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Traditional Chinese Medicine 

Introduction to TCM

With a history of 2000 to 3000 years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has formed a unique system to diagnose and cure illness. The TCM approach is fundamentally different from that of Western medicine. In TCM, the understanding of the human body is based on the holistic understanding of the universe as described in Daoism, and the treatment of illness is based primarily on the diagnosis and differentiation of syndromes.

The TCM approach treats zang--fu organs as the core of the human body. Tissue and organs are connected through a network of channels and blood vessels inside human body. Qi (or Chi) acts as some kind of carrier of information that is expressed externally through jingluo system. Pathologically, a dysfunction of the zang-fu organs may be reflected on the body surface through the network, and meanwhile, diseases of body surface tissues may also affect their related zang or fu organs. Affected zang or fu organs may also influence each other through internal connections.

The Theory of Five Elements

The five elements emerged from an observation of the various groups of dynamic processes, functions and characteristics observed in the natural world. The aspects involved in each of the five elements are follows:

Fire: draught, heat, flaring, ascendance, movement, etc.

Wood: germination, extension, softness, harmony, flexibility, etc.

Metal: strength, firmness, killing, cutting, cleaning up, etc.

Earth: growing, changing, nourishing, producing, etc.

Water: moisture, cold, descending, flowing, etc. 

The following table shows the categorization of phenomena according to the five elements:




















gall bladder

s. intestine


l. intestine
































Between the five elements there exists close relationships that can be classified as mutual promoting and mutual restraining under physiological conditions, and mutual encroaching and mutual violating under pathological conditions. By mutually promoting and restraining, functions of the various systems are coordinated and homeostasis maintained. By encroaching and violating, pathological changes can be explained and complications predicted.

Herbal Therapy

Herbs are classified in two major dimensions. The first dimension refers to the temperature characteristics of the herb, namely hot (re), warm (wen), cold (han), neutral (ping), and aromatic. The second dimension refers to the taste property of the herb, namely sour (suan), bitter (ku), sweet (gan), spicy (xin), and salty (xian).

Bitter possesses the function of clearing heat, purging the bowels, lowering the qi, improving appetite and drying dampness or wetness. Bitter herbs are commonly used in fire-heat patterns, such as the acute stage of infectious disease, and the patterns of damp-heat or damp-cold, such as in arthritis or leucorrhoea.

Sweet has the function of toning, improving, moistening and harmonizing many of the important systems of the body, including the digestive, respiratory, immune and endocrine systems. Sweet tastes also relieve urgency and inhibit pain due to the constrictive action of muscles. They are commonly used for treating deficiency patterns such as dry cough, and dysfunction of the gastro-intestinal tract such as spleen and stomach disharmony.

Spicy disperses, circulates qi and vitalizes blood. This group of herbs can stimulate the sweat glands to perspire, circulate qi, activate the function of meridians and organs and vitalize blood to promote blood circulation. As a whole, spicy herbs have the overall effect of activating and enhancing metabolism. Spicy herbs are commonly used in the treatment of external patterns (catching a cold), when the function of the meridian and organs is weakened and circulation of blood has been impeded. In traditional Chinese medical terminology, this is the stage of qi stagnation and blood cloudiness.

Salty herbs have the function of softening firm masses and fibrous adhesions. The salty taste purges and opens the bowels. Salty agents are often indicated in sores, inflammatory masses, cysts, and connective tissue proliferation.

Decoction is the traditional method of preparing herbal medicine. A decoction is a concentrated form of tea. The practitioner weighs out a day's dosage of each herb and combines them in a bag. A patient is given a bag for each day the herbal formula will be taken. The herbs are then boiled in water by the patient at home. The boiling process takes from 30-60 minutes and the resulting decoction will be consumed several times during the day.

Another modern way of delivering herbs is through granulated herbs, which are highly concentrated powdered extracts. These powders are made by first preparing the herbs as a traditional decoction. The decoction is then dehydrated to leave a powder residue. Practitioners can then mix these powders together for each patient into a custom formula. The powder is then placed in hot water to recreate the decoction. This eliminates the need to prepare the herbs at home, but still retains much of the original decoction's potency.

Therapeutic Index 

Top Chinese Herbs for AIDS 
From age-old sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis to modern sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS, enhancing immunity is fundamental to the sufferers. People with a lowered immune-system response are more vulnerable to infections, and to the abnormal cell changes that can lead to cancer and tumors. The leading Chinese herbs for enhancing immunity and combating infections and tumor formation are as follows: 
1. Herbs for Enhancing Immunity: The leading Chinese herbs which boost the immune system include: ginseng (Ren Shen), astragalus (Huang Qi), atractylodis (Bai Zhu), licorice (Gan Cao), rehmannia (Shu Di Huang), angelica (Dan Gui), white peony root (Bai Shao), and buplerum (Chai Hu). These herbs are traditionally used for tonifying Qi and Blood and nourishing the Kidneys and Spleen. Modern research indicates they are natural immune system enhancers. 
2. Herbs that are Anti-infection Agents: Leading anti-infectious herbs in Chinese medicine include: honeysuckle (Jin Yin Hua), dandelion (Pu Gong Ying), woad leaf (Da Qing Ye), yedeon�s violet (Di Ding Cao), scabiosaefolia (Bai Jiang Cao), houttuynia (Yu Xing Cao), woad root (Ban Lan Gen), phellodendron (Huang Bai), and sophora (Ku Shen). Most of these herbs are traditionally used for clearing Heat and toxins. Modern pharmacological and clinical research focuses on their anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-fungal effects. 
3. Herbs that Counteract Tumors: Leading anti-tumor herbs in Chinese medicine include: bur-reed rhizome (San Ling), zedoary rhizome (E Zhu), edulis (Shan Ci Gu), nux-vomica (Ma Qian Cao), lobelia (Ban Zhi Lian), and odlenlandia (Bai Hua She She Cao). In traditional Chinese medicine, masses and tumors are diagnosed as Blood Stasis. The function of these herbs is to move and resolve Blood Stasis.


Acidocyte Regulation. An acidocyte is a type of white blood cell. An increase in acidocyte levels indicates allergic reaction in an organism. A clinical study at the Affiliated Yueyang Hospital of Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine shows that acupuncture at UB13 (Fei Shu), LU5 (Chi Ze), LU7 (Lie Que), ST40 (Feng Long), Ren 22 (Tian Tu), and extra point Ding Chuan can decrease acidocyte levels.

A Natural Option for Endometriosis

  1. Qi Stagnation and Blood Stasis. The origin of this pattern lies in emotional stress and anxiety. Symptoms of this pattern include: abdominal tenderness; pressure and pain before or during periods; breast distention before periods; distending pain under the rib cage before periods; aversion to pressure on the abdomen; blood clots with periods; pain relieved after the periods; a dark purple tongue with spots and a thin-white tongue coating; and a wiry-choppy pulse. A stagnation/stasis-relieving formula, Driving Out Blood Stasis below the Diaphragm Decoction (Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang), is used for this pattern.

  2. Kidney Deficiency and Blood Stasis. The origin of this pattern is either a constitutional weakness, or a history of surgical procedures. Symptoms of this pattern include: abdominal tenderness; a feeling of pressure and pain during or after periods; soreness of the back, legs, and hips; dizziness; irregular periods, scanty periods or spotting; blood clots with periods; failure to conceive a baby or habitual miscarriage; a pale tongue color, or a tongue with spots and a thin-white tongue coating; and a deep-thin-choppy pulse. An herbal combination which includes a famous kidney tonic formula, Restoring the Kidneys Decoction (Gui Shen Wan), and a renowned Blood stasis-relieving formula, Four-Substance Decoction with Safflower and Persica Seed (Tao Hong Si Wu Tang), is most appropriate for this pattern.

  3. Cold Retention and Blood Stasis. The origin of this pattern is a history of exposure to cold  either cold temperatures, or the habitual consumption of cold foods -- especially during menstruation. Symptoms of this pattern include: abdominal tenderness; pressure and pain before or during periods; a preference for warmth; an aversion to cold; blood clots with periods; pain relieved after the periods; pale complexion; nausea or vomiting with severe menstrual pain; a pale, purplish tongue with spots and a white tongue coating; and a wiry-tight pulse. A formula that reduces stasis, Driving Out Blood Stasis in the Lower Abdomen Decoction (Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang), is used for this pattern.

  4. Qi Deficiency and Blood Stasis. The origin of this pattern is chronic illness or weakness. Symptoms of this pattern include: abdominal tenderness; pressure and pain during or after periods; a preference for warmth; feeling better with pressure on the abdomen; a "dropping" sensation of the anus; soft bowel movements; pale complexion; lethargy; periods that are either heavy or scanty, with light-colored, watery menses; thick-pale tongue body with tooth-marks on the sides and a white-thin tongue coating; and a thin-soft-weak pulse. A traditional Yang tonic formula, Tonifying the Yang to Restore Five Decoction (Bu Yang Huan Wu Tang), is used for this pattern.

  5. Heat Obstruction and Blood Stasis. The origin of this pattern is a history of genital infections (which in Chinese medicine is considered to be an accumulation of Heat toxins in the body). Symptoms of this pattern include: abdominal tenderness; pressure, pain, and fever before, during, or after periods (the more severe the pain, the higher the fever); a preference for cold temperatures; aversion to pressure on the abdomen; a bitter taste in the mouth; dry throat; anxiety; anger; constipation; painful intercourse; red tongue tip or purple spots on the sides of the tongue, with a thin-yellow tongue coating; and a wiry-rapid pulse. The formula, StagnationEASE (Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang), is used for this pattern.


Seven Patterns of Female Infertility 
Seven patterns of female infertility are differentiated in traditional Chinese medicine. The causes and clinical manifestations of each pattern are noted, as well as the leading herbal formulas used to treat the pattern.

Kidney Yang Deficiency: Chronic illness or long-standing weakness is the origin of this pattern. Clinical manifestations include: delayed menstruation; irregular periods; scanty, light-colored menses; fatigue; dizziness; ringing in the ears; dull-pale complexion; back soreness; lack of sexual desire; cold limbs; loose stools; long-drawn-out urination with a thin stream or dribbling; a thick or puffy tongue body with a white tongue coating; and a thin-soft pulse. Time-tested herbal formulas for this pattern include Yu Lin Zhu, Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan, Right Restoration Formula (You Gui Wan), and Kidney Yang Tonic (Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan).

Kidney Yang Tonic (Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan)

Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang)

Dioscorea (Shan Yao)

Peony Root (Mu Dan Pi)

Poria (Fu Ling)

Cornus (Shan Zhu Yu)

Alisma (Ze Xie)

Cinnamon (Rou Gui)

Aconite (Fu Zi)

Kidney Yin Deficiency: Constitutional (genetically inherited) weakness is the underlying cause of this pattern. Clinical manifestations include: early menstruation; irregular periods; scanty menses with red color and no clots; palpitations of the heart; fatigue; dizziness; ringing in the ears; back soreness; dry mouth, dry bowl movements; a feeling of heat in the palms, soles of the feet, and the upper chest; low-grade fever in the afternoon; a red tongue body with a thin tongue coating; and a thin and rapid pulse. Top formulas for this pattern include Kidney Yin Tonic (Liu Wei Di Huang Wan), Left Restoration Formula (Zuo Gui Wan plus Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan), and Essence Nourishing (Yang Jing Zhong Yu Tang Plus).

Blood Stasis: Surgery, emotional trauma, or excessive menstrual bleeding are the origins of this pattern. Clinical manifestations include: infertility; scanty periods; delayed periods with dark purple menstrual blood and blood clots; painful menstruation; frequent abdominal pain; a pale tongue body with purple dots; and a thin-wiry pulse. Widely-used Chinese herbal formulas include StagnationEASE (Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang), and StagnationEASE plus Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang.

StagnationEASE (Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang)

Persica Seed (Tao Ren)

Safflower (Hong Hua)

Angelica (Dang Gui)

Rehmannia (Sheng Di Huang)

Cnidium (Chuan Qiong)

Red Peony Root (Chi Shao)

Cyathula (Niu Xi)

Platycodon (Jie Geng)

Buplerum (Chai Hu)

Aurantium (Zhi Ke)

Licorice (Gan Cao)


Liver Qi Stagnation: Emotional stress is the origin of this pattern. Clinical manifestations include: inability to conceive for many years; irregular periods; abdominal pain with periods; scanty, pale-colored menses; dark-colored menses with clots; painful distention of breasts; depression; irritability before periods; a pale-red tongue body with a white-thin tongue coating; and a wiry pulse. Popular herbal formulas include DepressEASE Formula (Kai Yu Zhong Yu Tang), and DistentionEASE (Hei Xiao Yao San).

DistentionEASE (Hei Xiao Yao San)

Bupleurum (Chai Hu)

Angelica (Dang Gui)

White Peony (Bai Shao)

Atractylodes (Bai Zhu)

Poria (Fu Ling)

Licorice (Gan Cao)

Mint (Bo He)

Ginger (Gan Jiang)

Rehmannia (Di Huang)

Damp-Phlegm Obstruction: Chronic overweight or the habitual consumption of greasy, oily foods are the origins of this pattern. Clinical manifestations include: infertility; irregular periods; delayed period or absence of period; menses with blood clots; weight gain; white, sticky vaginal discharge; irritability; dizziness; palpitations; chest congestion; nausea; gray tongue body with a white-sticky tongue coating; and a slippery pulse. Herbal formulas for this pattern include UterinEASE (Qi Gong Wan), and Removing Phelgm Formula (Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan).

Removing Phelgm Formula (Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan)

Poria (Fu Ling)

Pinellia (Ban Xia)

Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi)

Licorice (Gan Cao)

Lanceagrey Atractylodes (Cang Zhu)

Cyperus (Xiang Fu)

Arisematis (Nan Xing)

Aurantium (Zhi Ke)

Ginger (Sheng Jiang)

Leaven (Shen Qu)

Damp Heat: This Dampness pattern can also be caused by the habitual consumption of fatty foods and alcohol, and by weak Spleen energy. Clinical manifestations include: failure to conceive after the last delivery; irregular periods; delayed periods; constant spotting; white vaginal discharge; pains in the loins; abdominal pain which is worse with menstruation and fatigue; low-grade fever; pre-menstrual breast distention; a red tongue body with a white-sticky or yellow-sticky tongue coating; and a wiry-rapid pulse. DampHeatEASE (Jie Du Si Wu Tang) is widely used to eliminate Damp Heat.

DampHeatEASE (Jie Du Si Wu Tang)

Coptis (Huang Lian)

Scutellaria (Huang Qin)

Phellodendron (Huang Bai)

Gardenia (Zhi Zi)

Rehmannia (Di Huang)

Angelica (Dang Gui)

White Peony (Bai Shao)

Cnidium (Chuan Qiong)

Blood Deficiency: This pattern can result from loss of blood due to trauma, surgery, or childbirth; and from insufficient blood production due to Deficient Qi or Congealed Blood. Clinical manifestations include: failure to conceive; delayed periods with scanty, light-colored menses, or copious, watery menses; absence of menstruation; pale complexion; a thin, weak body; dizziness; palpitations; breathlessness; insomnia; poor memory; tiredness; a pale tongue body with a thin-white tongue coating; and a thin-soft pulse. Wen Tu Yu Ling Tang, Spleen Heart Tonic (Gui Pi Tang), and Tonifying Blood/Kidney Formula (Wen Shen Bu Xue Tang) are effective formulas for this pattern.

Tonifying Blood/Kidney Formula (Wen Shen Bu Xue Tang)

Codonopsis (Dang Shen)

Angelica (Dang Gui)

Millettia (Ji Xue Teng)

Rehmannia (Di Huang)

Psoralea (Bu Gu Zhi)

Epimedium (Xian Ling Pi)

Morinda (Ba Ji Tian)

Curculiginis (Xian Mao)

Placenta (Zi He Che)

Acupuncture Facts

In ancient times, the number of acupuncture points was established to be the same as the number of days in the year: 365. These points were mapped to 14 major meridian lines, one meridian for each of the 12 inner organs, one meridian along the spine (called the governing vessel), and another along the midline of the abdomen (called the conception vessel). More recently, the number of points identified by acupuncturists has exploded. There are extra meridians (some of them outlined in ancient times, others modern) with their own sets of points, there are special points (off meridians), and there are complete mappings of body structures and functions by points along the outer ears, on the nose, in the scalp, on the hands, on the feet, and at the wrists and ankles. On each meridian there are a small number of points used repeatedly, because of their versatility, for a wide variety of patients and diseases. One such point on each major meridian is mentioned below, sometimes with a second point also briefly described, for a total of 21. It is important to recognize that although a list of disorders and diseases treated by each point can be given, sometimes the points are selected entirely or primarily on the basis of the Chinese theory of balancing the flow in the meridians, so that the point might be used for other kinds of disorders, aside from those listed, because of its usefulness in this balancing process. For points not on the central line of the body, each point has a left and right side reflected location (the point is counted only once for enumeration purposes). For each point in this presentation, the name of the meridian, the number of the point, the number of standard points on the meridian, its designation by one of the number-based classification systems (two letters and the point number), and the Chinese name are given. 
Large Intestine Meridian, point #4 of 20: LI4, Hegu 
This point is located on the back side of the hand between the thumb and first finger. The dominant uses are to relieve pain and to treat constipation or other bowel disorders. However, this point is also utilized in the treatment of inflammatory and feverish diseases which have symptoms in the throat and head, because the large intestine meridian runs from the hand to the face. Another key point on this meridian is LI11 (Quchi), located at the elbow. It is used for many upper body disorders, such as sore throat, eye pain, lymphatic swellings, rashes, and difficulty moving the arms, and for intestinal disorders, such as diarrhea and intestinal cramping. 
Lung Meridian, point #7 of 11: LU7, Lieque 
This point is located above the wrist on the inside of the arm. It is used to treat several disorders of the upper body, including headache, neck stiffness, cough, asthma, sore throat, facial paralysis, and wrist problems.  
Stomach Meridian, point #36 of 45: ST36, Zusanli 
This point is located on the front of the leg, just below the knee. It is helpful for digestive disorders, including nausea, vomiting, gastralgia, and abdominal distention, and also for general weakness. Recently, numerous clinical trials have been conducted with treatment of this point alone, demonstrating positive effects in treating anemia, immune deficiency, fatigue, and numerous diseases. 
Spleen Meridian, point #6 of 21: SP6, Sanyinjiao 
This point is located on the inner side of the leg just above the ankle. Although it is on the spleen meridian, which generally influences the digestive system, this point is also valuable for treating hormonal disorders (irregular menstruation, impotence) and immune disorders. Another key point on this meridian is SP9 (Yinlingquan), located just below the knee. It is used in the treatment of urinary diseases, especially with fluid retention, abdominal and back pain, and female reproductive system disorders. 
Gallbladder Meridian, point #20 of 44: GB20, Fengchi 
This point is located at the base of the skull where it joins the neck in back. It used in the treatment of acute disorders, such as common cold, influenza, headache, neck pain, and fever. In addition, it lowers blood pressure and relaxes tension in the area of the eyes. Another key point on this meridian is GB34 (Yanglingquan), located on the outer side of the knee, and used for treating a wide range of injuries and disorders of the muscles and tendons. 
Liver Meridian, point #3 of 14: LV3, Taichong 
The point is located on the top of the foot, between the first and second toes. It is used to balance emotional energy, to regulate menstruation, to reduce tension and pain in the chest, treat eye disorders, alleviate headaches, and reduce high blood pressure. The adjacent point in the meridian, LV2 (Xingjian), at the webbing between the toes, is also considered quite important and is frequently needled along with LV3; it has similar uses, but is also incorporated into the treatment of lower abdominal disorders, such as urinary problems. 
Pericardium Meridian, point #6 of 9: PC6, Neiguan 
This point is located on the inner arm, just above the wrist. Like other points on this meridian, it is useful for cardiac disorders, such as heart palpitation and angina pectoris. It is also useful for nausea, vomiting, spasms, and convulsions. 
Heart Meridian, point #7 of 9: HT7, Shenmen 
This point is located on the outer side of the wrist. It is used in the treatment of a variety of mental disorders, such as absent mindedness, insomnia, disturbing dreams, hysteria, depression, agitation, and mental illness. It is also used in the treatment of heart disease and fatigue.  
Urinary Bladder Meridian, point #40 of 67: BL40, Weizhong 
This point is located at the back of the knee. It is utilized in the treatment of back pain, hip impairment, muscular atrophy, leg pain and immobility, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and a host of other symptoms. Another important point on the bladder meridian is BL23 (Shenshu), in the lumbar area (hip level) near the spine; it is used in treatment of a wide range of disorders, including urinary problems, impotence, menstrual disorders, low back pain, knee weakness, dizziness, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, edema, asthma, and diarrhea. A large section of the bladder meridian is of importance because, as it flows along either side of the spine (in two parallel lines on each side), it associates with the internal organs in the vicinity.  
Kidney Meridian, point #3 of 27: KI3, Taixi 
This point is located just behind the inner ankle. It is used for disorders in several areas of the body, including sore throat and toothache, deafness and tinnitus, dizziness, asthma, thirst, insomnia, impotence, frequency urination, pain in the lower back, and menstrual irregularities. 
Triple Burner Meridian, point #5 of 23: TB5, Waiguan 
The triple burner is considered to be a special type of organ system that spans the entire torso. This point on the meridian is located on the outer side of the arm, above the wrist. It is mainly used in treatment of disorders along the pathway of this meridian, that is, of the fingers, hand, arms, neck, ears, cheek, and top of the head.  
Small Intestine Meridian, point #3 of 19: SI3, Houxi 
This point is located on the side of the hand, below the little finger. It is used for treating mental disorders, stiffness and pain in the neck, chest, and lumbar region, seizures, night sweats, and fevers. 
Governing Vessel, point #20 of 28: GV20, Baihui 
This point is located at the top of the head. It is traditionally applied in the treatment of various mental disorders, and for problems that occur in the head: headache, vertigo, ringing in the ears, nasal obstruction, difficulty with speech, etc. It is also used to treat prolapse, such as that of the rectum and uterus. Another key point on this meridian is GV14 (Dazhui), located just below the seventh cervical vertebrae (shoulder level); it is used for treating neck and upper back problems, feverish diseases, convulsions, cough, asthma, and common cold. 
Conception Vessel, point #4 of 24: CV4, Guanyuan 
This point is located a little below the navel. It is used for all types of lower abdominal disorders, including urination problems, hernia, menstrual disorders, gynecological infections, postpartum bleeding, diarrhea, rectal prolapse, etc. Another important point on this vessel is CV6 (Qihai), half way between CV4 and the navel. The applications are similar, but it is especially used in cases of accompanying fatigue. 
Examples of Combining These Points to Produce an Effective Treatment 
For menopausal syndrome, the main points recommended are GV20 and GV14, CV4, BL23, HT7, SP6 and ST36; secondary points include PC6, LV3, and KI3. For bedwetting at night among young children, recommended points include CV4, BL23 and SP6; secondary points include LU7, KI3, CV6, and ST36. For hayfever, recommended points include GB20, LI4, and ST36; secondary points include GV14, LU7, LI11, and SP6. In her book Insights of a Senior Acupuncturist, Miriam Lee describes a combination of points that have wide application: ST36, SP6, LI4, LI11, and LU7. This set of points, with slight adjustments (e.g., leaving out one or two, perhaps adding or substituting one or two) is shown to be helpful for the majority of common complaints seen in the Western acupuncture clinic. A popular treatment for injury and stress is to needle the “four gates,” the right and left side points LV3 (feet) and LI4 (hands), which opens circulation throughout the meridians. 

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