Chinese Medical Theory, Terms, and Strategies Explained


Common Terms Used in Chinese Medicine

Acupressure Explained Here!

Deficiency: typically refers to deficient amounts of Qi, Blood, and Essence in the body.

Excess: typically when heat builds up in the body, often resulting from stagnation; the most common excess due to stagnation is Liver Qi Stagnation leading to Liver Heat.


What is Qi or Chi?

Qi or Chi (pronounced "chee") is the vital energy providing us with animation, warmth, and the ability to manifest mentally. In acupuncture, the Qi is manipulated through acupuncture points. Qi must be in constant movement, and must move in the correct direction for good health. Where Qi goes, Blood follows, so manipulating Qi increases Blood circulation.

Stagnation of Qi and Blood

Stagnation is a term used in Chinese medicine when Blood and Qi are not moving freely through the channels creating blocks of energy that lead to pain and disease. The body seems motionless when we are at rest, however, internally there is a constant fluid motion in the body; the interstitial fluid is constantly ebbing and flowing throughout the tissue in a wave-like motion, tissue is constantly breaking down and rebuilding, and blood is flowing relentlessly through the vessels. All of this takes place without pause along with hundreds of other actions until we cease to exist on this Earth.

Qi Deficiency can be indicated by coldness, muscles weakness, or an overall lethargic feeling. Because Qi is supplied largely by air, food, and tonic herbs, it is typically quick to replenish. However, when the organ systems that refine Qi in the body from these sources are damaged or deficient, it takes longer to correct the situation.

Blood Deficiency manifests as dry skin, hair loss, or reduced flexibility in the joints. Blood depends on nutrients, and thus herbs, foods, and other supplements are required to replace blood. As discussed in the Substances, Blood Deficiency becomes more common as we age.

As mentioned above, Blood and Qi must move unimpeded through the Channels and vessels to maintain a healthy, pain-free body. It is only when there is stagnation of the Blood and Qi that we experience pain. This stagnation can be caused by trauma obviously, but is often caused by a deficiency of Blood and Qi, toxins, or emotional blocks. In the case of deficiency, you need only visualize a rocky creek that has almost run dry; it is difficult to move a stream that does not have sufficient water. Likewise, you cannot move Blood and Qi if you are deficient of Blood and Qi.

The Liver controls the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body which is crucial to the health of all of the organ systems in the body. Because the Liver has such a great impact on all bodily functions, it is often associated with many different disease patterns and can even be the root cause of many diseases. There are several causes of Liver Qi Stagnation including Liver Blood Deficiency and emotional stress.
Spleen Qi Deficiency is a common imbalance that is closely related to Qi Deficiency as described above, but may also include indications of Internal Dampness, prolapses, or digestive disorders. Rather than a large lymph gland as seen in western medicine, the Spleen energetic organ system of Chinese medicine describes a complex functional system that controls the "transportation and transformation of foods and fluids".


Zhang, H. Y., Wang, H. L., Zhong, G. Y., & Zhu, J. X. (2018). Molecular mechanism and research progress on pharmacology of traditional Chinese medicine in liver injuryPharmaceutical biology56(1), 594–611.

Zheng, X., Wu, F., Lin, X., Shen, L., & Feng, Y. (2018). Developments in drug delivery of bioactive alkaloids derived from traditional Chinese medicine. Drug delivery25(1), 398–416.

Tsai, M. Y., Chen, S. Y., & Lin, C. C. (2017). Theoretical basis, application, reliability, and sample size estimates of a Meridian Energy Analysis Device for Traditional Chinese Medicine Research. Clinics (Sao Paulo, Brazil)72(4), 254–257.

Wang, Y., Wang, Q., Li, C., Lu, L., Zhang, Q., Zhu, R., & Wang, W. (2017). A Review of Chinese Herbal Medicine for the Treatment of Chronic Heart FailureCurrent pharmaceutical design23(34), 5115–5124.

Sun, L., Mao, J. J., Vertosick, E., Seluzicki, C., & Yang, Y. (2018). Evaluating Cancer Patients' Expectations and Barriers Toward Traditional Chinese Medicine Utilization in China: A Patient-Support Group-Based Cross-Sectional Survey. Integrative cancer therapies17(3), 885–893.

Xu, Q., Bauer, R., Hendry, B. M., Fan, T. P., Zhao, Z., Duez, P., Simmonds, M. S., Witt, C. M., Lu, A., Robinson, N., Guo, D. A., & Hylands, P. J. (2013). The quest for modernisation of traditional Chinese medicineBMC complementary and alternative medicine13, 132.