Yin and Yang in Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine

Yin and Yang in Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine
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The philosophies of yin and yang are central to traditional Chinese medicine. Yin and yang are considered to be opposite yet complementary. They coexist, and cannot be separated from one another. Yin is feminine and passive, and yang is masculine and active. In the yin-yang theory, all of the bodily organs are considered to be interconnected. Both yin and yang always exist within the body. When an imbalance of yin and yang occurs, the body may experience illness. The role of the practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine is to restore the proper balance of yin and yang. This is typically achieved through acupuncture, herbs and a form of exercise called Qigong.

Types of Imbalances and Herbal Treatment

There are four basic types of yin and yang imbalances; an excess of yang, an excess of yin, a deficiency of yang and a deficiency of yin. In traditional Chinese medicine, certain conditions or “syndromes” are also considered either yin or yang. For example, a hot syndrome within the body is considered yang, and a cold syndrome is considered yin. The upper part of the body is considered yang, while the lower part of the body is yin. Also, the interior of the body and deficient conditions are associated with yin, whereas the exterior of the body and excess conditions are associated with yang. In traditional Chinese medicine, the treatment always has the opposite quality of the illness being treated. For example, if the patient has a fever, the practitioner might administer an herb which encourages cooling of the body, such as goldenseal or peppermint. However, if the patient if feeling chronically cold, he might generate heat within the body by using herbs such as ginger or cayenne.

Zang-Fu Theory and Resources for Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine

The zang-fu theory is also integral to traditional Chinese medicine. There are five zang organs and six fu organs. The zang organs, which are predominantly yin, are the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and spleen. The fu organs, in which yang predominates, are the gall bladder, the urinary bladder, the small intestine, the large intestine, the stomach and the triple warmer. Each zang-fu organ can also be divided into either yin or yang. It is believed that the zang organs produce and store essential substances such as chi (vital energy), blood and body fluids. The fu organs digest food or eliminate wastes. Since these interactions of yin and yang are very complex within the system of Chinese herbal medicine, it’s best to consult a good reference book, such as “Chinese Herbal Medicine: Modern Applications of Traditional Formulas by Chongyun Liu, Angela Tseng and Sue Yang,” or find a qualified practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine to determine the nature of your condition and an appropriate herbal treatment.


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“Traditional Chinese Medicine Basics,” https://www.tcmbasics.com

“Traditional Chinese Medicine: Overview. “https://www.alternativemedicinechannel.com/tcm/index.shtml

Humbart Santillo, B.S., M.H., “Natural Healing with Herbs.” Hohm Press, 1987

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