Adverse Climates to Diagnosis

Chinese medicine perceives the human body as a microcosm, a universe in miniature, in which neither health nor disease is a static condition, but an interplay of ever-changing relationships.

Adverse Climates

Pathological conditions are adverse climates within the body ecosystem. Heat is a condition of excess Yang characterized by subjective and objective sensations, as well as by the coloration of fluids, secretions, and tissue. Symptoms of Heat behave like heat – red, hot, dry, and overactive. Heat can be produced externally by hot weather, or internally by hyperactivity due to emotional and physical stresses like anxiety, rage, excitement, infection, trauma, poisoning, allergic reaction, and loss of body fluids. Signs of Heat include fever, burning, inflammation, thick yellow to green secretions, darkened urine, rashes, fast pulse, and a dry, bright red tongue.

Cold is an abnormal Yin condition characterized by subjective and objective sensations of chilliness as well as by the coloration of fluids, secretions, and tissue. Symptoms of Cold act like cold: slowing of circulation and chilliness cause contractions and pain. Signs of Cold include feeling chilled and numb; pallor of the skin and eyes; profuse, odorless, colorless urine; excessive, bland secretions and discharges; a slow pulse; and a pale, wet, purplish tongue. Cold can result from exposure to frigid weather, immersion in cold water, overwork, lack of rest or food, loss of blood, prolonged diarrhea, raw or refrigerated foods, iced liquids, shock or grief, all of which can retard circulation and depress metabolic activity.


Phlegm is more than the sticky mucus that collects in sinus cavities or the nasopharynx, it is the accumulation and thickening of any secretion or fluid that manifests as a swelling, nodule, or cyst. Examples of Phlegm include fatty tumors, atherosclerotic or neural plaque, enlarged or hardened lymph nodes, swollen joints, cystic acne, and hydroceles.


A toxin is an externally or internally generated substance that degrades a healthy body constituent, or transforms less serious entities such as Phlegm or stagnant Blood into more virulent pathogens such as Hot Phlegm, toxic or Blood Heat. Blood Heat or blood toxicity, is the result of the blood becoming contaminated with external or internal pathogens (Heat, Damp-Heat, metabolic waste, food toxins). Severe Blood Heat can become a principal factor leading to severe Blood stagnation, and may result from prolonged obstruction of Qi, Moisture, or Blood. It is an example of Entanglement (Hunluan), a condition in which a healthy body constituent (Blood) becomes enmeshed with a pathogen to form a more complex pathogenic entity.


Emotional States Affect the Qi

Unresolved emotional suffering affects the Qi: while anger and anxiety raise the Qi, terror pushes it down; while grief scatters the Qi so that it loses cohesion, ruminating thoughts bind the Qi. While fright causes Qi to become chaotic, joy modulates and relaxes the Qi. Just as anger can generate Heat, so depression, worry, and grief can lead to the binding of the Qi, inhibited movement, and stasis of Qi that can produce Blood stagnation.


Qi, Moisture, and Blood circulate within the web of channels and vessels called Jing Luo that link all parts of the organism to each other. Health is the product of the equitable distribution of body constituents and the smooth and coordinated interaction of the Organ Networks. Dysfunction and disease are always the consequence of attrition and impaired circulation of Qi and Blood, resulting in a progression from congestion, to stagnation, to accumulation, to obstruction. The key words associated with health are: circulation, harmony, coherence, and integration.



Diagnosis is based on an analysis of the relationship between harmonious and inharmonious activities of the five constituents and Organ Networks, the goal being to grasp the unique character of the patient’s body, mind, and circumstances, as well as the nature of the illness. Neither health nor disease is a static condition, rather, both are processes that occur simultaneously and in relationship to each other.

For example, loss of blood can be normal and healthy, or abnormal and pathological. Normal menstruation is a healthy cyclical process in which the body first generates a surplus of blood and then discharges it; whereas, prolonged or excessive bleeding leads to a condition of depletion in which the loss exceeds the body’s ability to replenish itself. The signs and symptoms characterizing this diagnostic pattern known as deficiency of Blood might include restless fatigue, chilliness, dryness, irritability, insomnia, and palpitations. Healthy physical and mental activity includes periods of focused or sustained effort, alternating with relaxation and rest. Overwork and prolonged mental strain result in the weakening of the body’s ability to recover from stress. This is described as a condition of Qi deficiency, characterized by persistent fatigue, lethargy, sleepiness, sensitivity to weather changes, vulnerability to infection, diminished stamina, flaccidity of muscles and organs, diminished sensory acuity, long recovery from illness, reduced pulmonary capacity, and vague feelings of depression and disinterest.