Thyroid UK
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Research progress in biological basis of cold and heat essence of Chinese medicine

Research progress in biological basis of cold and heat essence of Chinese medicine

Not for one moment has my brain ever got to grips with any aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Too much apparent mumbo jumbo, too much poor translation into English, too much opportunity for charlatans and sharks. And not enough grey matter in my skull. At the same time, it has been quite obvious that, at least as practised within China, TCM has the ability to successfully treat many patients.

Mind, it hasn't only been me finding it difficult. There seems to be quite problem for medics trying to take the best from both systems. Somewhere around there seems to be the basis for this paper. Obviously, what grabbed my attention was the mention of "thyroid function", then "energy metabolism" followed shortly after by "gene and protein expression". Hmm. To what extent does TCM actually agree with those of us who see thyroid issues behind so very many other disorders/diseases?

Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao. 2012 Dec;10(12):1328-35. doi: 10.3736/jcim20121202.

Research progress in biological basis of cold and heat essence of Chinese medicine.

[Article in Chinese]

Yin YT, Li XW, Dong Y, Shi JR.

Teaching and Experiment Center, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine,

Shanghai 201203, China.


Cold-heat problem is one core of traditional Chinese medicine theory. This paper summarizes the experimental research related to the biological basis of cold-heat essence in cold-heat syndrome, cold-heat body constitution and cold-heat property of Chinese herbs. In view of the classical physiological and biochemical indices, gene expression, protein expression and metabolic differences, differences in cold-heat syndrome or cold-heat constitution are mainly based on neurotransmitter, thyroid function, sex hormone, cyclic nucleotide system, and energy metabolism relating to the corresponding gene and protein expression. Furthermore, this paper analyses the change of correlation indices that accompany with a dynamic development process of "constitution-syndrome-herbal intervention", implying that the research of biological basis of cold-heat essence has turned from single index to multiple indices, and from dispersion research to system research.

PMID: 23257124 [PubMed - in process]

17. Zhonghua Lao Dong Wei Sheng Zhi Ye Bing Za Zhi. 2012 Sep;30(9):717-20.


21 Replies

The proliferation of "Chinese" medicine shops that have sprung up in shopping centres even in my remote neck of the woods in Devon in recent years is quite alarming, and I'm as suspicious of them as I am of tanks of fish giving a pedicure!

However, properly trained practitioners in TCM may indeed be a different matter. A good friend of ours is trained in TCM and a few years ago tried to treat my daughter. He was severely restricted though by which products he was allowed to use, and what can be imported into the UK for use in his profession. I'm not talking about rhino tusks or anything exotic like that. He simply did not have some of the basic tools that he needed. Apparently it is a little more lenient in the US, but not much.

My mind remains open therefore. I can well believe that there is a good case for combining eastern and western medicine, but at the moment it has its limitations.

Jane x


One of our local TCM places got banged to rights by Trading Standards few years ago - I think they had caused serious burns from some treatment or other (from memory).


Jane, just last week I walked by the Chinese medicine shop in our local shopping centre thinking I wonder what they're suggesting for low Thyroid function?

- open minded but suspiciously curious. Would they actually be worse than Western medicine like heart remedies (drugs) derived from foxgloves, rat poison, and even snake venom? then again those poor bile bears.

I also read such a great nation ignore fruit whereas here folks are duped into believing 5 a day is all we need! J :D


I was recommended to 'eat more aloe' for Thyroid from one oriental gentleman on another forum, I never considered you could eat it, but it definitely prevents sunburn (if you ever get too much sun that is!) J


Apparently it has excellent anti inflammatory properties as well as being chock full of vitamins, minerals, amino acids etc etc etc.

It contains "polysacharides, which educate the immune system, as they are immune system modulators"

I think Elaine Moore recommends it.


Hi Jane I for 20 0dd years went to a great homeapath Dr who was alsoa cancer surgeon discovered homeopthy and combined the 2together had many patients refered to him from Dr who couldnt get patients better and he had great results, he practised till he was 90 . Iwish he had been alive when i started with my thyroid I certainly would havebeen better in a short time rather than taking years . Happy New Year Hope you have a healthy one. Anne x


Rod, it is an open access journal but I don't think that issue is available online yet. At least it wouldn't come up for me but the previous issue did. PR


To be honest, as the PubMed listing said it is in Chinese language, I didn't even look for it. Which was a bit short-sighted of me as I have previously seen such articles published bilingually even when officially in Chinese.


Rod, this I think is illustrative of the approach they are trying to take in looking at Chinese Medicine with western science and trying to figure out how to produce measureable and meaningful results.

And yes the issue mentioned at PubMed does not appear to be online yet. I will keep looking for it. You always seem to have a knack for finding interesting stuff. Do you do anything else besides read and research? PR


I rely very heavily on search tools! Set up to tell me about things I am interested in.

Well we can expect the full article in a few weeks, maybe month or two.


I would never countenance Chinese medicine no matter how ill I was!! They use rhino horn and bits from tigers and snow leopards as medicine and buying anything from them supports their crimes.


I have hyperthyroidism, I think caused by Graves disease. I have been treated by a TCM doctor in London and so far it has been successful. My blood results show that my thyroid function has returned to the 'normal' range after treatment with herbs. It has taken time and has been expensive to stay on the herbs for months at a time. However, I'm more confident that there is the potential to treat my whole body, which is obviously out of kilter, rather than taking toxic pills to simply reduce my thyroid function and wait and see if my body can heal the autoimmune problem.

Given the alternative in the long run is to have radioactive iodine, which will still leave me with the autoimmune problem and eventually hypothyroid with potential problems that a lot of people seem to have on the site with dosages of thyroxine and fights with the NHS doctors, I think its worth giving Chinese medicine a chance.

Although I'm lucky enough not to have very serious symptoms of Graves the symptoms I have had have been very debilitating: exhaustion and emotional rollercoasterisms! in particular have made life hard to live! I am very relieved that it seems that on a fundamental level my body does seem to be healing so I am very grateful to the TCM doctor and to the herbs.

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I support saz-2011 and the comments posted. I have been given wonderful help and support from my TCM doctor. I do believe very strongly that there is a great deal of help that can be derived from herbs and forms of energy treatment. The concept of cold/hot/damp heat is not too difficult to understand, surely. Anyone with a wonky thyroid will have knowledge of this problem. T'ai Chi, acupuncture, reflexology, herbs can all help to address symptoms of underlying immune problems....which gives the body an opportunity to repair and restore and rebalance. It does tend to take longer....because the herbs/energy slowly.

Citing one case of somebody having a bad reaction to some TCM treatment is pretty many times do we see people suffering because of western mis-diagnosis. The rise in complementarty therapies would show that there is a growing number of people who are not responding well enough to conventional western medicine and are looking elsewhere. Of course we need some forms of many times do I read on this forum about rubbish doctors....with very little knowledge of adrenal exhaustion for example.

Vulnerable/ill people looking for anybody to help them, would be best placed with a recommendation and an open mind and that can be said for both western and eastern practitioners.

I like the concept of combining various treatment protocols. My Chinese doctor has been honest with me in helping me with my hyperthyroid status. At least he is not advocating RAI/surgery! Endo/gp's just dismiss any other form of treatment. He has also been able to stabilise my gallbladder problem - when again - conventional treatment is 'take it out'. Dr Sun simply says - we prefer to work with the parts not working properly and help to re-balance them - rather than remove vital organs....which tend to only create other problems. I like his thinking.

As for 'animal body parts' being used in treatment....I don't think that is possible here in the U.K. - although I will ask my Chinese doctor. I guess we all do what feels right for us as it bovine adrenal support, herbs or conventional drugs. There is something for everybody.

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Am afraid that I do indeed find the "cold/hot/damp heat concept" too difficult. I need to discuss it with someone who really understands it in order to feel comfortable with what it means.

They seem to be three of the six excesses? But things such as string-like or slippery pulse are not meaningful to me (from experience, at least).

I am happy to say that because one TCM place here had a dodgy history does not mean the others do. But in agreement with Jane there is a degree of suspicion the way they operate.

No UK TCM practitioner would seriously say they use rhino horn, nor anything else protected under CITES. And I doubt they do here - although with anything there might be a few exceptions.

Glynisrose's comment seemed to be universal - the TCM system somewhere uses rhino horn so she chooses not to accept any of it.


An interesting discussion. I have had a lot of acupuncture over the years from an extremely experienced acupuncturist who set up the Gateway clinic in Lambeth, which is an NHS (!) acupuncture clinic.He explained to me how my longterm thyroid disfunction did indeed lay behind all the symptoms that I have experienced over the years. Hypothyroidism is defined in Chinese medicine by cold/damp and deficient kidney yang, which I see as deficient life force or fire.Stagnant energy causes energy blockages, resulting in pain around the body and exhaustion.There seems to be a progression of energy blockages that lead to other illnesses often experienced by people with thyroid conditions, like knee arthritis, heart and gall bladder problems and adrenal conditions.Mental and emotional symptoms are all part of this.My knowledge about this is so limited that I won't say anymore!

I would always see this chap if I needed a diagnosis as he feels everything in the many pulses that we have and through tongue diagnosis. He actually did a study on me for many months in his private clinic (for free), to try and improve my energy and to see if he could prolong the life of my knee which badly needed replacement. My energies did improve and my knee pain and swelling reduced.I did end up having the knee replacement though, as the bone was so worn that nothing could mend that.This acupuncturist thinks that armour thyroid is excellent and recommends it to his patients and can see that I improved more on this than with thyroxine alone.He also helped me to reach the most suitable amount of medication. Initially I was on a much larger dose of armour and thyroxine than i am now, which meant that I was running around working and doing everything. However I was just wearing myself out and ultimately doing more harm to myself.He made me realise that I had to accept that i still need to rest and not be 'driven' by the medication.

In all, I would like to see Western medicine practitioners study the elements of Chinese medicine as I think they would find that the two types of medicine could work well along side each other.

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Thanks everybody for a very informative and interesting discussion. I had no knowledge whatsoever about Chinese medicine and am now pretty impressed.


I know very little about the various formal Chinese and oriental systems of medicine Rod, but based on personal experience with meditation, working with self awareness and what what I think is probably chi/kundalini/prana energy and its healing effects think we would do well to take them seriously.

It's only necessary to observe how we feel day to day and hour to hour to realise that there are clearly energies flowing that neither science, nor medicine nor our cultural bias take account of.

Of course oriental medicine is full of chancers and charlatans operating from behind a facade of respectability and culturally accepted norms - if our own system of medicine and our inability to see it remotely for what it is (our deep seated and fear driven need to believe blinds us) is used as a yardstick then how could it be otherwise?

If it was truly effective as applied in practice in mainstream terms then we'd presumably see pretty obvious differences in population health and lifespans. Which tends to suggest that for whatever reason it's not.

That doesn't mean that it doesn't contain important knowledge and perspectives, and it'd be a pity to throw the baby out with the bath water.

The other pity is that 'scientific' investigations by definition will attempt to explain this stuff in the the usual biological, biochemical and physics terms - which means they will inevitably miss the point. Right now our system of so called science is not aware of the big picture.

There are signs that we're edging closer to some sort of realisation. We've for years characterised ourselves as collections of inanimate material operating according to Newtonian processes - and convinced ourselves that healing involves fixing this mechanism. Usually by simplistically targeting symptoms.

More recently we've seen a shift towards the understanding that existence and consequently health are holistic - that they are about the balance of an enormous multiplicity of internal (within ourselves) and external (the environment we live in) factors.

More recently still we're in a few more quarters just starting to realise that these factors are not just physical or as recognised by mainstream science - that they include energies we're only peripherally aware of (perhaps torsion fields and the like), and that perhaps most importantly of all that mind/consciousness is the ultimately the driver of it all.

It's a bit scary in one respect, in that it basically suggests that we each (at levels we don't normally have access to) determine our own state of health. That any restoration of health entails doing the self work required to develop some awareness, and taking responsibility for ourselves. We're required to stretch ourselves if we're to get our hands on whatever levers of control are accessible to us.

It seems likely that (dare i say it? :) ) there's lots of illness that's happening as a part of an agenda we're not consciously aware of, that at a deeper level we absolutely do not want to fix.

That's not to say that conventional physically based medicines can't help us at times, but it seems very much to be a mistake to think that the pills modern medicine has got fixated on (which can only be a tiny part of the story at even the physical and normal consciousness level) contain all the answers...



I am a licensed Chiropractor and Acupuncturist in California. I connected with this website because an article I wrote was linked to the site by a member. In regards to Chinese medicine, yes, the Chinese concept of "cold" is strongly related to hypothyroidism, as is their concept of "chi deficiency". As with Western medicine, the thyroid and adrenal functions are both required to drive metabolism. In Chinese medicine, the adrenals are referred to as part of the Kidney (of course, they sit on top of the kidneys anatomically). Without getting into a long discussion, I can say that in my experience, an herbal formula called "Ginseng and Astragalus Combination" or "Bu Zhong Yi Chi Tang" if helpful for both hypothyroid/hypoadrenalism and for Hashimoto's. There is nothing in that formula that should be restricted from import to the UK. Best of luck finding a practitioner to prescribe and properly dose the formula. I can't guide you there except to say that for deficiency conditions, herbs are generally used rather than needles.


David Wells, D.C., L.Ac., MS Nutrition

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tiogapass, I would like to read the article you wrote. Would it be possible for you to provide a link to it? Thank you, PR


Hi David,

I have just read your reply and have previously tried the combination you suggest but it only worked for a very short time, this is the same as other remedies I have used. I have tried everything in the last 40 years and now feel so low that I don't have the energy or inclination to try anything else.My practitioner of TCM was also qualified as a western medical doctor and her diagnosis of me was that my blood was confused, my body was confused and my chi was confused!!! HELP ME, SOMEONE, PLEASE


I have got more help from Chinese medicine than western medicine. While my idiot doctor was telling me that I didn't have hypothyroidism because the great test says I didn't, ignoring all my symptoms, the Chinese practitioner told me I was very cold and that both liver and heart energy were very weak. Very true. She gave me herbs that sorted out my digestive problems and acupuncture helped sort the aches and pains. I started to feel a great deal better and much less anxious. I believe she sorted the adrenal problems. However, my low hormone levels, indicated by the urine test, have been raised by glandulars. I have always had to pay for any effective treatment, massage, osteopathy and so on, to deal with over-use of my computer. People says Chinese herbs are dangerous, what about the filthy drugs, like statins and anti-depressants, that the docs dole out. My doc just offered drugs that dried up stomach acid. Useless. That wasn't the problem.

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