Terms & Definitions
Blood Blood Deficiency Blood Stagnation
Damp Damp-Heat Deficiency Deficiency Heat Dry
Qi Qi Deficiency Qi Stagnation
Stomach Shen Stagnation
Tonify Toxic Heat
Wei Qi Wind
Yin-Yang Yin Clots Yin Deficiency Yang Deficiency
A type of Qi movement in which the Qi "goes up. " In
some organ systems (e.g. Kidney, Spleen) Qi should routinely ascend and in other organs systems (e.g. Lung,
Stomach) Qi should routinely descend. For a variety of pathological reasons, Qi may ascend instead of
descending or Qi can ascend more than it should. This is called Rebellious Qi. Common clinical findings
include instances of Lung or Stomach Qi ascending or Liver Qi rising too much. When Stomach Qi rebels and
ascends, symptoms can include hiccups, nausea, and vomiting. When Lung Qi rebels and ascends, symptoms
can include coughing and asthma. When Liver Qi rises too much, symptoms can include headaches, dizziness,
and vomiting blood.
In TCM, Blood not only includes the blood of conventional
medicine, but also includes Ying and Jing-Ye, liquids special to TCM that circulate along with blood. A
Yin substance, Blood hosts and also produces Qi, and it nourishes the organs as well as the entire body.
Together with Qi, Blood supports all the functions of the body.
A Deficiency pattern associated with an
insufficiently nourished organ or area of the body. Symptoms can include dizziness, fatigue,
weakness, insufficient functions, pale lusterless face, pale lips, dry skin or hair, or scant or
When Blood has become obstructed or is not flowing freely,
we refer to Blood Stagnation. Symptoms can include sharp, fixed and stabbing pain, numbness,
dysfunction, or lumps. The pulse is often tight or deep or choppy; the lips are often purple;
the tongue is often purple or has dark purple patches; the nails are often purple and may contain
There are two general categories of Cold: External and
Internal. External Cold is one of the six External pathogens, which when combined with Wind will
cause flu or cold symptoms and when combined with Damp will often cause arthritis. Internal Cold
is generally caused by Yang Deficiency whereby Yin is in relative excess and therefore Cold
symptoms dominate. Yang Deficiency symptoms include feeling cold, sleepiness, aversion to cold,
aches and pains, weakness, diarrhea, and stomach pain. The pulse is often slow and tight; the
tongue may be pale or dark; the nails may be pale or dark.
There are two general categories of Damp: External and Internal.
Internal Dampness is most common and will easily combine with Heat or Cold to cause Damp-Heat or Damp-Cold.
Dampness can be thought of as the condition of "high humidity" inside the body. Symptoms can
include a feeling of heaviness, swelling or water retention, distended abdomen, phlegm discharge, nodular
masses, and loose bowel. Individuals with a Damp condition often have sluggish energy and easily gain
weight. The pulse is commonly slippery; the tongue is often puffy with teeth marks and a greasy coat.
A collection of Dampness and Heat that may lead to such problems as
inflammation, allergies (especially food allergies), high blood sugar, weight gain, and urinary tract
infections. Symptoms can include heaviness, full feeling in chest, smelly and sluggish bowel, abdominal
pain, leukorrhea, eczema, and deep yellow colored urine. The pulse is often slippery and fast; the tongue
is commonly red with a yellow, greasy coating; the nails are often red; and the hands are often puffy and
red with a mottled appearance and swollen, red cuticles.
A condition of diminished or reduced function, energy, and materials
of an organ or a process. For example, Wei Qi Deficiency can result in a lower resistance to cold and flu.
The pulse is generally weak, deep, thin, or hollow; the tongue is commonly pale; and the nails are often
pale as well.
A condition of Yin Deficiency whereby Yang is in relative abundance
and Heat signs are evident. For example, hot flashes or night sweats are usually due to Deficiency Heat.
Treatment includes nourishing Yin as well as clearing Heat. The pulse is often thin and fast: the tongue
is often red and thin with scant coating; and the nails are often red.
There are two general categories of Dry: Internal and External. The
External type is one of the six External pathogens and is often due to a dry environment. Internal Dry is
often due to Yin Deficiency or Jing-Ye (fluid) Deficiency whereby Yang, which is in relative excess,
consumes fluids. Symptoms can include dry skin, dry mouth, thirst, chapped skin, constipation, and dry
The TCM concept of the Heart system includes the heart organ, but also
the entire circulatory system. This system is closely connected with emotions, thinking, and mental
function, including but not limited to conscious awareness. The tongue reflects the Heart.
The Kidney system covers a large range of organs, including the entire
urinary system and endocrine system. The Kidney system is closely connected with the bones, teeth, brain,
spinal column, and ears. The Kidney system controls the anus, urethra, fluid metabolism, conception and
The Liver stores Blood, governs "free-coursing" of Qi, and
controls the tendons or sinews. Free-coursing refers to the movement of Qi and, therefore, also of Blood,
which is closely related to Qi. The movement of Qi is involved in mental and emotional functioning, and in
the secretion and discharge of bile. When the body is in action, more Blood is released from the Liver to
flow through the body. When the body is at rest, Blood is stored in the Liver.
Liver Qi actually accomplishes the regulatory functions performed by
the Liver, and is also responsible for the proper ascending, regulating, dispersing, and harmony of all of
the Qi of the body, including the Qi involved in emotional responses. Sudden, extreme, or prolonged
emotional stress affects the free flow of Liver Qi, causing Liver Qi stagnation, blockage, or excessive
uprising. Hyperactive Liver Qi leads to irritability, anger, insomnia or disturbing dreams, headache, eye
disorders, dizziness, tinnitus, or deafness.
The Liver's state of well-being can be detected from moods and
emotions, as well as the moisture and luster of the nails, the smooth, strong movement of the limbs, and
from the state of vision by the eyes, which also depend on the Liver for proper nourishment. Dull nails,
tremors in the limbs, numbness, pain or difficulty in flexing or extending the limbs, dryness of the eyes,
blurred vision, or night-blindness, anxiety, anger, or depression--all may indicate Liver problems.
In TCM, Phlegm is congealed Dampness which may accumulate throughout
the body. When combined with other conditions (e.g. Blood Stagnation), Phlegm can easily turn into masses,
lumps, or tumors. The pulse is generally slippery or tight; and the tongue will often have a greasy
Qi is vital energy as well as the basis of materials in the body. Qi
both supplies energy and maintains activity. For example, Liver Qi supports and maintains the Liver system's
function. Qi must continuously circulate. If the body's balance is disrupted and the flow of Qi disturbed,
a number of conditions may arise including Qi Deficiency, Qi Stagnation, Descending Qi, Ascending Qi, and
Qi that is Deficient or exhausted due to pre-natal or post-natal factors.
Symptoms can include pale complexion, general weakness, shallow respiration, a low voice, and spontaneous
sweating. The pulse is generally weak, soft, and thin; the tongue and nails are usually pale.
When the smooth flow of Qi is restricted or disrupted, Qi Stagnation
is the result. Different kinds of Qi Stagnation produce different symptoms. For example, Qi Stagnation in
the limbs will often cause pain and numbness in the body. Liver Qi Stagnation will often cause depression.
Stomach Qi Stagnation will often cause stomach pain and bloating.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Theory, the Stomach, which
includes the stomach as an organ plus its digestive functions, is one of the six fu organs
(along with the Gall Bladder, the Small Intestine, the Large Intestine, the Urinary Bladder, and the three
areas within the body cavity collectively referred to in TCM as the Sanjiao --the "tripple
warmer." The six fu organs have various roles in the receiving and digestion of foods and
liquids, the absorption of nutrient substances, and the transmitting and eliminating of waste. The fu organs may be characterized by their transforming and transporting activities, but they are
not considered to be organs of storage.
The Stomach is situated in the middle of the abdomen, below the
diaphragm. It receives food at its top through the esophagus, and opens at its bottom to the small
intestine. Also referred to as "the sea of water and cereal" in TCM, the main function of the
Stomach is to receive and digest food. After digestion in the Stomach, the food is then transported to the
small intestine, where the food's essential substances are transformed and transported by the Spleen to
the entire body,
Great importance is placed in TCM on diagnosing the strength or
weakness of the Qi of the Stomach, since "Stomach Qi is the foundation of the human body: when there
is Stomach Qi, there is life: when there is no Stomach Qi, death follows." In other words, if Stomach
Qi is strong, the prognosis is favorable, regardless of the disease. Therefore, preserving Stomach Qi is
an important treatment principle in TCM.
Since food is passed from the Stomach to the small intestine below it,
the normal movement of Stomach Qi is downward. Should it fail to move downward, symptoms such as acid
reflux, bloating, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and even hiccoughing may arise.
In TCM, Shen controls mental activities and functions such as
consciousness, emotion, spirit, will, thought, memory, etc.. Shen originates in the prenatal and genetical
Qi and essences, and is hosted in the Heart. Shen must be continuously supported and noursihed by postnatal
Qi, as well as by Blood, Jin-Ye (body fluids), and Essence. Shen belongs to the category of Yang, while
all of the nutritional substances belong to that of Yin. Yin and Yang must always stay balanced and keep
in harmony, otherwise Shen will suffer. The main causes of Shen problems are overactive Yang, deficient
Yin, or both.
Stagnation is a general term that includes Qi Stagnation and Blood
Stagnation, but also refers to the halting or disruption of the function of an organ or organ system. For
example, Lung Stagnation refers to the halting or disruption of the Lung function.
To strengthen or renourish in order to rebalance.
If Heat becomes severe and combines with certain toxins, Toxic Heat is
the result. This condition is approximate to a severe infection in conventional medical terms. Symptoms
can include high fever, swollen or sore throat, inflammation, boils and carbuncles, mental disorders, and
coma. The pulse is often strong and fast; the tongue is usually red and dry with cracks and red spots, and
a dry, thick yellow coating; the nails are commonly red.
Also referred to as Defense Qi, Wei Qi defends invasion by External
pathogens and protects the surface of the body. Wei Qi is related to aspects of immune function.
There are two general categories of Wind: External and Internal.
External Wind is one of the six pathogenic factors which usually combines with another pathogen (Heat,
Cold, Damp, Fire, or Dry) to cause such complaints as cold or flu, skin disorders, and facial paralysis
(Bell's Palsy). Internal Wind often develops into Yin and Blood Deficiency, especially Liver Yin and Blood
Deficiency, leading to symptoms such as shaking, paralysis, and spasms.
Ancient Chinese philosophers explained the constant changes they
observed in every aspect of the world as the result of the dynamic movement and mutual opposition of what
they termed Yin and Yang factors. In TCM, the theory of Yin-Yang is used to explain
physiological activities and pathological changes in the human body, and to guide clinical treatment
The philosophical Theory of Yin-Yang holds that every object or
phenomenon includes two opposite aspects that are referred to as the yin or the yang factors. Examples are
down and up, left and right, dark and light, cold and hot, and still and moving, although there are many
In TCM, anything that is organic, still, descending, dark,
degenerating, or hypoactive is classified as yin; and anything that is functional, moving, ascending,
bright, progressing, hyperactive, or hot is classified as yang. Furthermore, everything that is yin is
also further divisible into yin and yang, just as everything that is yang is further divisible into yin
and yang. Neither yin nor yang ever exists in isolation, and each also contains the other. The taiji
symbol is an illustration of the Theory of Yin-Yang.
Yin and yang are always opposing each other, and therefore, they are
constantly interacting and restricting each other. They are also interdependent in that they rely on each
other for existence. and neither can exist without the other. Therefore, they are also mutually consuming
and mutually engendering. Under certain circumstances, they are capable of transforming to the opposite,
in which case yin will become yang, and yang will become yin. This is often seen in illness where a yang
febrile disease will transform into a yin cold one.
In addition to being used to describe the nature or stages of illness
and pathological developments, the Theory of Yin-Yang is also used in TCM to categorize anatomical aspects,
such as interior/exterior, lower/upper, front/back, left/right, medial/lateral; and to distinguish
physiological structures from their physiological functions. In formulating treatment strategies,
imbalance between Yin-Yang is one of the fundamental concepts used to discern the various causes of
illness and to determine appropriate therapeutic approaches.
Yin congestion due to the inability of Yin to harmonize with Yang.
Symptoms can include muscle stiffness and spasm, stomach pain, and diarrhea.
A condition of exhausted or weak Yin whereby Yang is in relative
abundance. Severe Yin Deficiency can cause too much Heat or Fire. Symptoms can include flushed cheeks,
fatigue, hot flashes, night sweats, dry mouth, dry skin, vaginal dryness, ear ringing, dizziness, insomnia,
palpitation. Individuals with Yin Deficiency may become easily agitated or anxious. The pulse is commonly
thin and fast; the tongue is often red and thin with scant or absent coating; the nails are usually.
When Yang is exhausted or weak, Yin is in relative abundance. Symptoms
can include paleness, tendency to feel cold, weakness, tendency toward lower back pain, and diarrhea. The
pulse is often deep, thin, weak and slow; the tongue and nails are often pale.
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