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Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders affecting around 50 million people worldwide. It’s marked by recurrent seizures or fits, and a range of symptoms including sudden loss of consciousness, convulsions or jerking body parts, and feelings of fear and anxiety.

Although there’s no cure for epilepsy yet and managing seizures can be challenging, it is possible for people with epilepsy to live a long and healthy life with minimal disruptions. As research has shown, a combination of standard care and complementary approaches can provide effective solutions and significantly reduce the frequency and severity of seizures.

If you’re interested in discovering more about how Chinese Medicine can help restore the body’s harmony, improve overall health, and ease symptoms while targeting the root causes of epilepsy, come and visit us.

How can we help?

Chinese Medicine has a long history (over 2000 years) of  treating epileptic seizures, reducing their frequency and severity long-term and with no side effects. Modern research is also showing promising results, consistently demonstrating the therapeutic effect of acupuncture and herbal medicine in the management of epilepsy, whether on its own or alongside conventional care.

Studies suggest that acupuncture might help decrease the duration of seizures and alleviate associated symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, by regulating the nervous system. Auricular acupuncture (ear acupuncture) and electro-acupuncture (electro-stim), in particular, may have an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain which seems to help reduce the frequency of seizures. Similarly, tailored blends of herbs with sedative, anticonvulsant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, seem to work by modulating the activity of neurotransmitters, hence reducing seizures, calming the mind, and supporting overall brain health.

While Chinese Medicine does not offer a cure for epilepsy, it aims to restore balance and harmony within the body and mind, manage seizures and improve overall health and well-being, providing long-term relief and reducing the reliance on medication.

How quickly will you see results?

The minimum course of treatment we typically recommend to see improvements is about 4 weeks.

However, everyone responds differently to treatments and time may vary from patient to patient, depending on the severity of their condition and how their body responds to treatment. Both Chinese Herbal medicine and Acupuncture require consistency and regularity but can provide successful and long-term results without unpleasant side effects.

Your Chinese Medicine physician will work with you to determine the most appropriate approach and treatment plan for your specific situation and will adjust it according to your body response. Please consult with both your Chinese Medicine physician and GP before starting any new course of treatment for optimal, integrated and safe care.

About Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a common brain condition marked by recurrent seizures or fits. In Western medicine, epilepsy is defined as having two or more ‘unprovoked’ seizures within one year, with no direct causation from drugs, alcohol, or head injuries. A one-off epileptic seizure does not mean a person suffers from epilepsy. The condition is only diagnosed if someone has multiple seizures over time.

The causes of epilepsy can be various and range from a head injury, or a brain infection, such as meningitis, to neurological conditions, allergic reactions to medication or food, or a history of stroke and heart attack.

Seizures, the hallmark of epilepsy, are bursts of unusual electrical activity in brain cells that temporarily affect how it works. They can range from mild to severe, and even, in some cases, life-threatening. Seizures are usually classified depending on what area of the brain is affected and are generally divided into two broad categories: focal onset and generalized onset.

  • Focal onset: refers to a seizure that originates from a localized part of one of the hemispheres of the brain.
  • Generalized onset: means that there is seizure-causing activity happening all over, or on both sides of the brain.

The signs of a seizure can vary widely from person to person, but an individual’s specific pattern of what seizures look like will usually remain consistent.

Symptoms of seizure include:

  • A range of changes in awareness: from staring and being unresponsive, up to totally losing consciousness
  • Stiffening of the limbs, limbs twitching, or part of the body shaking
  • Changes in vision: double vision, seeing flashes of light, staring, or blinking repeatedly
  • Dizziness, sudden headache, sweating, nausea
  • Having trouble breathing, or stopping breathing
  • Falling down for no apparent reason, sudden collapse, head nodding, muscles go limp, sometimes called “drop attacks”
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Feelings of confusion, anxiety, panic attack, fear
  • Sense of having an “out of body” experience
  • Strange taste in the mouth or smelling strange smells
  • Drooling or frothing at the mouth, biting the tongue or inside of cheeks
  • Post-seizure amnesia or trouble remembering what happened

If you see someone having a seizure, DO stay near them and make sure they are safe. If they fall or seem to be unconscious, turn them onto their side and make sure they are breathing. DO NOT try to physically restrain a person who is having a seizure or attempt to put anything in their mouth.

Western Medical View

In Western medicine, epilepsy is understood as an imbalance in the communication between nerve cells in the brain. Nerve cells either send messages (excitation) or block them (inhibition). When there is an excessive number of nerve cells sending messages without enough inhibition, this can lead to a seizure. Common triggers for epilepsy include factors like birth injuries, head traumas, strokes, brain tumours and alcoholism.
Occasionally, genetics may play a role.

The treatment of epilepsy in Western medicine typically involves a combination of medications, known as anticonvulsants (anticonvulsive), or anti-seizure medications, lifestyle modifications, and, in some cases, surgical interventions. Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) are commonly prescribed to help manage and control seizures. These medications work by stabilizing the electrical activity in the brain and reducing the likelihood of seizures occurring.

Tranquillizers like Valium (Diazepam), Ativan (Lorazepam), and Klonopin may help to stop a seizure while it is happening, but most people tend to build up a tolerance quickly to these medications and soon have to take higher doses to get the same effect. Some medications may also not be well tolerated and cause side effects like weakness, dizziness, headaches, nausea or vomiting, and skin rash.

In addition to medication, people with epilepsy may be advised to make certain lifestyle changes to minimize seizure triggers. This may include getting enough sleep, managing stress levels, and avoiding substances or activities that can lower the seizure threshold. For individuals with severe and drug-resistant epilepsy, surgical options such as brain surgery or vagus nerve stimulation may be considered as a last resort.

While Western medicine offers effective treatments to manage epilepsy, it is important to note that every case is unique, and the treatment approach may vary depending on the individual.

Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plan.

Chinese Medical View

Chinese medicine views epilepsy as a multifactorial condition with various possible causes, broadly categorized into external factors and internal imbalances, congenital and acquired.

External factors include external pathogens such as wind, heat, or dampness, which can invade the body and disrupt its balance.

Internal imbalances, on the other hand, may arise from factors such as emotional disturbances, constitutional weaknesses, or excessive physical strain.

Congenital causes are often associated with an interruption in the transfer of Qi (the body’s essential energy) from the foetus to the baby.

Acquired causes can range from trauma to the brain, blood stagnation, brain tumours, parasites, and even emotional disturbances.

Epilepsy is typically classified into various syndromes based on the specific symptoms and patterns observed in each individual. These syndromes include liver-wind stirring, phlegm-fire harassing the heart, and kidney deficiency leading to chaotic movement of Qi.

The liver-wind stirring syndrome is characterized by symptoms such as convulsions, tremors, and sudden loss of consciousness.

Phlegm-fire harassing the heart syndrome, on the other hand, manifests with symptoms such as irritability, mania, and a red face.

Lastly, Kidney deficiency syndrome involves symptoms such as dizziness, tinnitus, and a weak lower back.

In Chinese medicine, seizures are understood through the lens of Yin and Yang, a fundamental concept that represents opposing forces and their dynamic balance within the body. In fact, seizures can be categorized into two types: Yin seizures and Yang seizures, with Yang seizures being more closely associated with epilepsy.

Yin seizures: are believed to be caused by an excessive accumulation of Yin energy in the body and are characterized by symptoms such as loss of consciousness, convulsions, and foaming at the mouth.

Yang seizures: are attributed to an excess of Yang energy in the body and are marked by symptoms such as agitation, restlessness, and violent behaviour.

Treatments are usually aimed at relieving symptoms while addressing the root cause of epilepsy. By understanding the causes, types, and syndromes of epilepsy within the framework of Chinese medicine, practitioners can tailor treatments to address the specific needs of each individual. Herbs, acupuncture, dietary adjustments, and lifestyle modifications are commonly used to regulate the flow of Qi, nourish the body, and restore balance. Treatments often focus on eliminating excess phlegm, strengthening the ZF Spleen, nourishing the ZF Liver, and relieving spasms.

For optimal results, it’s highly recommended to combine Chinese medicinal practices with Western treatments.

Lifestyle Advice

Living with epilepsy can be challenging and it can take some time to adjust to it. Lifestyle changes alongside medical treatment, whether conventional or complementary, can help you play an active role in managing your condition.

Here are some lifestyle tips to consider for managing epilepsy:

Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule
Sleep and seizures are closely connected. In fact, lack of sleep is one of the most common seizure triggers, often leading to more intense or longer seizures.

  • Aim for a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment by ensuring your bedroom is dark, quiet, and comfortable.
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine before bedtime and establish a relaxing bedtime routine to promote better sleep.

Manage Stress Levels
Stress is a common seizure trigger. That is why lowering stress is one of the first things your doctor will recommend to help you manage epilepsy better.

  • Consider trying relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga, or engaging in hobbies that help you unwind.
  • Identify and avoid, if possible, stressful situations or learn how to cope with them more effectively.

Follow a Balanced Diet
While there is no specific epilepsy diet, some people find that certain dietary changes can help reduce seizures.

  • Try to eat a varied diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • A ketogenic diet or a modified Atkins diet seems to be effective in helping those who live with epilepsy manage their seizures.
  • Consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to discuss any potential dietary modifications that may suit you.

Exercise Regularly
Regular physical activity helps reduce stress, improves mood, promotes better sleep, and enhances overall fitness.

  • Choose activities that you enjoy and are suitable for your fitness level. It could be as simple as going for a walk, swimming, cycling, or joining a fitness class.
  • Consult your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise routine.

Identify and Avoid Triggers
Seizures can be triggered by a wide variety of factors. Some of the most common include lack of sleep, bright, flashing, flickering lights, certain noises, exercise, missed meals, hormonal changes, certain medications, missing drug doses, drug or alcohol use, stress and infections.

  • Keeping a seizure diary can help identify and control them. A seizure journal is simply a record of what is going on with your seizures. Your doctor can help you decide which information to track, but people may include:
  • When: Time of day and length of the seizure
  • Where: Location of the event
  • What: Symptoms experienced
  • What: you were doing in the minutes and hours before the seizure
  • How: how you were feeling when the seizure happened, whether you were stressed, hungry, or tired from lack of sleep

Once you identify your triggers, take steps to avoid or minimize your exposure to them.

It may take some trial and error to figure out which lifestyle changes will make a difference for you but by incorporating these tips and following your treatment plan, you can take control of your epilepsy and lead a more fulfilling life.

Work closely with your healthcare team to develop a personalized management plan that suits your specific needs.

For personalised advice on diet and lifestyle, please ask the doctor during your consultation. Or reach out for free online health advice.

+ Clinical Papers

He, W., Rong, P. J., Li, L., Ben, H., Zhu, B., & Litscher, G. (2012). Auricular Acupuncture May Suppress Epileptic Seizures via Activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System: A Hypothesis Based on Innovative Methods. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2012, 615476.

Yang, R., Cheng, J. (2010). Effect of Acupuncture on Epilepsy. In: Xia, Y., Cao, X., Wu, G., Cheng, J. (eds) Acupuncture Therapy for Neurological Diseases. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Pei-Chia Lo, Shun-Ku Lin, Jung-Nien Lai (2020). Long-term use of Chinese herbal medicine therapy reduced the risk of asthma hospitalization in school-age children: A nationwide population-based cohort study in Taiwan, Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, Volume 10, Issue 2, 2020, Pages 141-149, ISSN 2225-4110, Medicinee.2019.04.005.

Liao, ET., Tang, NY., Lin, YW. et al. Long-term electrical stimulation at ear and electro-acupuncture at ST36-ST37 attenuated COX-2 in the CA1 of hippocampus in kainic acid-induced epileptic seizure rats. Sci Rep 7, 472 (2017).

He, W., Rong, P. J., Li, L., Ben, H., Zhu, B., & Litscher, G. (2012). Auricular Acupuncture May Suppress Epileptic Seizures via Activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System: A Hypothesis Based on Innovative Methods. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2012, 615476.