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The Theory of Yin and Yang (II)
Addtime:2016-11-11 13:27:13 Hit:476

The theory of yin and yang permeates through all aspects of the theoretical system of TCM. It serves to explain the organic structure, physiological function and pathological changes of the human body, and in addition, guides clinical diagnosis and treatment.


Physiologically the theory of yin and yang holds that the normal life activities of the human body result from the coordination between yin and yang in a unity of opposites. Take the relationship between the function and substance for example, the function pertains to yang while substance to yin. Thus physiological activities of the body depend on substance. Without substance, there would be no sustentation for the functional activities. And the functional activities are the motive power for the production of the substance in the body. In other words, without functional activities, the metabolism of the substance will be impossible to be carried out; without necessary substance, the functional activities will have no way to be performed.


Pathologically TCM considers that the imbalance between yin and yang is one of the basic pathogenesis of disease. The occurrence and development of a disease are related to the conditions of both the healthy qi and pathogenic factors. The healthy qi refers to the structure and functions of the whole organism including body resistance against diseases; while pathogenic factors generally refer to various agents that lead to disease. The nature of both the healthy qi and pathogenic factors can be classified according to the nature of yin and yang. The interaction and struggle between them can be explained in the light of the relations between yin and yang, such as waning and waxing of yin and yang. So the course of a disease is actually the process of the struggle between the healthy qi and pathogenic factors that consequently leads to relative predominance and decline of yin and yang in the organism. Therefore no matter how complicated the pathological changes may be, they can be generalized as relative predominance or relative decline of yin and yang.


In the treatment of disease with TCM, the doctor first determines the therapeutic principle and then decides the nature of the medicinal herbs to be prescribed. Heat syndrome caused by preponderance of yang, for example, belong no excess heat syndrome. It should be treated with herbs cold in nature in order to inhibit predominant yang so as to cool the heat. Take cold syndrome caused by preponderance of yin for another example. This syndrome pertains to cold excess syndrome and should be treated with herbs heat in nature so as to restrain predominant yin. Since both syndromes in these two examples are excess ones, the therapeutic principle guiding the treatment is known as “treating excess syndromes with reduction.”


In TCM, the theory of yin and yang is used not only for determining diagnostic and therapeutic principles, but also for generalizing the property, flavor and action of medicinal herbs so as to provide a theoretical basis for the clinical application of the herbs. In terms of the properties of medicinal herbs, those with cold nature belong to yin and those with warm and hot nature pertain to yang. As to the flavor of the herbs, those that are sour, bitter and salty in taste belong to yin and those that are acrid, sweet and bland in taste pertain to yang. Concerning the action of the herbs, those with astringent, descending and sinking actions belong to yin, while these with dispersing, ascending and floating actions pertain to yang.


On the whole, the treatment of disease in TCM is in fact the determination of the therapeutic principle in the light of the relative predominance or relative decline of yin and yang in the syndrome in question. Based on this determination, selection is made of the right herbs according to their yin or yang properties to rectify the imbalance between yin and yang and cure disease.


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