chinese medicines
green medicine
by specific condition
how it's done
listening & smelling
chinese medicine
causes of disharmony
the meridian system
the five elements
vital substances
yin yang theory
zangfu organs
tai chi




Glossary of Traditional Chinese Medicine Terms

Aromatic stomacic - herbs that are aromatic and promote digestion by moving dampness

Blood - is used as a broad term to describe the physical blood in the body that moistens the muscles, tissues, skin and hair, as well as nourishing the cells and organs

Blood deficiency - a lack of blood with signs of anemia, dizziness, dry skin or hair, scant or absent menstruation, fatigue, pale skin and poor memory

Calmative - has a sedative or calming effect on the mind and the nerves

Cold - is the term used to describe decreased functioning of an organ system and presents as any of the following: body aches, chills, poor circulation, fatigue, lack of appetite, loose stools or diarrhea, poor digestion, pain in the joints, slow movements and speech, aversion to cold and craving for heat. Is present in all "hypo" conditions such as hypoadrenalism, hypoglycemia and hypothyroidism

Damp, dampness - excessive fluids in the body with symptoms of abdominal bloating, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, lack of thirst, feeling of heaviness or being sluggish, and stiff, aching or sore joints

Damp Heat - a condition of dampness and heat combined with symptoms of thick yellow secretions and phlegm such as jaundice, hepatitis, urinary problems, or eczema

Decoction - a combination of herbs which is cooked or brewed to make a soup or medicinal tea

Deficiency - any weakness or insufficiency of qi, blood, yin, yang or essence

Deficiency heat - heat due to yin deficiency. Results in weakness and emaciation because of the lack of moistening fluids (yin)

Diuretic - rids the body of excess fluid

Dry / Dryness - characterized by dry hair, lips, mouth, nose, skin and throat, extreme thirst and constipation

Eight Principles - four sets of factors used by TCM practitioners to assess a person's health. Represented by internal/external, cold/heat, excess/deficiency, and yin/yang (they should all be in balance with their counterpart)

Empty Heat - a deficiency of yin energy resulting in symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats and other changes in hormonal levels. Also known as empty fire

Essence - a fluid substance that provides the basis of reproduction, growth, sexual power, conception and preganancy. It is the material foundation of qi and is stored in the kidney. Also referred to as Jing

Excess - generally refers to too much heat, cold, damp, yin or yang

Excess yang - similar to excess heat with symptoms of rapid pulse, hypertension, agressive actions, loud voice, high fever, red complexion or restlessness

Excess yin - an imbalance of excessive fluids in the body with symptoms of fluid retention, a plump or swollen appearance, lethargy and overall signs of dampness - although those with excess yin may still have adequate energy levels

External - the location of illnesses such as fevers and skin eruptions / on the surface of the body

Fire - results from malfunction of the internal organs or from extreme mood swings. Symptoms include fever, red or bloodshot eyes, swelling, sore throat and flushed face. May also include dry mouth, bleeding or inflammed gums, and a desire for cold drinks

Five Elements - the five energies of wood, earth, metal, water and fire which exist in nature. Each transforms and controls one another to maintain a harmonious balance

Internal - the location of illnesses such as those that affect qi, blood, and organs inside the body

Meridians - the 12 major pathways through which qi flows, supplying energy and nourishment to the body. Acupuncture needles are placed in points along these pathways to assist in correcting imbalances

Organs - a major source of confusion in understanding the Traditional Chinese Medicine. Although the organ names in TCM are the same as in Western Medicine, they cover a wide range of systems and functions:

  • Heart - covers blood circulation, brain and nervous system as well as spiritual and mental health
  • Liver - includes digestion, circulation, clearing toxins from the blood, regulating the endocrine system, and creating harmony in mental and emotional states
  • Spleen - responsible for the digestive system, blood production and circulation, water metabolism and concentration
  • Lung - is in charge of repiration, water metabolism, blood circulation and some functions of the immune system
  • Kidney - includes urinary and reproductive systems, growth and development, endocrine system, hormones, brain and nervous system, metabolism, bones, hair, and respiratory functions

Phlegm - may be a visible, sticky substance such as mucus or metaphorical to indicate a disorder that causes a reduction in the flow of qi

Qi - pronounced "chee", this is the vital energy or life force which flows through the meridians and is used to protect, transform and warm the body

Qi deficiency - a lack of qi which is seen with symptoms of lethargy, weakness, shortness of breath, slow metabolism, frequent colds and flu with slow recovery, low or soft voice, palpitations and/or frequent urination

Qigong - a set of exercises including medatative and physical movements. Used to move qi, thereby maintaining and regaining physical, emotional and spiritual health

Seven Emotions - the seven emotions are sadness, fright, fear, grief, anger, joy (extreme excitability) and pensiveness. These are all considered as potential causes of illness

Shen - the spirit and mental faculties of a person which include the zest for life, charisma, the ability to exhibit self control, be responsible, speak coherently, think and form ideas and live a happy, spiritually fulfilled life

Six External Evils - the six external evils, like the seven emotions, are causes of illness and disease. Also known as the six climatic factors, the six excesses and the six evil qi. The six external evils are terms from nature that are used to describe the condition. These include wind, cold, summer heat, dampness, dryness and fire. Terms are also used metaphorically to indicate the behaviour of a particular ailment or condition

Stagnation - a blockage or buildup of qi or blood that prevents it from flowing freely. Is a precursor of illness and disease and is frequently accompanied by pain or tingling

Stomach heat - too much heat in the stomach is represented by bad breath, bleeding or swollen gums, burning sensation in the stomach, extreme thirst, frontal headaches and/or mouth ulcers

Summer Heat - overactive functioning of an organ system resulting in symtoms of thirst, aversion to heat and craving for cold, infection, inflammation, dryness, red face, sweating, irritability, dark yellow urine, restlessness, constipation and "hyper" conditions such as hypertension

TCM - the abbreviation for Traditional Chinese Medicine

Tai Chi - a set of smooth, flowing exercises used to improve or maintain health, create a sense of relaxation and keep qi flowing

Tao - the ancient philosophy of oneness in all creation

Tonification / Tonify - to nourish, support or strengthen the condition of qi, blood or weak organ function

Toxicity - applies to any inflammation, infection or severe heat disease

Triple Burner or Triple Warmer - represents the three production centres for warm energy and water. The upper burner is the heart/lung system, the middle burner is the spleen/stomach, and the lower burner is the kidney/bladder/intestines

Tuina - Traditional Chinese massage technique that focuses on meridians and acupoints

Wei qi - defensive energy, the TCM equivalent of the immune system

Wind - causes the sudden movement of a condition. Examples are a rash that is spreading, onset of colds, fever, chills, vertigo, spasms or twitches

Yang - represents heat and the body's ability to generate and maintain warmth and circulation

Yang deficiency - a cold condition due to lack of the heating quality of yang. Symptoms include lethargy, poor digestion, cold, lower back pain and decreased sexual drive

Yin - represents cool and the substance of the body, including blood and bodily fluids that nurture and moisten the organs and tissues

Yin deficiency - a heat condition that results in symptoms of night sweats, fever, nervous exhaustion, dry eyes and throat, dizziness, blurred vision, insomnia and a burning sensation in the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and the chest

Zangfu - describes the solid organs (zang) that store vital substances and the hollow organs (fu) which are responsible for transportation

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The information provided on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Should you have any serious health concerns, you should always check with your health care practitioner before self-administering any natural remedy.

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