In Chinese Medicine, the kidneys are often referred to as the Root of Life. This is because they store what is referred to as our Essence. Essence is inherited from our parents and established at conception. Essence determines our basic constitution.
The kidneys determine our level of health throughout the stages of life. Below I will outline the most important functions of the kidneys and issues that occur when these function are disrupted.
The first function of the kidneys is to govern pregnancy, birth, growth, puberty, fertility, menopause, aging, and death. They determine our strength, vitality, sperm production in men and ova and menstrual blood in women. Aging is simply due to a physiological decline of Essence during life.
If the Kidney Essence is weak, we can see:
- Developmental delays
- Poor sperm or egg quality
- Premature aging
- Early menopause
The Kidneys are also responsible for the production of marrow, which in Chinese Medicine consists of bones, bone marrow, brain, and spinal cord. Thus, if the Kidney Essence is strong, it will nourish the brain and memory, concentration, thinking, intelligence, skill, and sight. If the brain and bones are not properly nourished, there may be:
- Poor memory and concentration, dizziness
- Dull thinking and poor sight
- Brittle bones, osteoporosis, osteopenia, scoliosis
- Loose teeth
The kidneys open into the ears. If the kidneys are weak, there may be impaired hearing, deafness and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
The hair relies on the nourishment of the Kidney Essence to grow. If Kidney Essence is abundant, hair will grow well, be healthy and glossy. If Kidney Essence is weak or declining, there may be thin, brittle, dull looking hair, early greying, or hair loss.
The kidneys control the two lower orifices (the urethra and spermatic duct in men and the anus). If kidney energy is weak, the two lower orifices will be inappropriately open and exhibit:
- Frequent urination or incontinence
- Bedwetting in children
- Frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
The kidneys are the residence of will power. Thus, if the kidneys are strong, the will power will be strong, the mind will be focused on goals and pursue them. If the kidneys are weak:
- The mind will be easily discouraged and swayed from its goals
- Lack of ability to work hard
Finally, the kidneys are the driving force for all the internal organs. If the kidneys decline, the functional activity of all organs will be impaired, leading to:
- Tiredness, mental depression, negativity
- Lack of vitality
- Poor digestion
Additional signs of kidney deficiency include:
- Achy low back
- Weak Knees
- Dark circles under eyes or darkness on the cheeks
- Low, deep, groaning or hoarse voice
- Excessive fear
In clinic, I often see kidney deficiency falling into two categories: some people have a genetic predisposition to weak Kidney Essence and others have strong Kidney Essence but have burned themselves out! The latter is very common in Silicon Valley. Those with strong kidney energy are determined, strong willed, and hardworking. They strive for success and will not rest until their goals are achieved. They engage in many of the following activities that burn kidney energy at an accelerated rate:
- Working excessively
- Working at night
- Working while tired
- Using caffeine when tired
- “Go-go-go” lifestyle
- Chronic stress, worry, or fear
- Excessive exercise
- Excessive use of drugs, alcohol, or partying
- Dieting, poor nutrition
- Not getting enough sleep or rest
The good news is that Kidney Essence can be replenished through proper nutrition, rest, acupuncture, and herbal medicine. Restorative yoga and qi gong can also help.
If you believe your Kidney Essence needs a boost, let us know. The following acupuncture points can be stimulated with acupressure, moxa, or acupuncture at your next visit: