Ye Tian-Shi & the Eight Extraordinary Channels
By: Jason Blalack
Ye Tian-Shi was one of the most influential doctors in Chinese medical history in developing clinical applications of the eight extraordinary channel herbal theory. Following is a translated excerpt that summarizes some of the core ideas that he used. Following this piece will be numerous case studies demonstrating these principles in action.
Ye Tian-Shi’s Pattern Differentiation and Treatment of the Eight Extraordinary Channels
Ye Tian-Shi used eight extraordinary channel theory in 165 recorded cases. Case Records as a Guide to Clinical Practice (lin zheng zhi nan yi an) contained 134 of these, with 89 internal medicine cases and 45 gynecologic cases. The remaining 31 cases appear in Master Ye’s Genuine Collected Case Records (ye shi yi an cun zhen), in which the majority are of internal medicine diseases. The disease types include deficiency consumption, seminal emissions, mounting disorders, atrophy, chronic malaria, chronic dysentery, turbid painful urinary disorder, insomnia, various pain patterns, menstrual disorders, vaginal discharge, and postpartum diseases. In differentiating the eight extraordinary channel disease patterns, Ye thought that one needed to distinguish between excess and deficiency; however the majority of cases are from deficiency.
Most of the eight extraordinary channel deficiency patterns are due to 1) damage to the Spleen and Stomach and Liver and Kidney yin, blood, essence, and qi, and 2) inability of the essence and blood to spread and distribute.”
These patterns are commonly seen in seminal emissions, irregular menses, flooding and leaking, vaginal discharge, internal damage fever, lower base debilitation, and perished complexion and spirit. For example, chronic infertility and irregular menses are often from “Liver, Kidney, chong, and ren damage”; “fever and chills occurring with taxation leading to disease” is “yang wei channel debilitation, unable to manage the connecting and extending, guarding and protective, and keeping one upright.” Putrid turbid urination is “a disease that has already entered the ren and du,” while insomnia is “emptiness in the yang qiao holes,” etc.
If there is an eight extraordinary channel pattern with simultaneous cold in the lower part of the body, then this belongs to an eight extraordinary yang deficiency pattern. If there is simultaneous irritability and restlessness with internal heat, then this belongs to an eight extraordinary yin deficiency pattern.
In regard to extraordinary channel excess patterns, his predecessors did not discuss this that much and it was Master Ye who really developed these ideas bringing them into our awareness. He thought that the majority of these excess patterns were brought about from qi and blood obstruction in the eight extraordinary channels. This is commonly seen in men’s bulging qi disorders and women’s irregular menses, painful menses, postpartum abdominal pain, and mobile abdominal masses.
In treatment, Ye pointed out that,
“When a patient was suffering from excess bind of the eight extraordinary channels, our ancestors certainly used bitter, acrid, and fragrant medicinals in order to unblock the channels and collaterals; in patients with [simultaneous] deficiency they certainly used acrid, sweet, warm, and tonifying medicinals with assistance from medicinals that spread and promote movement in the channels and collaterals. Therefore, one should regulate and harmonize the qi and blood, to cure the disease.”
Ye believed that treating eight extraordinary channel patterns is much different than treating normal channel disease patterns. Even if tonifying deficiency when treating excess, one always needs to incorporate the method of “unstopping what is blocked.” He said
“When the eight extraordinary channels are diseased the method of treatment is to unstop what is blocked. This is usual practice from ancient sages.” This so-called “unstop what is blocked” method actually refers to the method of circulating qi and blood and dispersing and promoting movement in the channels and collaterals.
Mr. Ye also believed that eight extraordinary channel deficiency patterns should be treated differently than ordinary deficiency detriment diseases. He thought that “Physicians that do not know the physiology of the eight extraordinary channels and just regard their patients with basic deficiency, giving hard medicinals such as Cinnamomi Ramulus (guì zhï) and Aconiti Radix lateralis preparata (zhì fù zî), or soft medicinals, such as Rehmanniae Radix preparata (shú dì huáng) and Schisandrae Fructus (wû wèi zî), are not obtaining the method for the treatment of the eight extraordinary channels.” Mr. Ye emphasized that within tonifying one must combine unblocking and regulating, which will unblock the channels and collaterals. “One should regulate and harmonize the qi and blood, to cure the disease.” In eight extraordinary channel excess patterns, one must use acrid, fragrant, penetrating, and discharging medicinals to relax and unblock the channels and collaterals. In these situations, insects and worms are often used to disperse and spread out obstruction. In those that are relatively mild, Mr. Ye commonly used Xu Shu-Wei’s jiao jia san (Mutually Augmenting Powder). jiao jia san (Mutually Augmenting Powder) contains Rehmanniae Radix (shëng dì huáng) to nourish the blood and moisten dryness and Zingiberis Rhizoma recens (shëng jiäng) which is acrid, moistening, and circulating. This is a “bitter acrid paired formula.”
When he encountered patterns of deficiency complicated with excess in the eight extraordinary channel diseases, he would lay particular stress on using a method of simultaneously unblocking and tonifying. If the eight extraordinary channels are depleted and there is static blood obstructing the collaterals then Mr. Ye thought
“If one follows a securing and tonifying [method] but does not use an unblocking and regulating [medicinals], there is a fear that the treatment will be too enriching and lead to distention and swelling.”
Therefore he advocated tonifying with flesh and blood as well as unblocking with aromatic medicinals in order to achieve the goal of “lifting the body and bones, harmonizing and nourishing the channels and collaterals.”
Case 1 – Eight Extraordinary Deficiency (droopy head, painful spine, sagging vertebral qi, heart pain, and a cold sweat)
Case 2 – Coming Soon
Case 3 – Menstrual irregularities (8 Extra-Excess)
 The juice of each medicinal was originally used.
Had an interesting Rheumatoid Arthritis case in the student clinic today. She had tapered off her medications for a year and was back to feeling cold with hot fingers and toes. What got me was her description of her body always feeling bigger or smaller, a chong indication. Menses were regular but long. Herbs were mainly drain blood heat, such as Sheng di, Xuan shen, mu dan pi, Bai Hua She She Cao etc… and a little Wei Ling Xian…. We will see. Her rheumatologist said that she had never seen RA helped, or was it cured?, with acupuncture. We will see.
I am curious if thinking about this case as a chong mai presentation informed your treatment method / herb choices? If so, how?
I thought about that as I was writing the formula actually. I’m not sure the herbs would have been all that different but it really helped in clarifying what was ben and biao and my expectations for improvement and strategy. I ended up on being more on the branch side exactly because I had formulated a clear idea of the root.
In other words as a zang fu presentation I would probably conclude that 2 or more systems were involved. Each would have their own symptoms within the entire picture and treatment would then be more of a mixture of ben and biao.
Hi Jason, Thanks for letting me know about this. It is great!
You said that the commentary is translated, but from what? Maybe I missed the reference…