For individuals suffering from the chronic autoimmune disease lupus, life can become a disheartening series of painful flares and temporary improvements. Conventional Western therapies don’t always work, and the powerful drugs used can cause serious side effects.
The disease typically strikes women in their childbearing years, and women of color are significantly more likely than others to develop the condition. But lupus sufferers also include men and children, along with people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Traditional Chinese medicine does not use the term “lupus,” but the practice has a long history of successfully treating the often-unpredictable symptoms, including joint pain and inflammation, facial rash, fatigue, fever, hair loss and organ dysfunction.
Lupus and Traditional Chinese Medicine
Awareness of lupus in Chinese medicine goes back at least to the Qing Dynasty, according to traditional texts. The knowledge gained during that period points to a blood-based heat toxin that, when aggravated by summertime heat or sunlight, results in the distinctive red patches associated with the disease.
Traditional Chinese medicine texts recommended use of specific herbs that would:
- Control heat by nourishing yin.
- Control the effects of “damp heat” experienced during late summer.
- Clear out toxins and heat from the body.
Today, traditional Chinese medicine uses an integrative approach borrowing from both Eastern and Western traditions to control lupus. Typically, the disease is treated with corticosteroids along with herbal therapies to improve blood circulation.
Clinical trials have found that lupus patients treated in this manner responded more positively than did patients treated with only corticosteroid drugs and not with herbs. Researchers also have determined that patients who received the integrative approach responded more quickly to therapy, required a smaller amount of the drugs and had their symptoms resolve more completely.
Traditional Chinese medicine often attempts to correct imbalances of yin and yang in the body. Yin represents the components that keep the body cool, and many lupus symptoms are believed to result from a yin deficiency. Some lupus symptoms also result from an imbalance in yang, the components that keep the body warm.
Lupus symptoms related to an imbalance in yin and yang, along with their probable cause, include:
- Hair loss, aching back, menstrual problems, night sweats, ringing ears: kidney yin deficiency.
- Sweating during the day, intolerance to cold, loss of menstruation, weakness in the back: kidney yang deficiency.
- A feeling of fullness in the stomach, loss of appetite, swelling in the face: spleen deficiency.
- Frustration and irritability, heavy menstruation: liver stagnation.
- Sore throat, fever in the afternoon, dry cough: lung yin deficiency.
- Pain in the joints, numbness in arms and legs, blurry vision, headache, light menstruation: liver deficiency.
The symptoms associated with lupus can cause ongoing pain, inflammation and other problems for sufferers of the disease. By enrolling in one of PCOM’s Acupuncture/Oriental Medicine programs, you can learn practical skills to help individuals struggling with this chronic condition.