Ask Doctor Yu, Chinese medicine practitioner: Yin or yang?

Image courtesy of Flickr, Philip Roeland.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Philip Roeland.

Submitted by Alex Yu

Are you hot or cold?

Many patients come to me asking whether they are “cold” or “hot” people. Coldness and heat are two principles in Chinese medicine used to differentiate between how much yin and yang individuals have. It does not refer to whether a person is hot- or cold-blooded, but about the balance of the hot yang to the cold yin.

A cold person may have a deficiency of yang or excessive yin in the body. Symptoms of cold syndrome include: An aversion to cold and preference for warmth; pale face; cold limbs; lack of thirst; clear, thin phlegm and mucus; clear and frequent urination; loose stools; pale tongue with white and moist coating; slow or tense pulse.

A hot person may have excessive yang or a deficiency of yin in the body. Symptoms of hot syndrome include: An aversion to heat and preference for coolness; preference for cold drinks when thirsty; red face and eyes; irritability; yellow, thick phlegm and mucus; bleeding or spitting up blood; nosebleeds; dark infrequent urination; constipation; red tongue with a yellow dry coating; rapid pulse.

However, when symptoms flare up, it may not be simply hot or cold, but a combination. The human body may exhibit actual or virtual “false” heat, along with actual or false cold. In today’s society, it is common to see someone with both hot and cold symptoms.

For example, a patient with a cold spleen and stomach may also have hot symptoms of fever, headache, cough and sore throat. At the same time, he has loose stools, clear urine in increased volume and cold limbs, which are symptoms of cold syndrome.

While the question seems simple, it is actually quite complicated. If the medical practitioner tells people they are “hot,” they will try to balance it with herbal “cool tea” to increase their yin. If patients told they are “cold,” they will load up on “hot” herbal supplements like ginseng to boost their yang. When individuals overdo their hot or cold foods, it affects their balance of yin and yang. Therefore a “hot” person becomes cold, a “cold” person becomes hot or they have an imbalance of hot-cold.


Alex Yu is a registered Chinese medicine practitioner in Hong Kong and a doctoral candidate of the Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine. He holds a master’s degree in Chinese medicine and bachelor’s degree in Chinese medicine and science from Hong Kong Baptist University.

Please follow and like us:

This post is also available in: Chinese

Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Sanitary practices need improvement at Nam Bac Hong herb and medicine shop 75 Harrison Ave Boston MA 02111 tel 617 426-8227. Pictured above. Behind the counter an ancient cutting, chopping device is dank with residues from previous preparations. Handwashing facilities need to be cleaned and used more frequently.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Anti-Spam Question: