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TCM: Treatment based on syndrome differentiation
Addtime:2016-11-04 22:12:56 Hit:678

2. Treatment based on syndrome differentiation

Treatment based on syndrome differentiation, another important feature of the theoretical system of TCM, is a basic principle in TCM for understanding and treating disease. Syndrome is the generalization of the progress of a disease at a certain stage. Since it involves the location, cause and nature of the disease, and the relation between pathogenic factors and healthy qi, syndrome can comprehensively and accurately reveal the nature of the disease. Syndrome differentiation implies that the clinical data of a patient collected through the four examinations are analyzed and generalized so as to identify the pathological mechanism of the disease. Treatment means to select the corresponding theory according to the result of syndrome differentiation. Taken as a whole, treatment based on syndrome differentiation is a process to understand and resolve a disease.


TCM emphasizes the differentiation of syndrome, because only when the syndrome is accurately differentiated can a correct treatment be made. Take common cold for example, its symptoms of fever, aversion to cold and pain in the head and body indicate that the disease is in the exterior. However, it is usually differentiated into two syndromes: common cold due to wind-cold and common cold due to wind-heat. For the treatment of the former syndrome in common cold, herbs pungent in taste and warm in nature are used; while for the treatment of the latter syndrome, herbs pungent in taste and cool in nature are used. So accurate differentiation of syndrome differentiation is the prerequisite for determination of a proper treatment. The core of treatment based on syndrome differentiation is to understand the relation between the nature and manifestation of a disease.


Since syndrome is the summarization of pathological changes of a disease at a certain stage of its course, there come the two important ideas. One is called “treating the same disease with different therapies”, which means that one disease may be treated by different therapies. Take measles for example, the treatment for it varies from stage to stage. The treatment focuses on promoting eruption at the early stage because it is not fully erupted, clearing away heat from the lung at the middle stage because lung heat is exuberant, and nourishing yin to clear away heat at the advanced stage because the heat still lingers and the lung and stomach yin is consumed. The other is known as “treating different diseases with the same therapy”, which means that different diseases may present the same syndrome because they are of the same pathological mechanism, and thus may be treated with the same therapy. For example, proctoptosis due to prolonged dysentery and hysteroptosis are two different diseases. But if they manifest the same syndrome of middle qi collapse, both of them can be treated by lifting middle qi.

It thus can be seen that the treatment of disease in TCM does not simply concentrate on the difference or similarity of diseases, but on the difference or similarity of pathogenesis. This indicates that diseases with the same pathogenesis can be treated with the same therapeutic methods, while diseases with different pathogenesis have to be treated with different therapeutic methods. Such a therapeutic principle is the gist of treatment based on syndrome differentiation.



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