TCM Diagnosis

TCM Diagnosis – Diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine

TCM has been used for centuries, well before the advent of blood and urine laboratory measurements, imaging tests, and other diagnostics. Properly trained TCM practitioners use subtle indicators to come up with a proper TCM diagnosis. The diagnosis is especially important when making herbal preparations or giving life-style advice. It does to some extent influence the choice of acupuncture points as well.

Diagnosis is a complicated process that is learned in the first full-time year of school. It depends on a proper medical history, as well as skills TCM practitioners learn. From the tongue and quality of different pulse positions on the wrists, the diagnosis can be further refined. Some practitioners like myself also use abdominal palpation to diagnose.

At markets and fairs, I often offer tongue and pulse diagnosis. Of course this is not the same as a full workup, which take into account many other factors. Also, sometimes the pulse and tongue contradict each other. People are rarely textbook examples.

To simplify things for the lay person, I use only six categories, three deficiency categories and three excess categories. Deficiency simply means you have too little of something, and excess means you have too much of something. You can think of it as something like weather. For example, some people seem foggy, and often, their pulse and tongue diagnosis also corresponds with that, suggesting they have damp.

And this man…would you say he looks hot?

Like he’s about to explode…


I’m sorry to say this man is a serious contender in the U.S. presidential race.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we do say someone like that has Full Heat.

The next posts will present all six simplified categories, along with some simple lifestyle advice for each. You will note the word Qi. In this context, it can be simply translated as energy.

Deficiency Syndromes

Spleen Qi Deficiency

Qi and/or Blood Deficiency

Yin Deficiency (Empty Heat)

Excess Syndromes

Liver Qi Stagnation


Full Heat



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