TCM Organ and Meridian Clock

How Foods & Liquids are Converted into Qi in the Body:

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the parental energies that a person inherits from birth are called “pre-birth jing.” This is your life essence and it is stored in your kidneys (KD). This essential energy gets taxed with stressors such as overwork and a reckless lifestyle (addictions), compromising your longevity. This essence is called “yuan energy/qi.” Yuan qi is involved in the manufacturing of what you consume. For example, when you eat or drink that product enters your stomach (ST) where its energetic form is stripped and then transported to the spleen (SP). At the SP the energy is further refined and it’s called “gu qi.” Gu qi travels to the lungs (LU) where it gathers with the energy of the air (da qi), or breaths of oxygen you take in. From there that gathering energy called “zong qi” is refined further to produce the final transformation of qi called “zhen qi” (true qi) that assumes two different forms: “wei qi” your protective energy that forms on the surface of your body as well as forming your “nutritive qi (ying)” that nourishes your blood and body fluids (“jin ye”). Your yuan energy given to you from both your parents infuses the gathering qi and this energy is called your “post-birth jing.” Depending on the quality of your parents’ jing that you inherited as well as the quality of the food, liquid and air that you take in, that will be the quality of the qi your body generates/uses to sustain your life. Obviously, the higher the quality of food, liquid and oxygen you take in the better the quality of the qi in your body, all of these are lifestyle choices in your control. Better qi quality equals better health, vitality and longevity. As you can see, the production of qi in the body from food and liquid is a process of refinement. Processed foods denature qi.

Food Quantity/Quality in TCM

Fresh, organic, naturally harvested food grown closest to the land is recommended. As stated prior, processed foods denature qi.

In China there is a saying: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like an emperor and dinner like a beggar.” When you look at the Meridian Clock, the stomach organ (ST) is at its peak between 7am-9am and since the morning is yang rising and yang is hot in nature it’s best to eat warming foods in the morning to support rising yang. According to the Meridian Clock, yin energy dominates the night time and so yang and digestive capacity decreases. The evening meal should support yin, meaning avoid energetically hot and spicy foods. Digestive organs are their weakest after 6pm (contributing to weight gain if you eat lots after this time).

According to the book called “Chinese Nutrition Therapy” by acupuncturist Joerg Kastner, food quantity from an Eastern view is broken up like this: 50-80% of your food should come from grains (oats, rice, spelt); 30-40% of your food should come from cooked vegetables (carrots, potatoes, beans, cabbage); 5% of your food should come from meat (lamb, beef, poultry, fish); Another 5% of your food intake should come from raw foods such as salads and fruit. (TCM recommends that raw foods should be used in moderation because they are too cool and over time can disrupt the stomach and spleen (middle jiao).) In regards to fats, too much oily fatty foods block the flow of qi creating dampness and phlegm. Phlegm slows down qi and clogs the meridian channels making the person feel cloudy and sluggish.

Some general nutritional tips include: Eat with pleasure. Eat three to five meals a day. Do not rush your meals, be mindful of chewing. Drink small amounts of liquids during meals. Choose foods appropriate for the time and season and your constitution (are you a hot or cold person, for example?). Too much sugar, alcohol, fats, and meats causes phlegm and dampness. Excessive fasting weakens yin and blood in addition to your jing.

Four Energetic Classifications of Food in TCM:

Below are four ways food is classified in Traditional Chinese Medicine:

1. Thermal Nature (temperature): hot, warm, neutral, cool, cold.

Hot and warming foods are yang while cold and cooling foods are yin.

Energetically hot foods such as chili and garlic have a heating effect on the body independent of how the food is prepared. Hot foods increase yang and speed up qi. An excess of hot foods or heat in the body injuries yin and dries fluids.

Cold foods such as tomatoes, watermelon and bananas cool the body.  Cold foods cool internal heat and can have a calming effect on the spirit (Shen). An excess of cold foods damages qi and yang.

Warm and cool foods have a milder effect on the body than hot and cold foods. Warm foods such as fennel and oats warm the body, bowels and organs. Cool foods such as yogurt and soy milk slow down qi and clear heat as well as supplement body fluids.

Neutral foods do not change the energetic level of the body.

2. Flavor: sweet, sour, bitter, acrid, salty.

In TCM there is the five element theory whereby each element houses an internal (yin) and external (yang) organ both of which share a common flavor, for example: Earth element (spleen and stomach organs, flavor is sweet); Metal element (lung and large intestine, flavor is acrid); Water element (kidneys and urinary bladder, flavor is salty); Wood (liver and gall bladder, flavor is sour); Fire element (heart and small intestine, flavor is bitter). Using the example of the sweet flavor for the Earth element, whatever sweet food this is it can have a warming or cooling effect on the stomach and spleen (banana is sweet and it has a cooling effect while fennel is also sweet but has a warming effect).

When your body craves a particular flavor chronically such as sweet that is an indication for a potential imbalance. The chronic craving is in contrast to craving a particular flavor such as sweet after a mentally exhausting job whereby your body needs a sweet to replenish itself and restore qi quickly.

3. Organs: Food is classified according to the organs, such as: spleen, kidney, liver, heart, pericardium, and lungs (all yin organs). Yang organs include: small intestine, large intestine, stomach, gall bladder, urinary bladder, triple burner (san Jiao).

For example: With regards to the stomach organ (ST), chickpea is neutral with a sweet flavor;  coconut is cooling with a sweet flavor.

4. Direction of Movement: Food has a direction, such as up, floating, down and falling.

For example, with regards to the earth element (stomach (ST) and spleen (SP)) and foods, cucumber is cool in nature, sweet in flavor and has a downbearing movement as it clears heat, drains yang, reduces swelling, detoxifies and clears skin.

FOR A LIST OF FOODS TO STRENGTHEN THE ORGANS SEE: http://www.qispot.ca/LifestyleCounselling.html

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waterThree major causes of disease in TCM include: External (Six Climates); Internal (Seven Emotions); and, Five Miscellaneous (e.g., lifestyle choices). In this article we will briefly go through the five miscellaneous so as to give you an understanding of disease creation under this Eastern lens.

Five Miscellaneous Causes of Disease:

1. Improper / Irregular Diet: The principle organs associated with digestion are the spleen, stomach, intestines and liver. There can be belching, foul breath, sour regurgitation, abdominal distension and pain, no appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. The three principle forms of dietary irregularity are:  A. Overeating: gluttony, craving for sweet or fatty foods. B. Ingestion of raw, cold or unclean foods. C. Habitual consumption of alcohol, hot, spicy or fried foods.

2. Lifestyle: A. Overwork: can be either physical or mental; mental overwork and stress damages the spleen which leads to fatigue, weight loss and a  low voice;  liver blood deficiency leads to insomnia, palpitations, dizziness and blurred vision. B. Overstrain, stress or lack of physical exercise. C. Sexual excesses deplete kidney qi and jing (pre birth essence). D. No exercise leads to spleen qi deficiency resulting in soft bones and tendons, poor energy and appetite, obesity, shortness of breath on exertion and frequent colds.

3.  Trauma / Insect & Animal Bites: Includes all unpredictable occurrences and accidents such as injuries, gunshots, incisions, contusions, burns, sprains and fractures.

4. Phlegm / Fluid Stagnation: Both a cause of disease and the result of existing pathology. Lung, kidney and spleen qi deficiency results in phlegm. General symptoms: Profuse sputum, sticky fluids, rattling sound in throat, abdominal and epigastric fullness, vomiting, dizziness, vertigo and palpitations. Tongue will have a sticky coating and the pulse will be wiry, rolling. Lungs: sputum and asthma. Heart: coma, palpitations, depressive and manic psychosis. Channels: hemiplagia, numbness. Head:  vertigo, blurred vision. Skin and muscles:  edema, heavy sensation, general aching. Chest: cough, asthma. Stomach and intestines: nausea, vomiting, epigastric and abdominal discomfort, gas.

5. Blood Stagnation: Both a cause of disease and a result of existing pathology. Three major causes: A. Cold or qi deficiency. B. Qi stagnation. C. Trauma. Worse with pressure. Stabbing quality pain. Dark red bleeding with clots. Petechia, accompanied by pain in the affected area. Tongue: deep purple or purple spots. Possible fixed, purplish masses with sharp pain. Heart: heart attack, angina, green-purplish lips, suffocating chest. Lung: chest pain, hemoptysis. Intestines: hematemesis, bloody stool. Liver:  hypochondriac pain, abdominal masses. Uterus: dysmenorrhea with irregular masses, clots. Skin:  Purple or greenish skin color, subcutaneous hematoma.

emotionsThree major causes of disease in TCM include: External (Six Climates); Internal (Seven Emotions); and, Five Miscellaneous (e.g., lifestyle choices). In this article we will briefly go through the internal seven emotions so as to give you an understanding of disease creation under this Eastern lens.

Internal Cause of Disease: Seven Emotions

Emotions play a big role in TCM. For example, lack of appropriate emotional response or inappropriate or excessive emotional response may lead to disease of the related organ. Weakness in any organ system may lead to emotional weakness or imbalance. Emotional factors can cause functional changes in one or more organs at the same time.

Below is brief discussion of the seven emotions:

1. Anger: Affects the liver, causes qi to rise up.  Includes: repressed anger, irritability, frustration, bitterness, resentment, rage, indignation, animosity and moodiness.  There can be liver qi stagnation, liver blood stagnation, liver yang rising and liver fire. Symptoms include: headache, tinnitus, dizziness, red face, thirst, bitter taste, hypogastric pain and distension, belching, sighing and irregular menstruation bleeding due to impairment of the blood.

2. Joy: Affects the heart. Joylessness or the inability to express joy is pathological and slows qi down. There can also be excessive excitement and manic behavior. Symptoms include: anxiety, palpitations, insomnia, dizziness, mania, dream disturbed sleep, mental confusion as well as abnormal laughing and crying.

3. Sadness: Affects the lungs. Has to do with separation or release . Consumes or dissolves qi. Excessive crying and grieving. Weakens both the heart blood and lung qi. Symptoms: breathlessness, tiredness, depression, crying and amenorrhea (blood deficiency).

4. Grief: Affects both the lung and heart. Involves extreme or chronic sadness. Consumes qi.

5. Worry or Pensiveness: Affects the spleen. Stagnates or knots the qi.  Involves excessive studying, thinking, worrying and mental work. Includes introspection, brooding, obsessing and other kinds of unexpressed mental energy (this does not equate with intelligence). Weakens spleen qi causing spleen qi sinking (prolapse) and spleen not holding (bleeding). Symptoms: tiredness, fatigue, loss of appetite, loose stools, damp accumulation, phlegm, epigastric distension, worse with irregular meals and eating too quickly.

6. Fear: Affects the kidneys. Phobias, fearful children, easily frightened.  Symptoms: children: kidney qi descends for bedwetting (enuresis); adults: fear, chronic anxiety, kidney yin deficiency with heart fire results in red complexion, night sweats, palpitations, dry mouth and dry throat.

7. Fright, Panic or Shock: Affects kidneys; more sudden than fear, also affects the heart;  qi becomes deranged or scattered.  Depletes heart and kidney qi leading to palpitations, shortness of breath, insomnia, dizziness, tinnitus, night sweats, dry mouth, coma and even yang collapse.

Nature ElementsThree major causes of disease in TCM include: External (Six Climates); Internal (Seven Emotions); and, Five Miscellaneous (e.g., lifestyle choices). In this article we will briefly go through the external six climates so as to give you an understanding of disease creation under this Eastern lens.

External Cause of Disease:

Here we have six climates that cause disease, such as: wind, cold, heat, summer-heat, damp and dryness. When in harmony these are the elements of nature, by contrast when excessive they are pathogenic. They can affect the body when the climate change is extreme or sudden and when the body’s defensive qi is weak. Below are general characteristics and symptoms of these elements.

A. Wind: Sudden onset; combines with other pathogens; characterized by simultaneous chills and fever, aversion to heat/cold, headache, sore throat, cough, sneezing, moving of symptoms from one place to another, akin to “catching a cold.”

i) Wind-Cold: Aversion to cold, chills, sneezing, cough, runny nose, slight fever, occipital headache and stiffness, no sweat, no thirst.

ii) Wind-heat: Aversion to cold, chills, fever, cough, sneezing, runny nose with slightly yellow discharge, occipital headache, stiffness, ache, slight sweat, sore throat, thirst.

iii) Wind-Damp: Symptoms: Skin rash, itching, appearing suddenly and moving from place to place; fever, aversion to cold, sweating, occipital headache, body aches, feeling of heaviness, swollen joints.

iv) Wind-Water:  Symptoms: edema, especially face, swollen face and eyes, cough with profuse white and watery sputum, aversion to cold, sweat, no thirst.

B. Cold (yin pathogen): Occurs during the cold season, exposure to cold after sweating, wearing wet clothes, exposure to air conditioning and from swimming. Symptoms can include: cold limbs, diarrhea with undigested food, increased clear urination, contraction, stagnation, spasms of tendons, sharp pain, aversion to cold, limited range of motion of limbs, cold pain in epigastric and abdominal regions. Stagnation of qi and blood closes pores resulting in no sweat. Kidneys and lungs are the most vulnerable to cold. Characterized by contraction and slowing energy, thin secretions, pain or symptoms are ameliorated by warmth and aggravated by cold.

C. Heat (yang pathogen): Symptoms include: high fever, restlessness, thirst, sweat, insomnia, mania, mouth and tongue ulcers, swollen and painful gums, coma, delirium.  Consumes yin fluids resulting in thirst, dry lips and throat, constipation as well as deep yellow, scanty urine. Heat makes the blood move recklessly resulting in epistaxis (nose), hemoptysis (cough), hematuria (urine), menorrhagia (excessive uterine bleeding), metorrhagia  (break through bleeding), hematemesis (vomiting), bloody stools, carbuncles, furuncles, boils, and ulcers. Characterized by rapid movement, excitation, agitation, delerium, mania and redness. Causes thickening of secretions and putrification. Symptoms are ameliorated by cold, aggravated by heat.

D. Summer-Heat (yang and yin pathogen): Combined pathogen of Heat and Damp. Generally a yang pathogen, but more mild, because of the presence of yin. Heat leads to the deficiency of body fluids. Dampness leads to the stagnation of body fluids. Occurs from high temperatures, over exposure to excessive sun and high humidity. Characterized by consumption of body fluids, dizziness, blurred vision, excessive sweating, thirst, fever, dry mouth and tongue, heaviness of the head, suffocating  sensation in the chest, general lassitude, scanty, deep yellow urination, high temperature, restlessness and reluctance to speak.

E. Damp (yin pathogen): Hot, rainy season with excessive dampness and humidity. Characterized by heaviness and turbidity. The energy of this element is long standing, complex and slow to respond. Always involves deficiency (hypo-function) of the spleen. Yin pathogen causes damage to spleen, kidney and lung.  Symptoms can include: heaviness, turbidity, dizziness, feeling like the head is wrapped in a cloth, discharges, pus, eczema, leukorrhea, turbid urine, mucus in stools, cough and phlegm. Dampness can lead to distension and fullness of the epigastrium and abdomen, poor appetite, loose stools, reduced urination and edema.

F. Dryness (yang pathogen that reflects a stage of yin deficiency): Dryness mostly affects the lung, kidney and stomach. Dryness consumes body fluids. Symptoms can include: dry nose and throat, thirst, chapped skin, dry hair, constipation, reduced urination, scanty and sticky bloody sputum. Dryness invades the lung through the nose or mouth and damages blood and yin.

5-elementsIn Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) there is a widely taught and used concept called “Five Elements.” Attributed to Tsou Yen (350 – 270 BCE), the Five Elements puts into perspective the relationships and interactions of the microcosm (human) and macrocosm (Nature). It is an archaic system of observing Life. Below is a brief and basic description on the elements and their relevant modern day relationship to human organs, emotions and even foods. In terms of foods, yin foods are cooling in nature while yang foods add heat to the body (they warm the body).

Here is the cycle of the elements, how they give birth to one another: Wood generates Fire generates Earth generates Metal generates Water (generates Wood and so forth).

Wood Element:

The element Wood houses the organs Liver (yin) and Gallbladder (yang). Wood is symbolic of the “spring” season and the color is “green.” The quality of energy is “growing” and “developing” much like a seed sprouts in the spring and the leaves bud. Foods that would be symbolic of this type of young, growing and green energy are none other than greens (lettuces such as kale and spinach and vegetables). Eat foods that are literally sprouting during this season.

The taste “sour” is assigned to the liver and gallbladder, meaning if you excessively gravitate toward sour foods you could be compensating for an energetic deficiency in those organs.

The key positive emotion is “kindness” while the negative emotion is “anger”. The body sound is “shouting” (makes sense given the anger energy). The healing sound used to calm the liver is: “Shhhhhhhhh.” You can put your hand on your liver and mentally visualize sending it green energy while inhaling a breath and when you exhale you can verbalize the sound “Shhhhhhhhh” to break up any stagnation (repeat several times). It’s important to feel your negative emotions and more so to transform your negative emotions so that energy does not remain stuck which can lead to stagnated blood flow which leads to inflammation and pain.

Taking “control” and “making decisions” are functions of the liver and gallbladder, in other words when it comes to indecisiveness that’s the gallbladder out of harmony.

Look to see signs of health problems in the “eyes” and “nails,” two body areas associated with the liver and gallbladder of the wood element.

Meridian clock hours related to the liver: 1am to 3am, so get your rest during this time in order for the liver to rejuvenate. The gallbladder hours: 11pm to 1am.

Fire Element:

The element Fire houses the organs Heart (yin) and Small Intestine (yang). Fire is symbolic of the summer season and the color is red. The quality of energy is “expanding” and “radiating.” Foods have a “blooming” quality here such as fruits (certain fruits only bloom in the summer). Many fruits have a cooling effect on the body and in the hot summer months it’s beneficial to eat cooling foods (while in the winter it’s better to eat warming foods because the body is colder).

The taste “bitter” is linked to this element, meaning if you gravitate toward bitter foods you could be compensating for an energetic deficiency in heart and small intestine organs.

Positive emotions here include: joy, love and respect. Negative emotions include: hate and impatience. When you feel hatred and/or impatience the associated organs are taking the brunt of those emotions. The sound associated here is “laughing” and so when a person laughs abnormally, he/she is suffering and masking hatred and impatience. The healing sound is: “Hawwww.” You can put your hand on your heart and mentally visualize sending it red colored energy while inhaling a breath and upon exhaling you can verbalize the sound “Hawwww” to purge stagnated energy (repeat several times).

The heart opens to the “tongue”, manifests on the “facial color” and can be seen through the “eyes”. If the eyes are glazed over, the person’s heart energy is deficient. If a person’s eyes are glowing and full of life the heart is happy. “Intuition” is a function of this element . . . trust your heart.

Meridian clock hours related to the heart: 11am to 1pm. Small intestine hours: 1pm to 3pm. Nurture these organs with the healing sounds during this time for peak performance.

Earth Element:

The element Earth houses the organs Spleen (yin) and Stomach (yang). Earth is symbolic of the “Indian Summer” season and the color is “yellow.” The quality of energy is “ripening” and “harvesting.” Yams are foods found during this season. Look to other yellowish colored foods for this season.

The taste “sweet” is assigned to the spleen and stomach, meaning if you gravitate toward sweet foods you could be compensating for an energetic deficiency in those organs.

The key positive emotions are “fairness” and “openness.” The negative emotions are “worry” and “anxiety” which deplete the spleen organ impairing its ability to function properly.

The body sound is “singing” (we can often sign or hum to mask worried thoughts). The healing sound used to calm the spleen is: “Whoooo.” You can put your hand on your spleen and mentally visualize sending it yellow energy upon inhaling a breath and then you can verbalize the sound “Whoooo” on each exhalation so as to purge stagnated energy (repeat several times). It’s important to feel your negative emotions and more so to transform your negative emotions so that energy does not remain stuck which can lead to stagnated blood flow which leads to inflammation.

“Intention” is the function of the earth element and so when we worry too much that energy overrides our ability to intend what we want which is usually the opposite of what we are worrying about. Spleen is responsible for producing blood so when it is deficient we can feel fatigued, emotions can drain us.

Look to see signs of health problems in the “lips” and “mouth,” two body areas associated with the spleen and stomach of the earth element.

Meridian clock hours related to the spleen: 9am to 11am. The stomach hours: 7am to 9am.

Metal Element:

The element Metal houses the organs Lung (yin) and Large Intestine (yang). Metal is symbolic of the “Fall” season and the color is “white.” The quality of energy is “contracting” such as the once abundantly green tree whose leaves falls. Root foods such as onions are typical of this season.

The taste “spicy / pungent” is assigned to the lungs and large intestine, meaning if you excessively gravitate toward such foods you could be making up for an energetic deficiency in those organs.

The key positive emotions are “righteousness” and “courage.” The negative emotions are “sadness” and “depression” which deplete the organs, impairing their ability to function properly.

The body sound is “weeping” (we often store grief and loss in the lungs). The healing sound used to calm the lungs is: “Ssssssss.” You can put your hand on your lungs and mentally visualize sending it white energy upon inhaling a breath and then you can verbalize the sound “Ssssssss” on each exhalation so as to purge stuck energy. It’s important to feel your negative emotions and more so to transform your negative emotions so that energy does not remain stuck which can lead to stagnated blood and qi flow which leads to inflammation and pain.

“Strength” is the function of the metal element which can be impaired in depressed persons.

Look to see signs of health problems in the “nose,” “skin” and “body hair,” body areas associated with the lung and large intestine of the metal element. For example, dry skin is linked to the energetic disharmonies of the lungs.

Meridian clock hours related to the lung: 3am to 5am. The large intestine hours: 5am to 7am.

Water Element:

The element Water houses the organs Kidney (yin) and Urinary Bladder (yang). Water is symbolic of the “Winter” season and the color is “dark blue or black.” The quality of energy is “conserving or gathering” as seen in the seeds that fell from the tree during the cycle of the metal element and are now buried in the ground. Leeks are a food found with this time.

“Salty” is the taste assigned to this element, meaning if you excessively gravitate toward such foods you could be making up for an energetic deficiency in those organs.

The key positive emotion is “gentleness”. The negative emotion is “fear” which depletes the organs, impairing their ability to function properly.

The body sound is “groaning” (we often groan when frustrated and in conflict from fear). The healing sound used to calm the organs is: “Wooooo.” You can put your hand on your kidneys and mentally visualize sending it dark blue energy while inhaling a breath and then you can verbalize the healing sound “Wooooo” on each exhalation so as to purge and stagnated energy. It’s important to feel your negative emotions and more so to transform your negative emotions so that energy does not remain stuck which can lead to stagnated blood and qi flow which leads to inflammation.

“Will power / ambition” is the function of the water element which can be impaired during fearful moments. Release your fears for optimal organ functioning.

Look to see signs of health problems in the “ears,” “bones and teeth” as well as “head hair,” body areas associated with the kidneys and urinary bladder of the water element.

Meridian clock hours related to the kidneys: 5pm to 7pm. The urinary bladder hours: 3pm to 5pm.

Skin CareAcupuncture can treat skin problems. Below are example skin issues and their basic diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine. From a diagnosis a treatment principle can be made followed by a treatment plan including relevant acupuncture points.

  1. Dry Skin: blood deficiency
  2. Pitting Edema (Water Edema): kidney yang deficiency (in the ankles); lung, spleen and kidney deficiency
  3. Non-Pitting Edema (Qi Edema): damp or phlegm accumulation or qi deficiency of spleen or lung
  4. Bright Yellow Skin: damp heat, yang jaundice
  5. Pale or Dull Yellow: damp heat, yin jaundice
  6. Withered Skin: deficiency of fluids, blood or qi deficiency
  7. Bluish Skin: cold
  8. Red Macules: heat in yin or blood level or toxic heat
  9. Purple Macules: heat in blood with stasis or toxin heat
  10. Black Macules: severe blood heat
  11. Eczema: usually a combination of damp heat and wind; maybe underlining blood deficiency
  12. Psoriasis: blood heat, damp heat, blood deficiency, toxic heat, liver and kidney yin deficiency, blood stasis
  13. Acne: almost all acne will be heat in an organ, blood heat, damp heat or toxic heat
  14. Tinea: wind heat, damp heat or toxic heat
  15. Red with Pus or Yellow Discharge: damp heat
  16. Red Only: heat or blood heat
  17. Itching: wind

Keep in mind, other skin patterns are not listed here. For more information on skin care and how acupuncture can help you, contact Qi Spot.

tongue-syndromesA healthy tongue body is pink. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the tongue body represents the yin organs, blood and nutritive qi (ying qi). Examples of a tongue that has lost it’s healthy qi (zheng qi) include a tongue that is: pale (qi or blood deficiency); pale sides (liver blood deficiency); red with purple spots (heat with blood stagnation); red center (stomach heat);  blue center, slippery and greasy (damp phlegm accumulation). These are just examples, there are many other patterns.

The tongue shape reflects the overall condition of the yin organs, blood and nutritive qi (ying qi). The shape of the tongue should be suitable to the mouth size (not too puffy or narrow). Examples of tongue shapes include: thin, red and peeled (yin deficiency); swollen (spleen yang deficiency); stiff (liver wind); flaccid (deficiency body fluids); short, pale and wet (interior cold); cracks (yin deficiency); teeth marks (spleen deficiency). These are just examples, there are many other patterns.

Tongue coating reflects the state of yang organs. The tongue coating is the layer over the tongue. A normal healthy coating should be white, thin, and allow the tongue body to be seen through the coating. The moisture of the tongue reflects the condition and transport of body fluids. Normal coating is slightly moist. If fluids become deficient the tongue will dry out. Tongue coating color shows the relative heat and cold of the condition and the severity of the pathogen. The thickness of the coating is relative to the amount of the pathogenic factor present. Increasing thickness means the pathogen is going deeper whereas the change from thick to thin reveals an improvement. Examples of different tongue coatings reflecting weak zheng qi include: yellow (heat); watery (yang deficiency); sticky and clear (phlegm damp retention); foul breath (heat); foamy (wind). These are just examples, there are many other patterns.

As for the tongue movement, when the zheng qi is healthy the tongue moves smoothly in and out. Examples of unhealthy movement include flicking the tongue out quickly (heat signs) and quivering (spleen qi deficiency). There are other movement patterns as well.

Different regions of the tongue are related to different parts of the body, internal organs and channels, for example: The tip of the tongue or “upper jiao” is related to the heart and lungs. The sides of the tongue are related to the liver and gallbladder. Middle of the tongue or “middle jiao” is related to the digestion system, stomach and spleen. The back of the tongue or “lower jiao” is related to the kidneys, urinary bladder and intestines.

When a practitioner of TCM looks at a patient’s tongue he/she is looking at many things such as the tongue body, shape, movement, coating as well as the yin and yang organs reflected on the tongue. Tongue diagnosis in TCM is comprehensive and much information can be gathered from it such as the degree of the pathogenic factor and the state of the organs as well as pregnancy issues.

TCM PulseTaking a patient’s pulse from the model of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is quite an art indeed. It’s an art because it requires “listening” to the pulse and in nine different ways. Briefly and simply, here is how pulse reading is done in TCM along the radial artery: the pads of the practitioner’s three fingers (index, middle and ring) are placed on the radial side of the patient’s wrist (palm side). The first position at the wrist crease is called “cun” and it’s where the index finger is placed. On the left hand this position assesses the primary “fire element” or the Heart (yin) and Small Intestine (yang) meridians. The middle finger which is at the position next to the index finger is called “guan” and it assesses the “wood element” or the Liver (yin) and Gallbladder (yang) meridians. The ring finger which is proximal to the wrist and beside the middle finger is positioned at “chi” and it assesses the “water element” or the Kidney (yin) and Urinary Bladder (yang). On the right hand the sequence is as follows: the index finger which is at the wrist crease assesses the “metal element” or the Lung (yin) and Large Intestine (yang) meridians. The middle finger assesses the “earth element” or the Spleen (yin) and Stomach (yang) meridians. The ring finger assesses the secondary “fire element” or the Pericardium (yin) and the San Jiao (yang).

Along with these six pulse assessments the practitioner feels the superficial level of the pulse where the state of yang organs and qi are, then the middle level where the Stomach and Spleen dominate and at the deep level to the bone where the state of yin organs dominate.

When listening to the pulse at these three levels and six positions the practitioner determines the quality of the pulse in terms of its speed (rapid, slow), strength (empty, full), depth (floating, deep), length (if long in elderly can indicate a long life), size (thin, big), rhythm (knotted, hurried, irregular, etc.) and shape (e.g., slippery, wiry, choppy). At least twenty-eight different combinations are noted that the practitioner must be sensitive to listening to and deciphering.

As the practitioner takes a breath in and exhales a patient’s normal pulse will have 4 to 5 beats, less than 3 beats indicates a slow pulse and anything greater than 5 beats per breath indicates a fast pulse.

Pulse taking is quite comprehensive in TCM. A lot of information can be obtained from the patient by his/her pulse such as: the health of the qi in general; the relationship between yin and yang organs; states of deficiency and excess and whether an exterior pathogen is present.