TCM Pulse Diagnosis

Pulse diagnosis is one of the main diagnostic tools used by acupuncturists and Chinese herbalists. The pulse was originally taken in three parts of the body: the carotid artery besides the Adam’s apple (ST9 area), the radial artery close to the wrist (Lung 9 area), and the dorsalis pedis artery on the top of foot (St42 area). Presently, only the radial pulse is taken for diagnosis.  Pulse Demo Video.

In TCM, we take the pulse on both sides and feel for three distinct positions. See diagram on the left. Pulse diagnosis takes years to master and can get very complicated, but even the lay person can begin to feel certain qualities.

Firstly, how deep do you need to press to feel the pulse? The “normal” pulse should be felt best when you apply a little bit of pressure. If you can feel the pulse without putting any pressure it is a Superficial pulse and likely indicates the patient is battling a cold or some other external pathogen. If you have to press deeply to feel the pulse well it is a Deep pulse and likely indicates deficiency (weakness) or excess cold in the body. How much pressure constitutes a Superficial or Deep pulse will take a little practice to feel.

How fast is the pulse? Does it feel like its speeding? A Fast pulse is more than 5 beats per practitioner breath and indicates excess heat (inflammation) in the body. A Slow pulse is less than 3 beats per practitioner breath indicates excess cold or deficiency in the body.

Does the pulse feel strong or weak? The general overall quality of the pulse will tell you whether the patient’s condition is one of excess (which will require some form of clearing treatment) or one of deficiency (which will require tonification).

This is TCM pulse diagnosis in a nutshell. For more detail on TCM pulse diagnose please visit: or


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