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Best Chinese Medicine Basics: The Kidney System

Chinese medicine views the organs not as separate entities, but as connected physical, chemical, and energetic networks. Here, we’ll dive deeper into the Chinese medicine concept of the Kidney system and how we can use herbal medicine to boost our health.

(Note: we will capitalize “Kidney” when discussing the Chinese medicine Kidney system to differentiate from the general organ of the kidney.)

The Kidney: Overview & Associations

The main functions of the Kidney system in Chinese medicine are to manage fluid circulation, store energy reserves, and support the body’s reproductive system.

Element: Water
Color: Black
Emotions: fear, lack of willpower, insecurity

Movement: downwards

Sense Organ: Ears

Paired Organ: Urinary Bladder
Western Associations: kidneys, adrenal glands
Other Associations: bones, bone marrow, reproductive system, prostate
Common Conditions: low back pain, knee pain, edema, bone disorders, chronic anxiety, phobias, extreme fatigue, dark under eye circles, adrenal fatigue, infertility, impotence.

The Kidney Organ System

In both Western and Chinese medicine, the Kidney has the very important job of regulating our fluid and water balance as well as filtering waste. Without this function, we would quickly fall out of homeostasis and become ill.

In Chinese medicine, however, the Kidney has several other incredibly important functions. It is the root of yin and yang of the whole body and determines our vitality. As a result, those with weak Kidney qi (energy) tend to suffer from a range of illnesses, poor immune health, and chronically low energy. In fact, many of the signs of aging (like menopause, sagging skin, diminished hearing, and fragility) can be attributed to dwindling Kidney energy. 

The Kidney also rules the lower organs, including the organs of reproduction. Healthy menstruation, fertility, pregnancy, and virility depends on a healthy Kidney system. 

Because of the Kidney’s connection to the bones, as well as its connection with the Urinary Bladder which travels along the entire back), the Kidney is an important channel and organ to consider in pain conditions that involve pain in the bones or the spine. 

Finally, the Kidney is involved in our emotional health. The emotion of the Kidney is fear, and the spirit of the Kidney is will. When we are healthy, we have a strong will to live, are eager to survive, but not fearful of our world. When out of balance, we may feel easily frightened, anxious, or lose the will to live. 

The Kidney Channel (Kidney Meridian)

Each organ in Chinese medicine is associated with an energetic channel where qi travels along the body, closer to the surface of the skin. These channels create a web of connections and are how acupuncturists “tap” into the body’s energetic system to stimulate change. 

The Kidney Channel begins at the sole of the foot, and is the only acupuncture channel with a point on the sole! This makes the Kidney our closest connection to the earth. From there, the channel ascends along the inner ankle and leg, up to the knee, groin, and abdomen. It travels just close to the side of the navel, up the chest, and ends above the collarbone. Internally, the channel connects to the perineum, spine, reproductive organs, kidneys, bladder, liver, diaphragm, lungs, and heart.

As you can see, the Kidney channel has a major impact on almost all other organs with it’s channel pathway alone. We can use this channel to address a wide range of conditions, such as urinary trouble, reproductive issues, mental and emotional issues, bone pain or spinal conditions, nausea, breathing, sleep disorders, and more. 

Our Best Chinese Medicine Favorites for Kidney Health

The Kidney is the root of health for the entire body. As such, it is also one of the most common areas where we experience issues. By ensuring that the Kidney is strong and balanced, we can aim for a longer, more vibrant life. Here are a few of the most popular Chinese herbal formulas for the Kidney:

Nourish Yin – Zuo Gui Wan

Zuo Gui Wan is a tonic formula that deeply restores the Kidney “left” or the Kidney yin. This formula is for anyone who has a deficiency in kidney yin, marked by dryness, weakness, dizziness, hot flashes, and infertility. It can be a particularly useful formula for women in perimenopause.

Restore Yang – You Gui Wan

While Zuo Gui Wan improves Kidney yin, You Gui Wan addresses Kidney yang. Signs of Kidney yang deficiency are low back pain, feeling cold, poor circulation, swelling, edema, and incontinence. This formula uses warming, yang boosting medicinals to restore the energy of Kidney yang and bring the body back to balance.

The Best of Both Worlds – Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan

This is one of Chinese medicine’s most famous and commonly used formulas. Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan is perfect for improving the Kidney system’s overall function, like a shot of energy right to the root. It helps boost both yin and yang to fight fatigue, poor circulation, low libido, and more.

Best Chinese Medicine Supplements for Kidney Health

Invest in longevity by nurturing your Kidney system. Shop our full collection of Chinese herbal formulas for better health today!

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