Introduction: Pulse harmonic analysis is a quantitative and objective methodology within traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) used to evaluate pulse characteristics. However, interpreting pulse wave data is challenging due to its inherent complexity. This study aims to provide a comprehensive review and comparison of existing human pulse wave harmonic analysis methods to elucidate their patterns and characteristics. Methods: A systematic review of clinical research reports published from 1990 to 2021 was conducted, focusing on variations in harmonic characteristics across different medical conditions and physiological states. Keyword searches included terms related to analysis methods (e.g., “Pulse Spectrum,” "harmonic analysis," “harmonic index”) and measured indicators (e.g., “vascular response,” "PPG," “Photoplethysmography,” "aortic," “arterial,” "blood pressure"). Supplementary research using PubMed's Mesh terms specifically targeted “Pulse wave analysis” within the methods and statistical analysis domain. Articles were filtered based on predefined criteria, including human participants and research related to pulse pressure or vascular volume changes. Conference papers, animal studies, and irrelevant research were excluded, with literature evaluation scales selected based on the retrieved research reports. Results: Initially, 6487 research reports were identified, and after screening, 50 reports were included in the review. The analysis revealed that low-frequency harmonics increase following vigorous activity or sympathetic excitation but decrease during rest or parasympathetic excitation. Cardiovascular patients exhibited elevated first harmonics associated with the liver meridian, while diabetes patients displayed weakened third harmonics related to the spleen meridian. Liver dysfunction was linked to changes in the first harmonic, and cancer patients showed signs of liver and kidney yin deficiency in the first and second harmonics. These findings underscore the potential of harmonic analysis for TCM disease diagnosis and organ assessment. Moreover, individuals with conditions such as liver dysfunction, cancer, and gynecological disorders displayed distinct intensity patterns across harmonics one through ten compared to healthy controls, albeit with some variations. Heterogeneity in these studies mainly stemmed from differences in measurement methods and study populations. Additionally, research suggested that factors like blood circulation and cognitive activity influenced harmonic intensity. Conclusions: In summary, this report consolidates prior research on pulse wave harmonics analysis, revealing unique patterns associated with various physiological conditions. Despite limitations, such as limited sample sizes in previous studies, the observed associations between physiological states and harmonics hold promise for potential clinical applications. This study lays a solid foundation for future applications of arterial wave harmonics analysis, promoting wider adoption of this analytical approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-236
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Diagnostic tools
  • Harmonic characteristics
  • Pulse diagnosis
  • Pulse harmonic analysis
  • Traditional Chinese medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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