by Paul Lin
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can offer a wide range of modalities for the treatment of Shingles. This includes, but is not limited to, using internal and topical herbs, moxibustion, acupuncture, cupping, and bleeding, or any combination of these different modalities.
• Internal herbs: Because of individual differences and the variations of this condition, Shingles can be differentiated into as many as 15 patterns according to Chinese medicine theory. The main causes of this condition are “Fire,” “Heat,” and “Damp.” The main organs involved are liver and gall bladder, but heart and spleen can sometimes be involved too. The most common pattern is “damp heat resides in the liver/ gall bladder meridians.” To treat this pattern, practitioners of TCM most often use or modify the classic formula known as “Long Dan Xie Gan Tang.” Its main ingredient is Chinese Gentian root among nine other herbs. In my experience, Valtrex might be able to reduce the sores; it does not always address the underlying pattern – damp heat. As long as there are still signs of damp heat, this formula can still be used.
• Topical herbs: Xiong Huang (Realgar) and Ming Fan (Alum) are the main substances for this application and might be enough by itself, if treated in the early stage (within 1-2 days) of Shingles.
• Moxibustion: This method uses Ai-Ye (Mugwort leaf) moxa stick ember heat to warm the local infected area, to release toxins. One classic text of Chinese medicine, Yi Zong Jin Jian, emphasizes that one should always apply this method in case of infection, within seven days.
• Acupuncture: With this method, 4-15 disposable needles are inserted from both sides (1 cm away) of the sores diagonally (15 degree) towards the other side, in a square or cross fashion to circle the infected area. The idea is to invigorate the blood locally, regulate the flow of Qi, and prevent further spreading of the infection. Electrical current is sometimes applied to the needles to reduce the pain or to the area where needle manipulation is difficult. Depending on the pattern differentiation, other body points are selected as well: LI4, LI11, GB20, GB34, TB5, TB6, ST36, ST40, Liv 13, Liv14, Sp6, Sp10.
• Cupping/Bleeding: One study (55 people) shows that bleeding the inner and outer corners of thumb and big toe nails can be very effective. One study (36 people) uses needles to poke the sores then uses a vacuum cup on top for 10-15 minutes. Another study (110 people) uses fire cupping without breaking the sores. They all seem to yield good results.