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Fukushin in Kampo for Mental, Digestive and Women’s Health


What is Fukushin?

Fukushin means abdominal examination in Japanese. It is an important diagnostic method in Kampo medicine that is adopted from classic Chinese herbal medicine.
A Kampo physician places their hands on the patient’s abdomen area, feeling the skin and muscle tones. He/she also applies gentle pressure around the region to examine the deeper tissues as well as how patients feel about the pressure.

As its western counterpart these days, is gradually and systematically minimizing the role of touch and palpation, and heavily rely on blood test and imaging techniques. Fukushin can identify many pathogenic factors such as imbalance of autonomic nervous system, the state of circulation and inflammation in the abdominal and pelvic region and organs, performance of endocrine system etc, that are difficult to find and quantify by modern medical examinations.

Kampo practitioners will take all the objective and subjective information from Fukushin, along with the other Chinese medicine diagnostic methods such as pulse and tongue assessment, to determine the pathological patterns, and create herbal formulas accordingly to address the problems.

Clinical applications of Fukushin

According to Chinese medicine theory, the most appropriate herbal formula should be chosen for each individual based on four diagnostic procedures (observation, listening, questioning, palpation). Fukushin, the abdominal palpation technique, is unique to Japan and is one of the most important approaches of the four diagnostic procedures in Kampo.

There are several Fukushin patterns/confirmations in the Kampo tradition. These patterns have been shown to be correlated to many clinical conditions across many body systems.
In Kampo, depression and anxiety have been shown to be related to Shin ka hi koh, epigastric obstructive hardness, and neuroses have an association with Kyoh kyoh ku man, hypochondriac distress. Each Fukushin pattern has its corresponding Kampo formula(s) that can be chosen to dissolve the pattern by restore the underlying imbalances.

Many gynecological conditions such as endometriosis, infertility, PCOS have lower abdominal Fukushin patterns such as “Oketsu”. A conditions which blood circulation is impaired and causes many symptoms such as cramps, heaving bleeding and hormonal imbalances. When “Oketsu” pattern is presented during the Fukushin examination, Kampo practitioners can prescribe specific formulas that are designed to solve the “Oketsu” and thus improve the associated conditions.

Another common clinical application that can be indicated by Fukushin is digestive issues, most of our digestive organs are located in our abdomen. With accurate Fukushin assessment, Chinese medicine practitioners can detect the subtle differences under the same complaints such as constipation and bloating. Those differences in Fukushin will guide practitioners using different Kampo formulas respectively and increase the success rate of the treatment.

Fukushin and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Fukushin originated from ancient Chinese medicine canon: Shang han za bing lun. However it got lost as Chinese herbalists gradually changed their clinical approach from a hands-on pragmatic style to a more philosophical style that is heavily relying on theoretical analysis without emphasis on tangible clinical evidence in the last several centuries. On the other hand, since Shang han za bing lun was imported to Japan in Ad 600, the Japanese herbal medicine practitioners have kept the traditions and developed a unique diagnostic and treatment system around Fukushin.
In my personal opinion, Kampo with Fukushin better represents the original knowledge and practice of ancient Chinese medicine compared to Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM).

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