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The Theories of TCM: The 8 Principles

The Theories of TCM: The 8 Principles

Shen Clinic TCM consultation

Ba Gang Bian Zheng: The Eight Principles:

Differentiating Disease And Understanding Its Nature

The Eight Principles are four YIN / YANG pairs of conditions which assess the location and nature of the illness. Once this is known, the treatment plan is simple - Balance the body. Strengthen the weak, cool the hot, moisten the dry, etc. These pairs are:


Too much or too little. These terms describe both the disease and the patient. Sudden illness is excess. Chronic illness suggests deficiency. Symptoms of excess are stronger or more pronounced than those caused by deficiency. A severe sore throat suggests wind-heat excess (viral), while a persistent scratchy throat implies heat cause by a deficiency of coolness (yin deficiency).  Other excess conditions include pestilential diseases, acute injuries, and blockage of flow anywhere in the body.  Fatigue due to unknown cause is usually an indication of deficiency. Diseases or problems that persist over time are likely rooted in deficiency.


 Where does the disharmony originate? Is it invading from the exterior, or is it caused by deficiency, emotion, or stagnation in the interior. Airborne viruses, bacterial infections, or other pestilential diseases are Exterior. Exterior diseases are colds and similar respiratory diseases, traumatic injury, contact dermatitis like poison ivy or insect bites.  Note that many skin conditions (acne, eczema, psoriasis) are considered interior becoming exterior, and likewise, exterior conditions, for example, insect bites, are often capable of penetrating deeper into the body becoming interior.


Heat suggests an oversupply of qi or an inadequacy in the body's cooling system. Cold suggests the opposite, qi deficiency or weak metabolic function. Just as it can be hot in Miami and cold in Siberia, bodies can be hot and cold at the same time. the Liver can be hot while the Kidney is cold. Diseases can also have hot or cold natures, depending on the way they affect us. Signs of heat in the body include fever, inflammation, redness of the skin or tongue, or the sensation of heat.  Some symptoms of interior cold are: feeling cold, pallor, build-up of fluids or interior dampness.


Life loves water, and excessive dampness inside the body helps breed microscopic life such as bacteria, virus, fungus. Swollen tissue, excess phlegm or other fluids are signs of dampness. Dryness indicates a scarcity of fluids. Causes of dryness are Blood or YIN deficiency. Excessive heat can also scorch the fluids and leads to dryness. Prolonged exposure to dry weather will cause dryness inside the body as well.  Dampness (excessive water in the body tissues) can have a number of different causes including digestive disorders, diet, or exposure to a damp environment.  Symptoms of internal damp include watery or loose stool, swellings, sinus congestion, or a cough with copious phlegm.

Next: The Five Emotions




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