The Heidelberg Model of TCM

Our curriculum was submitted to the State Administration of Chinese Medicine in Beijing in 1999 for evaluation. A letter from SATCM on the curriculum and the Heidelberg Model certifies:

“… the future model to integrate Chinese Medicine in Western health care systems and research.”

What Chinese Medicine has to offer

Recognition in China

The Heidelberg Model is based on the classic works of Chinese Medicine. This constant reference to the classics in the Heidelberg Model goes even further than in conventional representations of TCM. A new understanding of TCM theory is made possible by the scientific systematics underlying the I Ging, the oldest book of humanity. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) recognized the technical and philosophical qualities of the authors of the I Ging in ancient China. This is the basis of TCM which is rationally accessible to the Western physician without hocus-pocus and ‘guruism’.

What is it about yin and yang?

Discovering the inner logics of Chinese Medicine (CM) and treating patients according to a stringent treatment plan makes not only more fun, but is also successful. First results from the University of Heidelberg show: Acupuncture according to a defined Chinese diagnosis beats prescription acupuncture by far. But how to define the diagnosis? The Heidelberg Model understands the Chinese diagnosis as a vegetative functional state that can be established with almost mathematical stringency. The basis of this model is the idea that yin, yang and the phases are not merely philosophical concepts, but are interpreted as technical terms of the theory of regulation (cybernetics).

At the University of Porto, a CM study programme is running already the content of which is based on this model. It can already be proven that e.g. the effectivity of acupuncture can be increased by several times, if it is carried out according to the classic criteria on which the Heidelberg Model is based.

Guiding criteria are regulatory physiology models

In CM, four main description models have been developed to structure the complex relationships of body regulation. Basically, these four “guiding criteria” describe the regulation of man on four different physiological levels which together represent a complex network model of regulation.

These four levels of regulation (neurovegetative level, humorovegetative level, neuroimmunological level, and cellular level) are very closely connected in both Western and Chinese understanding. CM has now developed a clinical theory of signs by which the regulatory state of each of these regulatory levels can be determined by clinical symptoms. This can particularly easily be understood on the basis of the example of the first guiding criterion. From a western perspective, this theory systematises the primarily neuro-vegetative signs of disease.

The inner logics of Chinese Medicine The technical regulatory dimension of yin, yang and the phases can be explained using an analogue example of the regulation of temperature in a water basin:

In the experimental arrangement, an immersion heater brings the water to a certain target temperature (here: 37 0C). Due to the inherent fluctuations in the system, the actual value moves around the target value in an almost sinusoidal manner (see Fig. 1). Almost all simply regulated biological systems show such a sinusoidal course. For this reason, such a regulatory approach is suitable for evaluating many biological phenomena. CM has developed its own language to clearly describe such target value fluctuations.

Essentially, this is what it is about: Yang states are above the target value, yin states are below the target value. The phases denote the sections (quadrants) of this sinus curve.

Applying this regulatory theory to the overall vegetative activity reveals, from a western point of view, a large number of conformities with the classic theory of signs of CM. From a technical point of view, the temperature curve corresponds to the energy in the basin, the amount of heat. Therefore, there is a higher energy content in phases I and II (CM: in the yang) than in phases III and IV (CM: in the yin).

In phase I, the energy potential is provided. This corresponds to the characteristics of the phase Wood.

In phase II, this potential is released in order to return the system to the target value. This corresponds to the characteristics of the phase Fire.

In phase III, the energy content of the water basin falls further below the target value. The start of this phase also equals to half of the wavelength. Thus, in a technical sense, phase III has a “turning point characteristic” that determines the rhythmics of the system. This corresponds to the characteristics of the phase Metal.

In terms of the energy balance, phase IV can be described as a regeneration phase since the energy of the system is restored to the target value. This corresponds to the characteristics of the phase Water.

Instead of the temperature in the water basin, the overall vegetative activity of a person can be entered as a target value in the sinus curve and the transmitter and hormone systems postulated in western medicine for these regulatory processes can also be entered. Then the clinical signs marking a phase correspond very precisely to the orbs (functional groups).

Accordingly, orbs are the clinical manifestation of a regulatory vegetative tendency to function, which is called phase. We therefore interpret the Fouqi sign as an emblem that has a fundamental mathematical meaning for the description of circular movements and regulation (see Fig. 2). It symbolizes that yang and yin are terms of regulation and can be differentiated more precisely by the phases.

However, the application of the regulative curve is not limited to the yin and yang theory which could only be described here in a shortened form. All four physiology models of CM can be represented as sinus curves and put into simple activity relationships. You can find more information on this in the relevant specialist literature (link). Further applications of the theory explain the “flavours” (sapores) as vegetative modes of action, the concept of yin deficiency and the teaching of the six stages, the shang han lun.

To summarize the most important points:

A therapy based on these classic principles is proven to be more successful than prescription acupuncture.