Greater Yin Stage (Tai Yin stage)

Photo by Dmitry Schemelev on Unsplash

The Greater Yin stage is the fourth of the Six Stages of disease caused by invasion of Cold. I bet you know some people with it or something like it. It’s not that uncommon these days, even in people living in warm, central-heated houses.

The Six Stages of Disease is a very old theory of how disease penetrates the body, how the body responds and what to do about it. It was first written down in AD220 by a brilliant doctor called Zhang Zhong Jing, and his theories and prescriptions are used to this day by people practising Chinese medicine.

Chinese tea – Photo by PTMP on Unsplash

Symptoms of this Greater Yin Stage (Tai Yin) stage

Some or all of the following occur in this Greater Yin stage:

  • abdominal fullness: this means that you feel huge, full and distended in your middle and lower abdomen. It can feel heavy and is uncomfortable. These are signs of Spleen deficiency.
  • abdominal pain: heavy and dull. You like warmth and massage on it.
  • you may feel heavy and dull too, mentally included: more signs of Spleen Qi deficiency.
  • cold – you feel cold. Not the intense cold feeling noticed in the previous Yang stages, just cold where normally you would feel comfortable.
  • your Stomach and digestion stop working properly, meaning you lose your appetite and you may get nauseavomiting or diarrhoea. In other words, it can come out both ends!
  • thirstless. Because you lack Yang Qi, so lack Heat.
  • tiredness from lack of Spleen and Stomach Qi.
  • Tongue: pale; coating is sticky and white.
  • Pulse: slow (because of Cold) and weak. May be deep. Can be ‘slippery’ in the Spleen position (right wrist, over the radial bone).


What is going on here?

The Greater Yin stage (Tai Yin) channels are those of the Spleen and the Lungs. Normally, therefore, you get symptoms of Spleen and/or Lung deficiency, with symptoms appearing along their pathways.

Commonly, it is the Spleen that is more affected.

Spleen Qi deficiency symptoms are very much those of this stage, with the addition of Cold, because the ‘Six Stages’ theory explains the progress of Cold through the six different levels of the body’s defences, listed below.

But you can get Spleen Qi deficiency other than just through the invasion of Cold into your system.

If your immune system has been forced back to this Greater Yin stage by the invasion of Cold, it will have happened in one of three main ways:


Forced back to the greater yin stage
Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

3 Ways to get stuck here

  • Directly from the Greater Yang (Tai Yang) stage where the Cold first attacked. This could happen because your Greater Yang and other Yang defences were already weak (perhaps from previous ill-health or from weakness because of your age, for example), and the invading Cold quickly trampled over them to reach this Greater Yin organ defence level.
  • If the natural Yang-type reactions to Cold produced in its defence by your body during your Yang stages (ie the Greater YangShao Yang and Bright Yang stages) were suppressed. These were your body’s best options. Suppress those reactions and it falls back to its next-best options, which are these Yin stages. These Yin stages give your body less room for manoeuvre. They tie you down, so you have less energy and, in particular, less Yang. So you are more – chronically – tired. To find out more about how you might have suppressed your body’s natural reactions, read about it under Suppression.
  • Any challenge that severely drains your Spleen and/or Stomach Qi makes you susceptible to Cold and Damp, which commonly form part of this Greater Yin Stage syndrome. Such might be an extended period of worry, or the wrong foods or eating habits, or foods or conditions that cause the invasion of Damp, or food poisoning, for example. All these drain the Spleen. Food poisoning often gives your diarrhoea, which is like a purge. Purging is used in Chinese medicine to clear Heat. So food poisoning, if it comes with diarrhoea, has the side-effect of draining Heat and therefore cooling you. Hence it introduces Cold, in effect by draining warmth – Yang – from your body, so causing a Yang deficiency(If you aren’t used to all this Yin-Yangery, I apologise! Try reading Yin and Yang to start getting your head round it all!)


Treatment for Greater Yin stage

Your Yang energy is depleted, hence the cold, heaviness and slowness. At the same time, you cannot digest properly, because of Spleen and Stomach deficiency. Also, there may be signs of Damp.

Treatment aims to clear Damp, then warm, and stimulate Spleen and Stomach Qi.


Leg Stomach Channel
Copyright Acupuncture Points


Acupuncture points might include Sp9 and St40 (both dispersed), St25, 36, CV12, Bl20 and Sp5 or 8 or 6 and possibly 17 tonified or equal, and the use of moxa. However, I strongly advise you to get someone professional to do it because they will adapt the treatment to your needs.

Besides, if you are ill, you don’t necessarily think straight! At least, that’s my experience. Maybe it’s different in your country?

Typical herbal recipes start with Li Zhong Tang. (This contains ginger to warm, ginseng to energise, atractylodis for digestion and licorice to integrate. Note: ginseng on its own won’t do the job.)


How Serious is this stage?

I see lots of people who survive indefinitely at this Spleen deficiency stage, with Cold and Damp. They don’t have great energy, they lack enthusiasm and bounce: they just get used to living at this level of low-energy.

Almost certainly they don’t eat well, they don’t have the energy to exercise much, and they gradually habituate themselves to low expectations in life.

They are susceptible to rapidly worsening conditions if their body gets severely challenged. Modern medicine is good at keeping us alive, but usually does so with medication. You may know people, often older people, like this.

This being the Greater Yin stage (Tai Yin stage) (Lungs and Spleen) they often have respiratory and digestive problems. So they tell me that they habitually take medicines for asthma and their digestion, and not to worry about them because those symptoms are ‘under control’.

They want me to fix their energy!

Instead, they want me to ‘fix’ their energy levels, or their depression, or their sinus problems (some examples).

They don’t see their problem as being anything to do with the underlying Spleen and/or Lung deficiency, let alone to do with that chill they had a few years ago!

Besides, over-the-counter medicines successfully vanquished the cold that they thought they were getting, so what’s that got to do with it?

Eventually, they need stuff for asthma, but doesn’t everyone?


Pills stop symptoms of Greater Yin stage: may also block improvement.
Photo by pina messina on Unsplash


Suppose their condition came about because their body couldn’t resist the invasive march inwards of a virus, say even ‘just’ a cold-virus?

From the fact that whereas before at the Yang levels they had good signs of fever and heat but now they have just coldness and tiredness, you can see that at this Greater Yin stage their body is being easily pushed backwards, like a small child threatened by a big bully.

In some cases, if they get the wrong or no treatment, their condition can worsen and recede to the next stage, the Terminal yin Jue Yin stage, increasingly inauspicious for vibrant, healthy life.


What are The Six Stages as Cold penetrates?


Note that this is not the order mostly used since antiquity, but makes more sense to me. For nerds, I’m with Giovanni Maciocia on this one.

The other big theory about how our bodies defend us against disease is the Four Levels theory which describes what happens when a ‘warm’ or ‘hot’ disease attacks us.

Jonathan Brand colours

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