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TCM Theory – Illness Differentiation (Part 1)

/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Article-Thumbnail-01.jpg/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Article-Thumbnail-01.jpgTCM Theory – Illness Differentiation (Part 1)

Pattern identification is the process used in TCM that enables a practitioner to determine the significance of symptoms and to create a coherent picture of a client’s state of ill/well being.

This process is what makes TCM one of the most superior approaches toward health due to its focus on understanding the patterns of disharmony. It looks at the bigger picture, the totality of a human being and not merly looking at individual signs and symptoms in isolation, the term used for this in TCM is “chasing the Dragons tail”.

Eight-Principle pattern identification

The most basic and fundamental system used in TCM is the Eight-Principle pattern identification. Within it the fundamental nature and location of any given disease can be determined which makes this both the first and most important system.

The eight principles are:

Exterior – Interior (measures the depth of the disease)

Hot – Cold (describes the nature of the disease)

Excess – Deficiency (indicates the strength of good and evil)

`Yang – Yin (the general principal that embraces the other six)

I would like to example how once a pattern is identified with the eight principles, a disharmony can be explored in greater depth via the other sub-systems of pattern identification.

E.g. At the eight principle level a heat pattern is identified,

Qi-Xue pattern identification will show whether the heat is located in the Qi or Xue,

Organ pattern identification will determine what organ or organs are affected,

And Disease-evil pattern identification will identify any evil present.


A. Ellis, N. Wiseman, K, Boss Fundamental s of Chinese Acupuncture, 1991, Paradigm Publications, Brookline Massachusetts
C. Zinnong (Chief Editor) Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1987, Foreign Language Press, Beijing
G. Maciocia The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, 1996, Churchill Livingstone, New York
T J Kaptchuk Chinese Medicine – The Web Has No Weaver, 1989, Rider, London

By Francesco Pennisi