causes of disease from a TCM perspective

Causes of disease

TCM Acupuncture Needles

Disruption of the physiologic or physio-environmental balance is the starting point of all disease in the body.  Imbalance is attributable to internal, external and neutral causes known collectively as the “three causes”.

External causes originate outside the body and include the 6 excesses (climates) and pestilential qi.   In Traditional Chinese Medicine we understand that everything in the universe is interconnected and it is the Six External Energies that can cause disharmony in the body.  These Six External Energies are Wind, Cold, Damp, Heat,  Summer Heat and Dryness.  Wind, Heat, Summer Heat and Dryness are Yang pathogenic factors, while Cold and Damp are Yin pathogenic factors.  The External causes involve a struggle between harmonious qi and disharmonious qi.

Internal causes originate in the inner body and create dis-ease, damage, disharmony, illness by one of the 7 affects (your emotions).   In Traditional Chinese Medicine the Seven Emotions that are internal causes of disharmony are known as Anger, Joy, Pensiveness, Worry, Sadness, Fear and Shock. 

Causes of disease

The Seven Emotions relate to the 5 Elements (Wood , Fire, Earth, Metal and Water) and the organs of the body.

  • Anger – makes qi rise and affects the liver
  • Joy – slows qi down and affects the heart
  • Pensiveness – knots qi and affects the spleen creating a feeling of “stuckness”
  • Worry – knots qi and affects the spleen and lungs
  • Sadness – dissolves qi and affects the kidneys
  • Fear – makes qi descend and affects the kidneys
  • Shock – scatters qi and affects the kidneys and the heart, creating “chaotic” qi

Neutral causes are those that result from a lack of restraint in daily life and include dietary irregularities, taxing fatigue (mental or physical overexertion), sexual intemperance, external injuries and parasites.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, constitutional factors, ie genetic makeup (both physical and energetic) are also considered as Neutral causes.

Causes of disease

Static blood (bruises) and phlegm are Secondary causes originating from one of the former causes.

When a disorder exists, a Pattern of Disharmony has occurred in the body.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine there are a number of Patterns of Disharmony which, as practitioners, we recognise and treat accordingly.  These Patterns of Disharmony are named according to the organs, meridians, substances affected or which pathogenic factor may be involved.  An example of a Pattern of Disharmony is Liver Yang Rising which indicates a Yin-Yang imbalance in the liver – the Yin being deficient to balance the Liver Yang.  Wind-Cold Attack is another Pattern of Disharmony where the external pathogenic factors of Wind and Cold have attacked the body and created disharmonious qi, manifesting in a sore throat and/or head cold symptoms.


For more information, please be in touch with Dr Mark McAuliffe (Acupuncturist) at Morningside Acupuncture & Natural Therapies Healing Sanctuary

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