Guest Column — 2 The Point; The Kind Kidneys

“I had a test on my kidneys a few weeks back and found out I have two.”

— Liam Payne

By Kim Gitzel

And as ostensibly true that quote seems in our everyday thinking; in the world of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is actually not the case.  Welcome readers, let’s discuss today what your Kidney System is and how it helps give you the vitality that you need to thrive in life.

Okay, maybe I lied a little bit.  In TCM, it is believed that there are two expressions of the one Kidney energy – that of Kidney Yin and that of Kidney Yang .  This Yin and Yang is considered the foundation or “Primary” root for all other organ systems.  So how you nourish your Kidney Yin will impact your Spleen, Heart, and Liver systems as well.  The interconnected web of relativity in this medicine model is dizzying at times and yet hopeful because there is always more than one path towards helath and vitality – unlike allopathic medicine, which usually offers a pill to manage symptoms.  The key is to “listen” to your body’s imbalances and correct them before physiological change/dis-ease occurs.

So what are the Kidneys in charge of?  Good question.  Here’s a synopsis.

Store Essence and Govern Birth, Growth, Reproduction and Development.

The Essence I am talking about here is also considered our “Jing.”  It is a deep form of vital energy that resides in our Kidney System.  Some we are born with and some we cultivate through the choices of food, sleep, and other lifestyle activities.  A gluttonous “binge” oriented lifestyle can deplete your Jing, thusly making your golden years more of a challenge.  Think of your Jing as a savings account – an action you want to add more to, not take away from.  The Essence is the barometer for vitality.  If the Essence is strong, then a person has energy, is fertile, and has sexual strength.  If the Essence is deficient, there will be low energy, infertility issues, and low sexual draw.

Produce Marrow, Fill up the Brain, and Control Bones, Manifest on the Hair

“Marrow” in Chinese Medicine is a substance, which is the common matrix of bones, bone marrow, brain, and spinal cord.  Thus the Kidney-Essence produces Marrow, which generates the spinal cord and “fills up” the brain.”  (Maciocia, Foundations of TCM; p96)   This positively affects memory and concentration.  If the Kidney essence is low there will be fuzzy brain, dizziness, poor memory and concentration, and dull thinking.  The Marrow is also a crucial part of immunity, strong bones and teeth, and hair growth.  Dental issues and loss of hair or brittle, thin hair can be a sign of weak Kidney Essence.

Govern Water

This function is similar to the western function of the kidneys.  They govern the transportation and transformation of Body Fluids throughout the body.  The quality and quantity of urination are a direct reflection as to how well the regulation of the “gate” is functioning.  Edema is a sign of an imbalance of this process.  The Kidneys also assist in the other organs transformation of body fluids through out the body (i.e. the Spleen and the intestines).  A more unique expression of the Kidneys system is the relationship of keeping the Lungs moist.   A chronic dry cough is a sign of Kidney Yin Deficiency.

Controls the Reception of Qi

In TCM, I like to the think of the Kidneys as an anchor and the Lung as kites.  They are floating full of clear air Qi that naturally descends down to the Kidneys (the anchor).  If the anchor is weak, the kite floats up and no descending action of clear air Qi occurs, thus breathing difficulty begins.  This is commonly seen in chronic asthma, shortness of breath, and fatigue.

Open into the Ears

The Kidneys supply the essence for proper hearing to occur.  Weak Kidney energy can present itself in the form of poor hearing or tinnitus.

Control the Lower Two Orifices

The lower orifices refers to the urethra and genitalia as well as the anus.  Imbalances here can result in urinary and/or reproductive issues, as well as the possibility of chronic diarrhea or constipation.

House of Will Power

The Kidneys are the residence of Will Power.  So when the Kidney System is healthy and strong, one has the focus, drive, determination, discipline and conviction to achieve one’s goals.  However, if the Kidneys are weak Will Power will be low thusly a sense of discouragement and fear may set in.

So readers, In the Dave Chappelle’s spirit of “Wrap It Up”…

The Kidney System quite simply put, affects every morsel of our lives.  The term “burning the candle at both ends” is another way of saying burning out Kidney Essence.  Adequate rest, between 10pm and 6am is best, proper nutrition, balance of work stress with fun relaxation is the ultimate key to maintaining a healthy, vibrant Kidney System.  Good Luck.  It’s an every day act of consciousness.  To read more about the negative impact of the “go, go, go” lifestyle read my past article on Adrenal Fatigue archived on

Kim Gitzel, LAc is a licensed acupuncturist at 2 The Point Acupuncture located at 83 Maikai St.  Hilo, HI 96720.  She offers complimentary consultation/examinations.  Call to schedule.  808-938-3970  or visit

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