Traditional Chinese Medicine uses specific diagnostic methods like acupuncture and herbal medicines to treat meridian blockages and Qi disharmonies throughout the body. TCM aims to rebalance the flow of Qi (vital energy) to help restore good health and also to prevent illnesses from developing.

A TCM practitioner will use 4 of the primary senses – sight, hearing, smell and touch – to perform a complete head-to-toe examination. The 4 diagnostic methods used are:

  • Question
  • Inspection
  • Listening and smelling
  • Pulse examination

Diagnosis using one of the above examination techniques is not absolute. However, if performed together, they can give a complete evaluation and can be used to effectively locate disharmony within the body. Here’s what to expect from your first TCM examination.


Your TCM practitioner will ask questions about chills and fevers, your perspiration, appetite, thirst and taste, bodily functions and any specific pain that you have.


The colour, size and shape of your tongue will be inspected for abnormalities, especially if you suffer from digestive disorders. The tongue coating is related to the stomach; the tip, to the heart; the middle to the spleen and stomach; and the sides to the gallbladder and liver.
The face is examined in natural light to determine what regularity of colours are present. These can determine how severe and treatable a particular disease is.

Listening and Smelling

Your TCM practitioner will note how you speak, sit, breathe and cough. They will use their sense of smell to identify abnormal odours associated with your perspiration and breath.

Pulse Examination

According to TCM, the pulse is governed by the heart and commanded by your Qi. Your pulse is checked for depth, speed, strength, shape and rhythm to locate and understand the nature of your ailment.

For more information on our TCM Theory & Diagnostics course, contact Shulan College or visit us online.