'Syndrome' in Chinese Medicine

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A 'syndrome' is what acupuncturists trained in classical Chinese medicine treat. They are different from Western-defined diseases or illnesses.

Acupuncturists and other practitioners of Chinese medicine are often asked to treat Western-defined illnesses.

By diagnosing an illness the Chinese way, they force themselves to consider the condition from this very different perspective.

Which is, after all, often why they are being consulted.


Before explaining the word, here are a few examples in Chinese medicine.

As you read the explanations you'll recognise Western-style symptoms: perhaps you will also notice a different approach to disease.

Combined Syndromes

It is common to find someone has several at once: a few are listed above. For example, someone might have Heart Blood deficiency with Spleen deficiency.

In that case, choosing which was the primary cause would be important: it would probably be the Spleen deficiency. As the condition proceeded, other of these 'building blocks' might appear.

For example, Spleen deficiency, which has symptoms such as tiredness, poor digestion, loose stools and a tendency to worry, eventually leads to a condition not unlike anaemia, although the Chinese explanation for Blood deficiency goes rather further than does the Western medicine definition of anaemia.

Depending on the individual's circumstances, for example his

  • inherited constitution,
  • education
  • age,
  • means and
  • habitation

this might or might not lead eventually to Heart Blood deficiency, or perhaps some other kind of Blood deficiency, such as Liver Blood deficiency.

Liver Blood deficiency might then produce Liver Blood stagnation, which could lead to Liver Qi Stagnation.

So, when someone consults a practitioner of Chinese medicine and explains all the problems he's having, the practitioner is quietly working out what are the Chinese medicine syndromes involved.

Definition in TCM?

It's a collection of signs or symptoms of energetic imbalance in a patient's condition. Each syndrome will have been gradually identified over the millennia, as being associated with the malfunction of one or more zang-fu.

Of course, acupuncturists trained the traditional Chinese way will also consider your health from the point of view of changes or problems in the flow of Qi along your acupuncture channels (also called acupuncture 'meridians'). These produce another kind of syndrome.

What can be done with these building blocks?

Knowing the theory of Chinese medicine, how the zang-fu should work in health, and knowing how acupuncture points work, how herbs work, how the other forms of therapy work in Chinese medicine, you learn how to treat syndromes when things are failing.

For example, you learn which acupuncture points help Liver Qi stagnation, which has signs like stress (see the book mentioned below).

Many acupuncturists don't use them!

This is often because they have not been trained how to use them. This may be because their training gave no credit to over 3000 years of experience and the assembled wisdom of Chinese medicine.

Indeed, many people who use acupuncture needles use them only as an adjunct to other methods of pain-control.

This can mean that their treatment fails to address an underlying reason for the patient's condition which is then more likely to recur.

More things under Heaven and Earth ...

Whilst this site is mainly about Chinese medicine and its application using acupuncture, one should remember that there are also other fine and important health traditions based on the body's energy. 

For example, Japan, Korea and Vietnam each developed its own way of using acupuncture for health. Then followed other traditions such as Shiatsu and, nowadays in the West, Reiki and other therapies.

Some traditions, such as the 5 Element system, don't use the word 'syndrome' but they still use the basic idea behind the word when deciding how to treat a patient.

For more on this subject, click on syndromes.

Return from Syndrome to our Home page.

Find an Acupuncturist!

Making Appointments with Jonathan

If you have already made a first appointment on-line, you should be registered by the system and be able to book or change subsequent appointments by going to www.brief.me.uk

If someone you know would like to speak to me before arranging a first consultation, ask them to ring me on +44(0)7950 012501. I would be very happy to talk to them!

If, however, they want a proper telephone/Skype consultation, they should arrange this through the facility at www.brief.me.uk

Otherwise, they can book themselves in directly, say for a first time consultation, lasting up to 2 hours if necessary, at www.brief.me.uk

Jonathan Clogstoun-Willmott Books

All the books in the 'Chinese Medicine in English' series should be fully accessible on Kindles and Kindle apps. (Or you can buy the softback print editions, of course.)

('Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine' published 1986, was never available in a Kindle version.)

Request! Please!

If, having read one of my books you can write a review - preferably positive - that would help others decide whether to read it.

You can put your review on Amazon or, on this site, here.

And if you think it was terrible?

Well, let me know so I can improve it for the next person. (Ideally let me know before cursing it in public!)

Here are some of the books I (Jonathan) have written.

Subscribers to Kindle Unlimited can borrow the first four for 'free'.

Qi Stagnation - Signs of Stress

Yin Deficiency - Burnout and Exhaustion

Yang Deficiency - Get Your Fire Burning Again!

Yuck! Phlegm! How to Clear Your Phlegm ...

Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine

Published 1986 and, amazingly, still selling. Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine was apparently used back then by at least one acupuncture college to help students understand Chinese medicine! See Reviews.

Seven Reviews so far for Yuck Phlegm. (Despite the lurid cover, it explains the five main types of phlegm and what works best for each type. I hope it's easy to read and will be much more useful than all the websites on the subject.)

3000 years of Chinese being stressed, and at last, here's a book showing how all that experience can help you!

By the author of this website, it explains in simple English how to use stress to improve and enhance your life.

For the Latest Reviews of 'Qi Stagnation', click here!

NB You can also order 'Qi Stagnation - Signs of Stress' from your bookseller.

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