Kidney health in traditional Chinese medicine
Both Western and Chinese medicine acknowledge the integral role that kidney function plays in regulating and maintaining the body’s fluid balance and the excretion of wastes via the urine.
- In traditional Chinese medicine the kidneys do more than regulate the body’s fluids.
- They also keep the opposing forces of yin and yang in balance and store the life force energy known as jing, which declines as we get older.
- There are herbs, diet and lifestyle tips you can incorporate into your daily routine to support your kidney health.
In Chinese medicine, the kidney is also traditionally understood to govern other body fluids (including tears, saliva, perspiration and the fluids that lubricate the joints).
It’s also closely associated with healthy transition through each of life’s stages, from early adulthood right through the ageing process.
Yin and yang: the keys to balance
From the perspective of TCM, the complementary but opposing forces of yin and yang exist everywhere in nature, including in the human body, where the Kidney organ-meridian works to keep them in balance.
Yin is nourishing, moistening, still and calm, and is associated with feminine qualities as well as coolness, slowness, contraction and downward movement.
Yang is active, energetic and fiery in nature, and is associated with masculine qualities, heat, dryness, speed, expansiveness and upward movement.
Maintaining yin and yang in a state of balance and harmony is traditionally considered optimal in TCM.
If kidney yang is deficient, and yin is exerting too much influence, resulting symptoms may be associated with a lack of ‘fire’ and/or a slowing down of activity – for example fatigue, urinary frequency or reduced libido.
On the other hand, if kidney yin is deficient, yang can become overactive, which may manifest as heat or restlessness. Deficiency of kidney yin may also be associated with an imbalance of body fluids including urine output, decreased vitality and mild dizziness.
Jing: your back-up power source
The kidney organ-meridian system is also the storehouse for jing, a form of life force energy that’s with us in finite quantities from the time we’re conceived, but naturally declines as we get older.
How to strengthen kidney qi
In times of need, your stored bank of jing acts as a form of back-up energy for your primary power source, the life force energy called qi, which you extract from the air you breathe and the food and drink you consume. In that sense, you might like to think of jing as being similar to the back-up battery that automatically jumps into action if the electricity supply to your computer cuts out.
Using your jing as your back-up power source means that the rate of its natural decline speeds up, especially if you’ve been working long hours, leading a stressful lifestyle or neglecting your diet.
Consequently, from mid-life onwards, many people start to experience deficient jing.
Ways you can preserve your jing include eating a nutritious, balanced diet, exercising regularly (tai chi and qigong are especially helpful), and maintaining a healthy balance between work and rest.
Chinese herbs for kidney health
Fusion Kidney Tonic is a modern adaptation of an ancient Chinese herbal formula called Six-Ingredient Rehmannia Pill that was originally developed around 900 years ago.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the kidneys do more than regulate the body’s fluids; they also keep the opposing forces of yin and yang in balance and store the life force energy known as jing, which declines as we get older.
Fusion Kidney Tonic’s key ingredients include:
Goji berries are traditionally used in TCM to strengthen the kidneys, balance yin and yang, and invigorate jing, plus relieve fatigue when kidney yang is deficient. In Chinese medicine where kidney yin is deficient, goji berries traditionally support vitality and relieve mild dizziness. They also have antioxidant properties.
Rehmannia is traditionally taken in TCM as a kidney tonic, to regulate the body fluids and maintain healthy urine output if kidney yin is deficient in TCM. It’s also traditionally used in TCM as a blood tonic that relieves sleeplessness and irregular menstruation.
Horny goat weed
Horny goat weed is traditionally used when kidney yang is deficient in TCM as a kidney tonic, to maintain healthy fluid balance, relieve urinary frequency and promote healthy libido. It’s also traditionally taken in TCM to enhance bone strength by nourishing kidney yang and to relieve mild joint pain.
Always read the label and follow the directions for use.
Kidney health tips from traditional Chinese medicine
- The kidneys and bladder are traditionally considered sensitive to cold, so rug up in chilly weather and take particular care to avoid letting your lower back get cold
- When needed, keep the kidney organ-meridian system warm by applying a hot water bottle or heat pack to the lower back
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, but keep alcohol, soft drinks and coffee to a minimum
- A little salt is traditionally considered beneficial for the kidneys in Chinese medicine if you’re generally healthy (but don’t go overboard – you only need a small amount!)
- The kidney organ-meridian is traditionally associated with the colour black in Chinese medicine, and blue-black foods are believed to strengthen and nourish it, so include eggplant, black sesame seeds, black beans, wood ear mushrooms, plums and seaweed in your diet
- Other foods traditionally regarded as nourishing to the kidneys include walnuts, figs, raisins, brown rice and other whole grains, plus hearty broths and soups and warming casseroles