GreatWall International Cancer Center
Prevention Therapy of Tradtional Chinese Medicine  

In its long course of development, TCM has established a perfect theory of prevention based
on the theories of yin-yang, five elements, qi-blood-body fluid, meridians, cause of disease and
pathogenesis, still effectively guiding medical practice now. The core of this theory is
prevention and therapeutic principles.

TCM pays great attention to prevention and takes prevention as the essential one of
therapeutic principles, emphasizing the role of reinforcing healthy qi and eliminating
pathogenic factors in restoring balance between yin and yang.

With full consideration of individual, local and seasonal conditions, it has established an
effective system of therapeutic methods.

Prevention means to take measures to prevent the occurrence and development of disease.
The principles of prevention in TCM cover two aspects: theory and methods.

Importance of prevention

TCM gives prevention the priority over treatment. Before the occurrence of a disease, it is
important to take measures in advance to avoid suffering or aggravation, which is helpful for
protecting healthy qi and maintaining health. Though correct and timely treatment can
eliminate pathogenic factors, restore health qi and cure disease, the attack of any disease
inevitably damages healthy qi or causes sequelae. Up to now there still some diseases
incurable or irreversible. So no matter how excellent therapeutic methods are, they must be
used as the last resort. That is why Huang-di Neijing says that “the best doctors are those who
can prevent the occurrence of disease”. It believes that resorting to treatment when disease
has already occurred is just like drilling a well when one feels thirsty and manufacturing
weapons when war has already broken out.

The theoretical basis of the principles of prevention

The principles of prevention are decided according to etiopathology and the transmission of
pathogenesis in TCM. Etiopathology in TCM holds that the occurrence of disease results from
insufficiency of healthy qi and attack of pathogenic factors, among which insufficiency of
healthy qi is the key factor responsible for the onset of disease. That is why the principles of
prevention in TCM pays attention to both the protection and cultivation of healthy qi and
avoidance of the invasion of pathogenic factors. According to transmission of pathogenesis,
disease transmits among the viscera when it has emerged. The regions and organs that are
weakened or insufficient of healthy qi tend to be affected. That is why the principles of
prevention advocate early treatment and control of transmission.

The guiding ideology of the principles of prevention

1. Emphasis on holistic concept

The human body forms an integrated wholeness in itself and with the external environment.
That is why TCM emphasizes both the harmonious relationship between the body and external
environment and the interrelationships between the viscera and the meridians.

2. Emphasis on the protective effect of healthy qi

Among various preventive measures, the protection and cultivation of healthy qi is the most
important one.

3. Emphasis on the integration of the body and the mind

The concept of health includes health of the body and health of the mind. Since psychological
factors play a very important role in etiopathology, TCM gives psychological regulation and
cultivation the priority over other preventive measures.

The preventive methods

1 Giving prevention the priority

Giving prevention the priority means to take measures to prevent the occurrence of disease.
Since the occurrence of disease is related to insufficiency of healthy qi and attack of
pathogenic factors, the preventive measures taken should focus on reinforcing healthy qi ad
preventing the invasion of pathogenic factors by means of regulating psychological state, diet
and living habit as well as doing physical exercise. Besides, cares should be taken to avoid
attack of pathogenic factors.

1) Regulating psychological state

Regulating psychological state covers three aspects: avoiding direct damage of the viscera
and disturbance of qi and blood; avoiding invasion of pathogenic factors due to deficiency of
healthy qi caused by psychological factors; protecting and cultivating healthy qi to further
strengthen constitution. There are various ways to regulate psychological state, the general
principle is to be free from avarice. If one keeps the mind tranquil, qi and blood will flow
normally, yin and yang in the body can communicate freely with that in the natural world, which
can not only prevent the invasion of pathogenic factors but also strengthen constitution.

2) Proper diet

Diet provides necessary nutrients for the body, but unhealthy eating habits and improper food
(such as intemperance or starvation, unhygienic food and food partiality) impair the viscera
and damage harmonious state of qi and blood. To cultivate health through regulating diet can
supplement essence, adjust the state of yin and yang, improve constitution and strengthen
body resistance. There are various ways to cultivate health through regulation of diet, these
methods should be applied according to individual conditions. The general principle is to eat
regularly at the right time in proper proportions with hygienic eating habits.

3) Proper living habits

Proper living habits include regular work and rest, temperance in sexual activity and proper
clothing in different seasons. Proper living habits are effective in abiding by the variations of
yin and yang in the natural world, protecting the viscera, qi blood and body fluid, and
preventing invasion of pathogenic factors.

4) Exercising the body

Exercising the body can promote the flow of qi and blood, reinforce the functions of the viscera
and prevent retention of pathogenic factors. There are various ways to exercise the body.
However traditional ways to exercise the body are more effective for strengthening constitution,
eliminating disease and prolonging life, such as Wu-qinxi (five-animals frolics), Baduanjin
(eight-sections exercise), Yijinjing (tendon-relaxing exercise) and Taijiquan(taiji box), etc.
These traditional exercises are slow in action and general in relaxation, very effective for
directing the flow of qi and blood. They combine static actions with dynamic activities, effective
for regulating both yin and yang without damaging tendons and exhausting qi and blood.
People with different constitution should select different exercise.

5) Avoiding attack of pathogenic factors

Since pathogenic factors are the key elements in causing disease, measures have to be taken
to avoid the attack of pathogenic factors in the cultivation of healthy qi. Some pathogenic
factors are very toxic, even strong constitution cannot resist them. Thus the avoidance of
these pathogenic factors is the only way to prevent the occurrence of disease.

2 Preventing transmission and change

When disease has occurred, it may transmit from a local area to the viscera and other regions.
In this case, measures have to be taken to stop such transmission and change.

1) Early treatment

At the early stage, disease is easy to treat because it is still light and healthy qi has not
declined yet. However, delayed treatment may worsen the disease and make it difficult to treat
due to transmission of pathogenic factors from the external to the internal and damage of
healthy qi. If healthy qi is seriously impaired and pathogenic factors become more and more
predominant, the disease is hard to treat and tends to become aggravated. So early treatment
is very important.

Transmission and change refer to movement and change of disease in the external and the
internal, the upper and the lower, the zang-organs and the fu-organs, the meridians and the
collaterals, wei, qi, ying and blood phases. The transmission and change of disease follow
certain rules and routes. Measures can be taken according to these rules and routes to
prevent the transmission and change of disease in advance.

2) Controlling the transmission and change

The method for controlling the transmission and change of disease is to regulate and nourish
the organs or areas that the disease is liable to transmit to by means of reinforcing healthy qi
to prevent the transmission of the disease. For example, it is said in Jingui Yaoliie “measures
must be taken to strengthen the spleen in the treatment of liver disease because liver disease
tends to transmit to the spleen.” That means to invigorate spleen-qi to prevent liver disease
from transmitting to the spleen. Take febrile disease for another example. Since pathogenic
heat damages yin, the impairment of stomach-yin can damage kidney-yin. Under such a
condition, the prescription composed herbs sweet in taste and cold in nature for nourishing the
stomach can be added with some herbs salty in taste and cold in nature for nourishing kidney-
yin in order to prevent pathogenic heat from impairing the kidney.

Last Updated ( Monday, 04 February 2008 21:34 )