General Symptoms and Their Meaning in TCM

General Symptoms and Their Meaning in TCM

Colors of the Face Meaning
Red (Excess or Xu Heat)
Whole Face Heat from External Evil or Hyperactivity of Zang Fu (Excess)
Cheeks, Tidal Fever, Night Sweats Internal Heat (Xu)
Pale (Cold or Loss of Blood)
Pale White Yin Excess or Yang Xu
Bright White with Puffy and Bloated Appearance Yang Qi Xu
Withered White Blood Xu
Yellow (Damp or Xu)
Body, Face, Eyes, and Skin Jaundice
Bright Orange Yang Jaundice (Damp Heat)
Smoky Dark Yin Jaundice (Cold Damp or Long Term Stagnation)
Pale Yellow (Not Bright) Blood and Qi Xu
Blue (Cold, Pain, Blood Stagnation, Convulsions)
Pale with Blue Tinge and Severe Pain in the Epigastrium and Abdomen Excess Yin and Cold
Bluish Purple Face and Lips with Intermittent Pain Behind the Sternum or Precordial Region Stagnation of Heart Blood
Bluish Purple Face and Lips with High Fever and Violent Movement of Limbs in Children Infantile Convulsion
Dark Gray (Blood Stagnation and Kidney Xu)
Pale and Dark with Lumbar Soreness and Cold Feet Kidney Yang Xu
Dark without Brightness with Scaly Skin Prolonged Blood Stagnation
Appearance Meaning
Overweight with Mental Depression Qi Xu and Excess Damp Phlegm
Loss of Weight in Long Term Illness Exhaustion of Essential Qi
Thin with Dry Skin Blood Xu
Extended Neck Excess Lung Syndrome with Excess Phlegm
Facing Downward Qi Xu with Shortness of Breath, Dislike of Speaking
Violent Movement of Limbs Wind Diseases, Infantile Convulsions
Weakness, Motor Impairment, and Muscular Atrophy of Limbs Wei Syndromes
Pain, Soreness, Heaviness and Numbness in Tendons, Bones and Muscles, with Swelling and Restricted Movement of Joints Bi Syndromes
Numbness or Impaired Movement of Limbs on One Side of the Body Hemiplegia or Wind Stroke
Eyes Meaning
Redness and Swelling Wind Heat or Liver Fire
Yellow Sclera Jaundice
Ulceration or Canthus Damp Heat
Upward, Straight Forward, or Sideways Staring Liver Wind
Nose Meaning
Flapping of Ala Nasi Heat in the Lungs or Qi Xu of both Lung and Kidney
Clear Discharge Wind Cold
Turbid Discharge Wind Heat
Prolonged Turbid Discharge, with Stinking Discharge Rhinitis or Chronic Sinusitis
Ears Meaning
Burnt Black and Dry and Withered Auricles in Severe Illness Consumption of Kidney essence
Purulent Discharge Damp Heat of Liver and Gall Bladder
Gums Meaning
Pale Gums Blood Xu
Redness and Swelling Stomach Fire
Redness and Swelling with Bleeding Injury of Vessels by Stomach Fire
Lips and Mouth Meaning
Pale Lips Blood Xu
Bluish Purple Lips Retention of Cold or Blood Stagnation
Red and Dry Lips Excess Heat
Sudden Collapse with Open Mouth Xu
Sudden Collapse with Lockjaw Excess
Throat Meaning
Redness, Swelling, and Soreness Lung and Stomach Heat
Redness and Swelling with Yellow or White Ulcer Spots Toxic Heat in Lung and Stomach
Bright Red with Mild Soreness Yin Xu with Hyperactive Fire
False Gray and White Membrane over Throat that is Hard to Remove, and Bleeds Following Removal Diphtheria from Heat in the Lung Consuming Yin.
Chills and Fever Meaning
Chills Accompanied by Fever (External Pathogen Fighting with Antipathogenic Qi (Zheng Qi))
Severe Chills, Mild Fever, Absence of Sweating, Headache, General Aching, and a Superficial Tight Pulse Wind Cold
Mild Chills, Severe Fever, Thirst, Sweating, and a Superficial Rapid Pulse Wind Heat
Alternating Chills and Fever
Alternating Chills and Fever with a Bitter Taste in the Mouth, Thirst, Fullness and Stuffiness in the Chest and Hypochondrium Intermediate Syndrome
Alternating Chills Occurring at Specific Times of the Day Malaria
Fever without Chills
High Fever with Aversion to Heat, Profuse Sweating, Severe Thirst, and a Surging Pulse Excess Heat in the Interior
Fever at a Fixed Hour of the Day Tidal Fever
Tidal Fever in the Afternoon or Evening, with Night Sweating, and a Red Tongue with Little Moisture Yin Xu
Fever more Pronounced in the Afternoon with Constipation, and Fullness and Pain in the Abdomen Yangming Fu Syndrome
Chills without Fever
Chilled Appearance, Cold Limbs, and a Deep, Slow, and Weak Pulse Interior Cold Xu
Perspiration Meaning
Absence of Sweating in Exterior Syndromes Invasion by Pathogenic Cold
Presence of Sweating in Exterior Syndromes Exterior Xu from Exposure to Wind, or Exterior Heat from Invasion of Pathogenic Wind Heat
Night Sweating (May also have Tidal Fever, and a Red Tongue with Little Coat Yin Xu with Hyperactivity of Yang Heat
Spontaneous Sweating (May also have Chills, Listlessness, and Lassitude) Qi and Yang Xu
Profuse Sweating with High Fever, Mental Restlessness, Thirst for Cold Drinks, and a Surging Pulse Excess Interior Heat
Profuse Sweating with Listlessness, Feeble Energy, Cold Limbs, and a Deep Thready Pulse in a Severe Case Total Exhaustion of Yang Qi
Appetite, Eating, and Taste Meaning
Poor Appetite in a Prolonged Illness with Emaciation, Loose Stools, Lassitude, and a Pale Tongue with Thin White Coat Spleen and Stomach Weakness
Poor Appetite with Stuffiness in the Chest, Fullness in the Abdomen, and a Thick Sticky Tongue Coat Stagnation of Qi of the Spleen and Stomach Caused by Retention of Food or Dampness
Excessive Appetite and Easily Hungry in a Skinny Patient

Excess Stomach Fire

Hunger with no Desire to Eat, or Eating Small Amounts of Food Impairment of Stomach Yin, Producing Internal Xu Heat
Lack of Thirst During an Illness Body Fluids are not Consumed (Usually present in a Cold Syndrome, or where Heat is not Noticeable)
Presence of Thirst During an Illness Consumption of Body Fluid or Retention of Phlegm Damp in the Interior Preventing Fluid from Ascending
Bitter Taste in the Mouth Liver and Gallbladder Fire
Sweet Taste in the Mouth Damp Heat in the Spleen and Stomach
Sour Regurgitation Retention of Heat in the Liver and Stomach
Tastelessness Spleen Xu
Defecation and Urination Meaning
Constipation from Dryness of the Stool Accumulation of Heat or Consumption of Body Fluids
Loose Stools Spleen Xu, or Damp Retention in the Spleen
Watery Stool with Undigested Food Spleen and Kidney Yang Xu
Bloody Stool with Mucus and Tenesmus Damp Heat in the Intestines and Stagnation of Qi in the Intestinal Tract
Yellow Urine Heat Syndrome
Clear and Profuse Urine Absence of Pathogenic Heat, or Cold Syndrome
Turbid Urine Damp Heat Pouring Downward, or Downward Leakage of Turbid Essence.
Red Urine Injury of Vessels by Heat
Clear Urine with Increased Volume Infirmity of Kidney Qi, and Bladder Dysfunction in Controlling Urine
Scanty, Yellow Urine, with Urgent and Painful Urination Downward Movement of Damp Heat in to the Bladder
Dribbling Urination or Retention of Urine in Severe Cases Exhausted Kidney Qi (Xu) or Stagnant Bladder Qi (Excess) due to the Downward Infusion of Damp Heat, Stagnant Blood, or Stones.
Pain Meaning
Severe Distention and Mild Pain Moving from Place to Place, Often Occurring in the Chest, Epigastric, Hypochondriac, and Abdomen Qi Stagnation
Headache with Distending Sensation in the Head Upward Disturbance by Fire and Heat
Prickling Pain, Sharp and Fixed in Location, Often Occurring in the Chest, Epigastric, Hypochondriac, and Lower Abdominal Regions. Blood Stagnation
Pain with and Heavy Sensation (Weighty Pain), Often Occurring in the Head, Four Limbs and Lumbar Regions Dampness Blocking Qi and Blood
Colicky Pain Abrupt Obstruction of the Qi by Substantial Pathogenic Factors
Pulling Pain which is Spasmodic in Nature and Short in Duration Liver Wind
Burning Pain with a Burning Sensation and a Preference for Coolness, Often Occurring in the Hypochondriac regions on Both Sides, and in the Epigastric Region Invasion of the Collaterals by Pathogenic Fire and Heat or from Excessive Yang Heat due to Yin Xu
Pain with a Cold Sensation and a Preference for Warmth, Often Occurring in the Head, Lumbar, Epigastric, and Abdominal Regions. Pathogenic Cold Blocking the Collaterals or Lack of Warmth and Nourishment in the Zang Fu and Meridians due to Yang Qi Xu
Dull Pain that is not severe, lingers, and lasts for a long time Xu Cold Syndrome
Headaches 1. Disturbance of the Clear Yang by Pathogenic Factors (Usually Excess) 2. Stagnation of Qi and Blood in Endogenous Diseases Blocking the Meridians and Depriving the Brain of Nourishment 3. Blood and Qi Xu Failing to Nourish the Head, and the Sea of Marrow Becomes Empty.
Chest Pain Pathological Change in the Heart and Lungs
Hypochondriac Pain Obstruction or Undernourishment of the Liver and Gallbladder Meridians
Epigastric Pain (Upper, Middle. Lower) Invasion of the Stomach by Pathogenic Cold, Retention of Food in the Stomach, or Invasion of the Stomach by Liver Qi
Abdominal Pain

- Upper is SP
- Lower is KI, BL, LI, SI, Uterus
- Sides are LIV

Excess Causes: Retention of Cold, Accumulation of Heat, Stagnation of Qi, Stagnation of Blood, Retention of Food or Parasitic Diseases

Xu Causes: Qi Xu, Blood, Xu, Deficiency of Cold

Lumbago Obstruction of the Kidney Meridian or Deficiency of the Kidney Failing to Nourish the Lumbar Region
Pain in the Limbs (Joints, Muscles, or Meridians) Retardation of Qi and Blood Circulation due to Invasion of the Exogenous Pathogenic Factors
Persistent Pain in a Recent Disease or Pain that is Aggravated by Pressure Excess Condition
Intermittent Pain that is Alleviated by Pressure Xu Condition
Sleep Meaning
Insomnia with Palpitations and Dizziness Failure of Blood to Nourish the Heart due to Heart and Spleen Xu
Insomnia with a Restless Mind, and Dream Disturbed Sleep Hyperactive Heart Fire
Difficulty Falling Asleep due to an Uncomfortable and Empty Sensation in the Stomach or Gastric Discomfort After a Full Meal Derangement of Stomach Qi Leading to Mental Restlessness
Lethargy Accompanied by Dizziness Phlegm Damp in the Interior
Half Asleep with General Lassitude Heart and Kidney Yang Xu
Menses Meaning
Menses of Shortened Cycle, Excessive in Amount, Deep Red in Color, and Thick in Quality Excess Heat in the Blood
Menses that are Light Colored, Profuse in Amount, and Thin in Quality Failure of Qi to Command Blood
Prolonged Cycle with Scanty Purplish Dark Discharge or Clots Stagnation of Blood due to Cold
Thin, Scanty, Light Colored Flow Blood Xu
Irregular Menstrual Cycle Disharmony of the Flush and Conception Vessels due to Obstruction of Liver Qi
Premenstrual or Menstrual Distending Pain in the Breasts and Lower Abdomen which Intensifies on Pressure During Menses Stagnation of Blood due to Cold
Dull Pain in the Lower Abdomen During or After Menses which is Alleviated by Pressure Qi and Blood Xu

References Used

The TCM information presented here has been referenced from numerous sources; including teachers, practitioners, class notes from Five Branches University, the following books, as well as other sources. If you have benefited from this information, please consider supporting the authors and their works by purchasing the books below.

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