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Saturday last week (5th July 2023) American actress Sandra Bullock’s partner Bryan Randall passed away at 57. He battled Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) privately for 3 years.

What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)?

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive and neurodegenerative disorder that affects the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movements. ALS primarily involves the motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, leading to their degeneration and eventual death. As these neurons die, the brain loses the ability to initiate and control muscle movement, leading to muscle weakness, paralysis, and, eventually, respiratory failure.

Main Symptoms of ALS

  1. Muscle weakness: Initial symptoms often include weakness in the limbs, which may affect the ability to walk, grasp objects, speak, or swallow.
  2. Muscle cramps and twitching: Individuals with ALS may experience muscle cramps and fasciculations (muscle twitching).
  3. Difficulty speaking and swallowing: As the disease progresses, speech and swallowing become challenging.
  4. Muscle atrophy: Affected muscles begin to shrink due to the lack of nerve stimulation.
  5. Difficulty breathing: In later stages, respiratory muscles become affected, leading to breathing difficulties.


The exact cause of ALS is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In some cases, ALS can be linked to specific genetic mutations. However, the majority of cases appear to be sporadic with no clear genetic inheritance pattern.


Diagnosing ALS can be complex and involves ruling out other conditions with similar symptoms. The process usually includes a thorough neurological examination, electromyography (EMG), nerve conduction studies, MRI scans, and blood tests. A diagnosis of ALS is typically made based on clinical observations and the exclusion of other possible causes.


As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, there is no cure for ALS, and treatment mainly focuses on managing symptoms and improving the patient’s quality of life. Medications, such as riluzole and edaravone, may help slow disease progression and provide some symptom relief. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy can assist in maintaining mobility and communication. Devices like ventilators may be used to support breathing in later stages of the disease.

ALS and Traditional Chinese medicine

There is limited scientific evidence to suggest that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) may provide some symptom relief for individuals with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). It’s important to note that TCM is a holistic system that aims to restore balance and harmony within the body, and individual responses to TCM treatments can vary.

Some of the ALS symptoms that TCM may potentially address include:

  1. Muscle Cramps and Twitching: Certain herbal remedies and acupuncture may help alleviate muscle cramps and fasciculations.
  2. Pain: TCM treatments, such as acupuncture and herbal medicines, have been used traditionally to manage pain associated with various conditions, including neurological disorders like ALS.
  3. Stress and Anxiety: TCM practices, such as acupuncture and meditation techniques, may help reduce stress and anxiety levels, providing some relief to individuals with ALS who may experience emotional distress.
  4. Improving General Well-Being: TCM treatments often focus on supporting the overall well-being of an individual, which may contribute to an improved sense of quality of life.

It is essential to understand that TCM should not be considered a substitute for evidence-based medical treatments for ALS. ALS is a severe and progressive neurological disorder, and while TCM practices may offer some symptomatic relief or complementary support, there is no cure for the disease through TCM alone.

If someone with ALS is interested in exploring TCM or other complementary therapies, it is crucial that they consult with their healthcare team, including a qualified TCM practitioner, to ensure that these treatments are safe and do not interfere with any existing medical interventions.

Since research and medical knowledge are continuously evolving, it is advisable to consult updated sources and medical professionals for the most recent information regarding ALS treatments and complementary therapies.

How to choose TCM for ALS

When considering the use of Chinese herbal tea as a complementary approach for managing ALS symptoms, it’s crucial to work with a qualified and experienced TCM practitioner. They will take into account the individual’s overall health, specific symptoms, constitution, and any other relevant factors before recommending specific herbs or herbal formulas.

Here are some points to keep in mind:

Consultation with a TCM Practitioner

A TCM practitioner will conduct a thorough assessment to determine the pattern of disharmony or syndrome that best matches the individual’s condition. This involves examining symptoms, pulse, tongue appearance, and other diagnostic methods.

Herb Selection and Formula Creation

Based on the assessment, the TCM practitioner will select appropriate herbs and create a herbal formula tailored to the individual’s needs. The formula may consist of multiple herbs that work synergistically to address specific imbalances.

Quality and Safety

It’s crucial to use high-quality herbs from reputable sources to ensure their safety and effectiveness. Working with a qualified TCM practitioner helps ensure that the herbs are properly sourced and prepared.

Monitoring and Adjustment

TCM treatments are often adjusted over time as the individual’s condition changes. Regular follow-ups with the TCM practitioner are important to assess progress and make any necessary modifications to the treatment plan.

Integration with Conventional Care

TCM should not replace conventional medical treatments for ALS. It can be considered a complementary approach to help manage symptoms and improve well-being alongside standard medical care.

Communication with Medical Team

It’s important for individuals with ALS to maintain open communication between their TCM practitioner and their medical doctors. This ensures that all healthcare providers are aware of the treatments being pursued and can collaborate to provide comprehensive care.


Significant Neurological Improvement in Two Patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis After 4 Weeks of Treatment with Acupuncture Injection Point Therapy Using Enercel
Author links open overlay panelShan Liang 1, David Christner 2, Stephanie Du Laux 2, Dariel Laurent. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies. Volume 4, Issue 4, December 2011, Pages 257-261

Erik K Koda, Acupuncture for Managing Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Med Acupunct 2021 Feb 1;33(1):103-106. doi: 10.1089/acu.2020.1474. Epub 2021 Feb 16.

Poovadan Sudhakaran, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: An Acupuncture Approach, Med Acupunct. 2017 Oct 1; 29(5): 260–268.

Mudan Cai , Eun Jin Yang, Complementary and alternative medicine for treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: A narrative review. Integr Med Res. 2019 Dec;8(4):234-239