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Musculoskeletal - Chinese Kidney tonics and Osteoporosis

by Paul Bergner

Medical Herbalism 07-31-94 6(2): 1, 14

Fifty-eight women with osteoporosis were diagnosed according to criteria of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and all found to have classical deficiency syndromes related to the Chinese Kidney organ system. They were treated with herbal formulas tailored to their particular TCM syndromes, and showed an average increase in bone density. This study is significant because it demonstrates that the bone loss in osteoporosis can be viewed as part of a larger pattern of the health, and that treatment of the larger pattern (rather than simply treating with hormones and supplementing minerals) can reverse or slow bone loss. This broader treatment, unlike Western treatment with hormones, can improve a wide variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms, like depression, bloating, etc.

The Chinese “Kidney” cannot be directly equated with the physical kidneys in Western medicine. It describes a psycho-physiological pattern that includes elements of the general energy level, hormonal influences, water balance, urination, menstruation, sexual function, and the health of the bones and the brain. “Kidney deficiency” describes a general pattern of symptoms that may be hereditary, but more often follow chronic stress or chronic negative emotions such as fear, guilt, or sexual excesses. It may also be seen in women who have had a lot children, or children very close together. It is more common in older people. Kidney deficiency is considered in Chinese medicine to be the root of most backaches. Kidney Yang Deficiency or Kidney Yin Deficiency are closely related patterns, but they must be differentiated because many of their symptoms are opposite, and they must be treated in different ways therapeutically.

Kidney Deficiency in Traditional Chinese medicine is a symptom picture that may include: exhaustion, depression, despair, lack of willpower or spirit of initiative, apathy, dizziness with a feeling of emptiness in the brain, tinnitus, absent mindedness, poor memory, weak and sore lower back, backache that comes and goes (worse after overwork or sexual activity), shortness of breath, slight wheezing that has a low sound, greater difficulty breathing in, headache after sexual activity.

In Kidney Yang Deficiency: tongue pale or swollen, pulse deep and weak, early morning diarrhea, abdominal pain, frequent urination with plentiful urine, pale urine, waking up at night to urinate, incontinence, feeling of cold, pale complexion, edema, headache less severe.

In Kidney Yin Deficiency: tongue red without coat, pulse floating and empty, incontinence, but scant urine, dark urine, dry throat, night sweats, insomnia, hot flashes, feeling of heat in the evening, more restless, headache more severe.

In the philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine there is an intimate relationship between the Kidney and the health of the bones; thus the authors of this study sought to examine the correlation between Kidney Deficiency and the Western diagnosis of osteoporosis. They found, in fact, an exact correlation; in fifty-eight cases of osteoporosis, twenty-seven fit the criteria for Kidney Deficiency, nineteen fit criteria for Kidney Yin Deficiency, three were found to be Kidney Yang Deficiency, and nine had deficiency of both Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang. The women were treated with traditional formulas tailored to their specific diagnoses. According to the authors, the following herbs were used in the various formulas:
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    271


    Medical Herbalism: Clinical Articles and Case Studies

To “warm the yang, benefit the kidney, strengthen bones and tendons.”

Radix Dipsaci (Dipsacus japonica)

Radix Morindae Officinalis (Morinda officinalis)

Ramulus Loranthi (Loranthus parasiticus)

To “nourish the kidney essence, strengthen the bone and marrow, benefit blood and yin.”

Radix Rehmanniae Preparata (Rehmannia glutinosa)

Placenta Hominis*

Fructus Corni (Cornus officinalis)

To “consolidate and increase the essence, strengthen the kidney and bones.”

Fructus Schisandrae (Schisandra chinensis)

Rhizoma Drynariae

On the average, all the women improved according to criteria of both the TCM and the Western diagnosis. Practitioners not versed in Chinese medicine might consider referring patients with osteoporosis for treatment by a Chinese herbalist.

Li L, Zhengyu J, Zhonghou L, Wei L. Clinical observation on osteoporosis treated with traditional kidney-tonifying medicaments. JI Trad Chin Med 1994;14(1):41-44
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    272