Clinical research linking Traditional Chinese Medicine constitution types with diseases: a literature review of 1639 observational studies

J Tradit Chin Med. 2020 Aug;40(4):690-702. doi: 10.19852/j.cnki.jtcm.2020.04.019.


Objective: To analyze clinical studies on correlations between Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) body constitution types and diseases published in the past 10 years, and to provide an evidence base to support the use of such correlations for health maintenance and disease prevention.

Methods: We searched five databases for the period April 2009 to December 2019: China National Knowledge Infrastructure Database, Wanfang Database, China Science and Technology Journal Database, PubMed and Embase. Three types of observational studies on correlation between constitution types and diseases were included: cross-sectional, case-control and cohort studies. Descriptive statistical methods were employed for data analysis.

Results: A total of 1639 clinical studies were identified: 1452 (88.59%) cross-sectional studies, 115 (7.02%) case-control studies and 72 (4.39%) cohort studies covering 30 regions of China and five other countries (Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and France). The collection of studies comprised 19 disease categories and 333 different diseases. The 10 most commonly studied diseases were hypertension, diabetes, stroke, coronary atherosclerotic heart disease (CAHD), sleep disorders, neoplasm of the breast, dysmenorrhea, fatty liver disease, chronic viral hepatitis B and dyslipidemia. We found high distributions for each biased constitution type in different patient populations as follows: Qi-deficiency constitution in stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and hypertension; Yang-deficiency constitution in female infertility, osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome, gonarthrosis and dysmenorrhea; Yin-deficiency constitution in hypertension, diabetes, constipation, female climacteric states and osteoporosis; phlegm- dampness constitution in hypertension, stroke, fatty liver disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome; damp-heat constitution in acne, chronic gastritis, chronic viral hepatitis B, human papillomavirus infection and hyperuricemia; blood-stasis constitution in CAHD, endometriosis and stroke; Qi-stagnation constitution in hyperplasia and neoplasms of the breast, insomnia, depression and thyroid nodules; and inherited-special constitution in asthma and allergic rhinitis.

Conclusion: Eight biased TCM constitutions were closely related to specific diseases, and could be used to guide individualized prevention and treatment. More rigorously designed studies are recommended to further verify the constitution-disease relationship.

Keywords: Body constitution; Clinical study; Medicine, Chinese traditional; Review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Therapy*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional
  • Observational Studies as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal