Traditional Chinese medicine has been used therapeutically in China for thousands of years and is growing in prominence in Europe and the United States. More and more people search the health care from Chinese medicine and other complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) showed that about 38% of all adults, 44% of adults from 50-59 years old, and 12% of children reported using CAM in 2007. At least 24-44% of epilepsy patients appear to already be using CAM in some form.
Epilepsy had been described in the book, Chinese Medicine Classic (Huang Di Nei Jing), which was written more than 2,000 years ago. Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture are the main professional methods of Chinese medicine. Recent studies indicate that Chinese medicine therapy including herbal medicines and acupuncture for epilepsy are promising.
Herbal remedies have been used in traditional Chinese medicine and other traditional medical systems since ancient times for the treatment of epilepsy. For example, tian ma, the root of Gastrodia, is commonly used in China for epilepsy and other conditions.
There have been three cases in which patients with refractory epilepsy showed substantial improvement with the use of the traditional herbal formulation Bu-yang-huan-wu-tang. Some reviewers cited several compelling open-label studies of Chinese herbal remedies, including Qingyangsen and Zhenxianling, suggesting that these medications may have anticonvulsant effects, with fewer side effects than standard antiepileptic drugs.
Along with herbal remedies, acupuncture is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat epilepsy. Case reports have demonstrated the potential efficacy of acupuncture in patients with epilepsy, and mouse studies have shown that acupuncture may inhibit kainic acid-induced epileptic seizure and hippocampal cell death.
In one Norwegian trial, 29 patients with intractable epilepsy were randomized to receive acupuncture or sham acupuncture. Seizure frequency was reduced in both groups, but the reduction did not reach a level of statistical significance and a larger sample size may have been needed to see differences.
Generally, the combination of herbal medicine with acupuncture is needed to treat epilepsy and usually the treatment is about 3-6 months depending on the condition.