The 28 Pulse Qualities Page 1 of 4 NCCA Study Guide

Strength
Kaptchuk CAM Description
EMPTY
(xu mai)
Pulse of
Deficiency
Type
 Big but soft and weak-balloon partially filled with water.
 Feels empty on heavier palpation and often slow
 Yin pulse
 Qi & Blood deficiency
SOGGY
(ru mai)
Soft
 Combination of thin, empty, and floating pulses
 Extremely soft, it is less clear than a thin pulse and is perceptible only in
superficial position. The slightest pressure makes it disappear.
 Yin pulse
 Deficient Blood or Jing and sometimes Damp
SCATTERED
(san mai)
N/A
 Floating, big and weak—similar to empty. It is larger and less distinct than the
empty and tends to be felt as it recedes.
 Yin pulse
 KI Yang exhausted and floating away.
FULL
(shi mai)
Pulse of
excess type
 Big and strong, pounding against all 3 fingers at all levels
 Yang pulse
 Sign of excess
Depth
Kaptchuk CAM Description
FLOATING
(fu mai)
Superficial
 Superficial, buoyant w/very light palpation but obscured w/ heavier palp.
 Yang pulse type
 Floating & tight or rapid = EPF, Floating & empty = yin def.
HOLLOW
(kong mai)
N/A
 Feels like the stem of a green onion—solid on outside but empty within.
 Yin pulse
 Deficient Blood and often seen after great loss of blood.
LEATHER
(ge mai)
N/A
 Combination of wiry and floating, with aspects of empty. Feels like the tight skin
on top of a drum.
 Yin pulse
 Deficient Blood or Jing
DEEP/SINKING
(chen mai)
Deep
 Sinking, found with heavier palpation
 Yin pulse type
 Yin organ conditions: qi & yang def. (weak) or qi or blood stasis (full)
FRAIL
(ruo mai)
Weak
 Soft, weak and somewhat thin. Usually felt at the deep level.
 Yin pulse
 Extremely deficient qi/yang.
HIDDEN
(fu mai)
N/A
 Deep as if below bone
 Yin pulse
 If strong = Cold obstr. the channels, If weak = Def. yang can’t raise pulse.
CONFINED/
PRISON (lao mai)
N/A
 Very deep and wiry, and usually long and strong. Form of Hidden.
 Yang within Yin
 Obstruction due to Cold

The 28 Pulse Qualities Page 2 of 4 NCCA Study Guide



Width
Kaptchuk CAM Description
THIN/FINE
(xi mai)
Thready
 Distinct & clear, like a fine thread
 Yin pulse
 Blood deficiency (will fill out with tx, esp. with moxa) and often qi defic.
MINUTE
(wei mai)
N/A
 Fine and soft but lacks the clarity of the thin pulse
 Barely perceptible and seems to disappear.
 Yin pulse
 Severe qi and blood deficiency
FLOODING
(hong mai)
Surging
 Surges with the strength of a big pulse to hit the fingers at all 3 depths, but
leaves with less strength, like a receding wave.
 Yin in Yang
 Heat has injured Fluids and Yin.
BIG/WIDE
(da mai)
N/A
 Distinct & broad
 Yang pulse
 Heat in Stomach or Intestines
LONG
(chang mai)
N/A
 Perceptible beyond the 1
st
and 3
rd
positions.
 Yang pulse
 This is OK unless it is also tight and wiry—then it is excess or heat
SHORT
(duan mai)
N/A
 Doesn’t fill spaces under the 3 fingers and usually felt in only one position.
 Yin pulse
 Qi deficiency
Rhythm
Kaptchuk CAM Description
KNOTTED
(jie mai)
Knotted
 Slow pulse that misses beats irregularly
 Yin pulse
 Cold obstructing qi or blood or deficiency (qi, blood or jing)
 It is a sign that the HT isn’t properly ruling the Blood.
HURRIED
(cue mai)
Abrupt
 Fast pulse that misses beats irregularly
 Yang pulse
 Heat agitating qi and blood
INTERMITTENT
(dai mai)
Regularly
intermittent
 Misses more beats than Knotted or Hurried but beats in a regular rhythm
 Yin pulse
 Serious HT disharmony or Yin organ deficiency/exhaustion
MODERATE
(huan mai)
N/A
 Healthy, perfectly balanced pulse
 Normal in depth, speed, strength and width
 Don’t need this to be considered “healthy.”
 Sometimes considered slightly slippery

The 28 Pulse Qualities Page 3 of 4 NCCA Study Guide



Speed
Kaptchuk CAM Description
RAPID
(shu mai)
Rapid
 More than 5 beats per respiration or higher than the given normal rate
 Yang pulse type
 Heat is indicated
SPINNING BEAN/
MOVING (dong
mai)
N/A
 Combo of Short, Tight, Slippery and Rapid.
 Felt only in one pos. & is “incomplete, without head and tail, like a bean.”
 Yang pulse
 Shock, heart palpitations, anxiety, fright, fever or pain
SLOW
(chi mai)
Slow
 Less than 4 beats per respiration or lower than the normal rate
 Yin pulse type
 Cold is indicated
Shape
Kaptchuk CAM Description
SLIPPERY
(hua mai)
Rolling
 Very fluid. Slides under the finger, smooth & oily. Common in Pregnancy
 Yang within Yin
 Full = damp or phlegm
 Empty = damp or phlegm with qi deficiency
CHOPPY
(se mai)
Hesitant
 Uneven, rough, jagged edges
 Can be irregular in rhythm & strength
 Yin pulse usually
 When thin = Blood or Jing deficiency
 When full = Congealed Blood
WIRY
(xuan mai)
String-taut
 Taut, hard, like a guitar string pushing against the fingers evenly at all
levels. No fluidity. Can be deficient or full
 Yang pulse
 LR/GB stagnation, problems or pain or phlegm causing obstructions
TIGHT
(jin mai)
Tense
 Strong and seems to bounce from side to side like a taut rope. Fuller and
more elastic than wiry. It vibrates, can seem faster than it is.
 Yang within Yin
 Excess, Cold/pain and stagnation












The 28 Pulse Qualities Page 4 of 4 NCCA Study Guide


The Normal Pulse

 Has Stomach qi (superficial level)
o Feels gentle
· There’s a connection but it in no way invades another person.
· It’s not insubstantial.

o Feels calm
· Trees nicely swaying in the wind, no disturbance or agitation.
· It feels like a cow chewing cud.

o Has 4 beats per respiration (you can use the rhythm of your breath to count if the person’s is
erratic)

 Has Spirit (middle level
o Soft
· The pulse shouldn’t be malleable—it should be soft on outside and strong and resilient on inside.

o Neither big nor small

o Regular in rhythm & quality
· It’s not intermittent or missing beats and there are no speed changes.

 Has a Root (deep level
o There is clarity in the deep position (yin) and in the 3
rd
pulse positions.
o Clarity = pulse should be a distinct entity


Normal Pulse Rates
Age Rate
0-4 90+
4-10 84
10-35 76-80
35-50 70-72
50+ 68