, dry mouth at night, night sweating, sore back and aching bones, red-peeled tongue and deep-thread-rapid pulse. Another lower-level symptom involves a deficiency of both Yin and Yang of kidney, resulting in murky urine, especially at night, soreness and weakness of the lower back and knees, aversion to cold, weariness, impotence, a pale red tongue with teeth marks and a white tongue coating and a deep-thread-weak pulse.

Acupuncture can help treat diabetes-related symptoms and complications to improve healing and the quality of life.

In our wellness practice, we usually recommend that if you have diabetes you may need both acupuncture treatments and herbal formulas, while also modifying eating habits, emotions, time management, sexual activities and exercise. This approach usually shows some improvement in symptoms within four months.

Acupuncture can help improve energy levels. Increased energy levels can motivate you to become more physically active, which can in turn lead to increased bone density and strength. Physical activity includes tai chi, swimming, bicycling and even hula hooping It can also help reduce stress and anxiety.

Studies and clinical tests show that acupuncture can help lower blood glucose content; regulate the appetite, thirst and urine; improve motor skills and blood flow; and alleviate pain. It may also improve the body’s use of insulin, as well as muscle strength and blood pressure.

Herbal remedies may also be effective in managing diabetes  as they may help  balance the body’s PH levels and control weight and blood sugar levels.

Nutritional supplements used in our practice are anti-toxins and antioxidants, which can repair healthy cells and lead to symptom relief. They may also help improve heart health, balance cholesterol levels and glucose levels and promote healthy skin and visual and nerve health.

For lifestyle management, our practice recommends that patients with diabetes avoid cold drinks, soda and preservatives, because they make it more difficult for our bodies to digest “real” food. They can also lead to weight gain and other health diseases. You should also eat healthy, which means watching your portions and including fruits, vegetables, lean meats, low-fat cheeses and whole grains in your diet.

For more information about diabetes, visit or

For more information on traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture or herbal supplements, visit or contact Yi Luo at (617) 792-2136.


The content of this article represents the views of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. Always consult your health care provider before starting a new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment, or if you have questions regarding your medical condition.

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