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Traditional Chinese Medicine Disharmony

The Eight Parameters of Disharmony

In Chinese medicine, a                                      balanced lifestyle is                                      conducive to good health.
In Chinese medicine, a balanced lifestyle is conducive to good health.

The eight parameters of disharmony form a system in which illnesses can be categorized. In traditional Chinese medicine, illness is seen as an imbalance, a lack of harmony in the body's systems, and knowledge of the eight parameters allows the practitioner to perceive the location, severity, and nature of the disease process.

This information is then applied to the other diagnostic categories of qi, blood, and internal organs, further narrowing and focusing the diagnosis. It is also important to remember that a physical condition is not fixed; inner processes are always subject to change. In other words, a yin condition can evolve into a yang condition; an exterior pattern can penetrate to the interior; a cold condition might turn to heat; and an excess disease often becomes one of deficiency. In a more complex disharmony, all eight patterns could occur simultaneously!


For this reason, it is always a good idea to maintain a Taoist attitude of flexibility while perceiving the movements of nature. Any diagnostic pattern is simply a snapshot in time; an experienced practitioner recognizes this and is always prepared to adjust the diagnosis and treatment plan to accommodate these changes.


The terms external (or exterior) and internal (or interior) do not refer to where the pathogen comes from; rather, they specify the location of the disease process in the body. The exterior of the body is considered the skin and muscles, while the interior is defined as the internal organs and bones.

In an external pattern, the pathogen fights with the body's defensive qi, or wei qi, which circulates under the skin. Symptoms of this struggle are chills, fever, sensitivity to wind or cold, body aches, sore throat, nasal congestion, and a floating pulse.

If the cause of disease, known in traditional Chinese medicine as the pernicious influence, is not expelled, typically it penetrates the interior.

An interior, or internal, condition has more organ-related symptoms, such as diarrhea, stomachache, intestinal cramps, lung pain, bladder pain, constipation, and changes in the color of the tongue. A pathogen trapped between the interior and exterior exhibits such symptoms as alternating chills and fever, a bitter taste in the mouth, and a wiry pulse.


The possible causes of heat conditions are an external heat pernicious influence (for example, a virus that produces heat symptoms, such as a high fever), internal hyperactivity of yang functions (for example, drinking too much alcohol can cause a red face and headache), or insufficient yin.

The yin aspect of the body includes the "lubricating and cooling" systems. When these systems are depleted, the body tends to overheat due to the deficiency of yin.

In general, heat signs include redness in the face; feeling hot; thirst; colored secretions (such as yellow mucus or other discharges or dark urine); constipation; burning sensations; irritability; red tongue body with a yellow coating; and a rapid pulse.

Conversely, cold arises from external cold pernicious influences (for example, a virus that produces the cold symptoms of chills and a runny nose), an internal yang deficiency, or internal excess cold pathogenic factors.

An internal yang deficiency produces such symptoms as always feeling cold, a low sex drive, and low energy. A person who has acute symptoms of loose stools and abdominal pains from eating too much ice cream likely has an internal excess cold condition.

General signs of cold are a pale face, feelings of cold, lack of thirst, clear secretions (pale urine, clear mucus or discharges), loose stools, muscle tightness, fatigue, pale tongue with a white coating, and a slow pulse.


A disease is classified as an excess condition or a deficient condition. Excess conditions occur when an external pernicious influence attacks the body and creates over-activity (for example, a high fever that is caused by infection with a virus); a body function becomes overactive (for example, redness and swelling that are caused by an infection); or an obstruction of qi or blood causes pain.

Acute conditions tend to be conditions of excess. Deficient conditions arise due to an inherent weakness in the body or a weakness in the body's vital energy (qi), blood, yin, or yang. Symptoms of deficiency include weak movement, pale face, pale tongue, and weak pulse. Chronic conditions tend to be conditions of deficiency.


The most general of all the diagnostic categories, it can be considered a summary of all the others. Heat, excess, and external conditions are yang conditions, while cold, deficiency, and internal conditions are yin conditions. Most conditions include a mixture of yin and yang imbalances. In addition, each internal organ has its yin and yang aspects that must be balanced.

For example, if heart yin is deficient, a person may experience insomnia, poor memory, and palpitations. If heart yang is depleted, poor circulation, pale face, purple lips, edema, and cold extremities can result.

When yin, with its cooling function, is low, heat signs occur. When yang, with its heating function, is low, cold signs occur. Restoring the optimum yin/yang balance of each internal organ is the most important secret of maintaining health and vitality in traditional Chinese medicine.

Go to the next page to learn about syndromes of syndromes and disorders of qi, blood, yin, and yang.

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