Fire-Heat Fire-Heat

Fire-Heat is one of the six exterior pathogens (ie. a quality in the environment or climate which can cause disease). It is the dominant climatic factor in summer as with Heat, although it can affect the body during any season. Fire is an extreme form of Heat which can occur internally or due to any of the other exterior pathogenic factors. Although they are similar in nature, there are differences which distinguish them from one another. It can affect the Heart, Liver, Stomach, Kidneys, Lungs and Intestines.

In TCM, Fire is considered more ‘solid’ than Heat and tends to be more dynamic in its movement and also more drying. Whereas Heat will cause pain amongst its other symptoms, Fire tends to rise to the head and generally affects the mind more than Heat. It is also prone to damaging Blood and the vessels. Heat is more of an external pathogenic factor whereas Fire-Heat is more often than not an internally generated pathogenic factor.

For a more thorough and detailed explanation of the difference between Heat and Fire, please refer to Chinese Medicine: Difference Between Heat and Fire by Giovani Maciocia.


  • Yang pathogen
  • Restless
  • Rising with a tendency to flare up
  • Burns and drys
  • Injures Blood and Yin
  • Depletes Qi
  • Affects the upper body and head
  • Affects the mind

Signs and Symptoms:

Diseases caused by Fire-Heat can be of either deficiency or excess type and have differing clinical symptoms.

Deficiency Type Fire-Heat arising from Yin deficiency:

  • Afternoon fever
  • Night sweating
  • Feeling of heat in the 5 centres (chest, palms and soles)
  • Red cheeks
  • Dry mouth
  • Red tongue with a Floating-Rapid pulse

Excess Type Fire-Heat:

  • High fever
  • Aversion to heat
  • Intense sweating
  • Red face
  • Dry eyes and mouth
  • Bitter taste in the mouth
  • Strong thirst
  • Swollen and bleeding gums
  • Scanty-dark urine and constipation
  • Mental aggitation
  • Sores, carbuncles and abscesses
  • In severe cases – mania, delerium and unconsciousness
  • Red tongue with a yellow coating
  • Full-Rapid pulse