Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Treatment for Guillain Barre Syndrome

Traditional Chinese Medicine has been used traditionally as a treatment for all kinds of disorders and health problems, including Guillain-Barre Syndrome. One study into the effects of TCM in comparison to western conventional treatments for GBS noted that patients treated with TCM herbal preparations demonstrated better nerve conduction functions and had improved sensory function and ADL (Activities of Daily Living) scores. TCM treatment was shown to be 94.3% effective, in comparison with conventional western therapies (like those mentioned above) that only had a 78.6% efficacy score. Out of the 35 patients who received TCM preparations, only 2 experienced no improvements. Five of the TCM patients experienced a total cure, and 20 experienced a significant improvement in their symptoms (8 people had only some improvement in their condition). 


The TCM preparation in this study used a combination of the following herbs in the quantities listed below (these quantities of herbs were administered daily as a part of the healing tea described below):



These herbs were boiled together for half an hour. At the end of the boiling, 600ml of liquid remained (this was then strained to remove the remaining plant material and create a kind of “juice” or tea). Patients drank half of this mixture in the morning and half of it in the evening every day for the duration of the study. 


In TCM, licorice root is considered an anti-inflammatory medicine with estrogen-like activity that helps minimize and relieve the symptoms of GBS. It is also considered a powerful detoxifying herb (something it shares in common with astragalus). Astragalus, a similar herb to licorice, may encourage the formation of new blood vessels while also promoting tissue repair. Salvia miltiorrhiza (red sage) and red peony root are included to improve blood supply to all areas of the body as well as to encourage the recovery of limb function in GBS patients. 

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According to the philosophies of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Guillain-Barre Syndrome is characterized by a lack of Qi and presence of damp-heat-evil as a result of pathogenic invasions (previous or present). These characteristics closely resemble the so-called flaccidity disease in TCM, which is treated using herbs that tonify the Qi, such as astragalus, licorice, and Poria cocos and also with herbs that remove damp heat, like atractylodes, phellodendron, coix seed, red peony, and Salvia miltiorrhiza. The tonifying Qi herbs are considered an important part of the TCM remedy for GBS not only because they can heal the disease itself, but also because they can help relieve the severe fatigue that frequently occurs as a result of axonal loss following GBS recovery.


Another herb, Tripterygium wolfordii, otherwise known as Thunder God Vine, has also been shown to improve recovery in patients with GBS. Specifically, polyglycosides found in the Tripterygium plant have been observed to speed up recovery more effectively than conventional corticosteroid treatment. 



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[1] Yang, Liu and Zhao, Xiumin (2020). Integrated Chinese and western medicine for acute guillain-barré syndrome treatment. Retrieved December 7, 2021 from: https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/tnsci-2020-0007/html