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Scientists develop modern Medical Terms to enhance precise Chinese Medicine

Science China Press


IMAGE: This is the interrelationships of the 24-STs, the human organs and the meridians. view more 

Credit: ©Science China Press

Besides agriculture, another important area for the applications of the Twenty-four Solar Terms (24-STs) lies in the traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In fact, along with the theories of the Vigourism, the Meridian Circuits, and the Yin-Yang, Five Primary Elements and Six Key Factors, the annual cycle of the 24-STs is considered as one of the principal foundations of the TCM. Figure 1 illustrates the interrelationships of the STs, human organs and meridians. Within the inner circle is the so-called map of Yin and Yang, referring to two kinds of opposing states or vital energies, a concept used to explain the theory of unity of opposites relationship between things. While Yin would be lunar, dark, passive, cold, downward, contracting, and weak, Yang would be solar, bright, active, hot, upward, expanding and strong. The changes between Yin and Yang cause everything to happen: Just as temperature changes from cold to hot, for example from Great Cold (GC) to Great Heat (GH) in terms of STs, forming a yearly variation of the seasonality.

A general philosophy of the TCM is the so-called "adaption of the human body to the universe", a crucial aspect of which is that the prevention and treatment of deceases should be performed in accordance with the evolution of natural environment including the 24-STs. In the clinical practice of the TCM, the occurrences of many deceases are found to be coincident with the timings of specific STs. The timing of performing the treatment during the year is therefore an important issue for maximizing its effectiveness.

In a companion work published in SCIENCE CHINA Earth Sciences by Chen and Shi (2017), based on over half a century of observational and reanalysis data, a modified calendric system, named the Twenty-four Medical Terms (24-MTs), has been established for mainland China following a systematic calibration and geographical adjustment of the classic 24-STs.

"A profound implication of the refined 24-MTs calendar is its potential contribution to reviving the traditional Chinese Medicine towards a precise modern medicine by emphasizing its core philosophy of viewing the human body itself and the nature as a whole", said the corresponding author of this article, Dr. Jie Shi, a senior pharmacologist at the Municipal Hospital of Qingdao.

An important aspect of precise Chinese Medicine is to find the best geographically dependent timing for performing a given treatment. As a common practice in TCM, curing a winter decease in summer requires a localized precise timing for the action.

"We have developed two maps of localized timings for the so-called Triple-Fu (TF) and Triple-Jiu (TJ) defined using a joint heat index of air temperature and relative humidity are created as an alternative to the two nationwide unified timings representing the warmest and coldest periods of the year", said Prof. Ge Chen, a senior scientist at Ocean University of China.

As a result, TCM treatment like the TF-stick may have a location-specific time window to follow so as to achieve its optimal effectiveness in the framework of human-nature integration. Such a geographical adjustment is likely to make significant practical sense given that a TF time shift of one week is common in different regions of mainland China.

The two scholars also point out that, another unique contribution of the present study is the proposed concept and timing of peak spring and peak autumn, so as to provide a helpful guidance for practicing season related and geographically dependent precise health care in the context of "born in spring, grow in summer, harvest in autumn, and preserve in winter", which is a key ideology in the traditional Chinese Medicine.


This research was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 61361136001).

See the articles:

(1) Shi J, Chen G. 2017. From solar terms to medical terms (Part II): Some implications for traditional Chinese Medicine. Science China Earth Sciences, 60, doi: 10.1007/s11430-016-9060-5

(2) Chen G, Shi J. 2017. From solar terms to medical terms (Part I): A first step with big data. Science China Earth Sciences, 60, doi: 10.1007/s11430-016-9059-0

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