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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 6 (2009), S1, Pages 11-19

Sasang Constitutional Medicine as a Holistic Tailored Medicine

1Department of Medical Research, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine (KIOM), 461-24 Jeonmin-dong, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon 305-811, Republic of Korea
2Department of Internal Medicine, National Hospital of Traditional Medicine of Vietnam, 29 Nguyen Binh Khiem Street, Hanoi, Vietnam

Received 14 March 2009; Accepted 6 July 2009

Copyright © 2009 Jong Yeol Kim and Duong Duc Pham. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Sasang constitutional medicine (SCM) is a unique traditional Korean therapeutic alternative form of medicine. Based on the Yin and Yang theory and on Confucianism, humans are classified into four constitutions. These differ in terms of (i) sensitivity to certain groups of herbs and medicines, (ii) equilibrium among internal organic functions, (iii) physical features and (iv) psychological characteristics. We propose that two main axes in the physiopathology of SCM (food intake/waste discharge and consuming/storing Qi and body fluids) are equivalent to the process of internal–external exchange and catabolism/anabolism in modern physiology, respectively. We then used this hypothesis to discuss the physiological and pathological principles of SCM. Constitution-based medicine is based on the theory that some medicinal herbs and remedies are only appropriate for certain constitutions and can cause adverse effects in others. The constitutional approach of SCM share the same vision as tailored medicine; an individualized therapy that can minimize the risk of adverse reaction while increasing the efficacy and an individualized self-regulation that can help prevent specific susceptible chronic disease and live healthily. There is still a long way to this goal for both SCM and tailored medicine, but we may benefit from systems approaches such as systems biology. We suggest that constitutional perspective of SCM and our hypothesis of two main processes may provide a novel insight for further studies.