Yin Yang Acupuncture Theory and Clinical Applications

Yin and Yang are the two interrelated forces which together with the concept of Qi form the foundation of eastern medicine. Yin and Yang are mutually exclusive and together form a whole which in balance constitutes a state of harmony and health and when out of balance indicates illness. From a medical perspective, the relationship between Yin and Yang form the general basis for all diagnoses and treatment protocols. A clinical example would be a person who has Liver Fire signs such as headaches, flushed face and anger. In this case the Yin Yang relationship may be 70% Yang and 30% Yin, leading to excessive Yang symptomology. The information below discusses the Yin Yang theory and clinical applications in detail.

Basics of Yin Yang Theory

Yin and Yang:

  • Are opposite qualities
  • Never exist in isolation: Everything contains both Yin and Yang aspects, even extreme Yang contains the seed of Yin and vice versa
  • Never exist in a static 50-50 balance: While a theoretical ideal, in reality Yin and Yang are always in a dynamic relationship
  • Are always spoken of in relative terms: Antartica's climate is more Yin than Alaska's and Mexico's climate is more Yang than Ireland's
  • Are interdependent: One cannot exist without the other, they can be distinguished but not separated
  • Are mutually consumptive: Extreme Yin (cold/wet) extinguishes Yang (fire), extreme Yang (fire) burns up Yin (water)
  • Are mutually transformative: Extreme Yin ultimately transforms into Yang and vice versa

Yin Yang Relationships

Yin and Yang Pathological Relationships

Yin
Yang
chronic conditions acute conditions
fatigue/tiredness insomnia
dampness dryness
cold/cool hot/warm
lethargic restless
underactive overactive
weak musculature tight musculature
lack of thirst thirst
pale red
soft hard
curled up stretch out
pale tongue red tongue
empty pulse full pulse

Yin and Yang Constitutional Relationships

Yin
Yang
introvert extrovert
calm quiet environments stimulating energizing environments
prefers rest and balance prefers socializing
lower blood pressure higher blood pressure

Yin and Yang Body Relationships

Yin
Yang
body head
organs surface
yin organs yang organs
blood and fluids qi
lower body upper body
inside of limbs outside of limbs
anterior posterior

Yin and Yang Organ Relationships

Yin
Yang
solid hollow
store pure essences, vital substances (qi, blood, shen, jing) no storage - transform, digest and excrete impurities
yin organs yang organs

Pathology and Clinical Applications of Yin Yang Theory

From a clinical perspective the theory of Yin and Yang is used to help determine the overriding factors involved in a particular condition. A condition is most likely to involve the Yin energies of the body if the problems are present or aggravated during the evening. Conditions such as insomnia and night sweats, for example, are often Yin related conditions. If the symptoms occur during the day, the condition is more likely to be related to the Yang energies of the body. Symptoms of Yang deficiency include fatique, weakness and lethargy.

In accordance with the general principles of Yin Yang theory, there are four general patterns of disharmony.

Pattern
Symptoms
Excess Yin/Full Cold

60% Yin - 50% Yang, Full Excess Yin
Cold limbs, weakness, contracture, pain improved with heat, pale tongue, slow pulse
Excess Yang/Full Heat

60% Yang - 50% Yin, Full Excess Yang
Restlessness, headache, irritability, pain worse with pressure, red tongue, full pulse
Yin Deficiency/Empty Heat

50% Yang - 30% Yin, False Excess Yang
Signs of heat but arising from a deficiency of Yin, night sweats, heat in the 5 palms, insomnia, red tongue, thin and rapid pulse
Yang Deficiency/Empty Cold

50% Yin - 30% Yang, False Excess Yin
Signs of excess cold but arising from a deficiency of Yang, fatigue, weakness, pain which improves with heat and pressure, pale tongue, slow and weak pulse

Sources and More Information

The information on our site is drawn from our own lecture notes and clinical experience.

For a complete list of valuable resources, see our (TCM) Chinese Acupuncture Resources section. The most recommended texts are below: