The Importance of Your Kidney

Kidney in Ancient Chinese Medicine (TCM)

When you hear word “kidney”, do you see a picture of two bean-shaped organs situated on either side of spine?

This is where TCM and Western medical science differ. TCM also refers to the “Kidney” as either of the two viscera located on either side of the spine; but in TCM, “kidneys” are described as a set of interrelated functions rather than mere anatomical organs. According to TCM, the kidneys are associated with vitality and they determine life and death of a person. It is said that “Kidney is the house of spirit and the root of life.”

Why kidney is such an important part of human body?

Let’s see what the main functions of kidneys are as per TCM: 

Kidneys store “essence” and dominate human reproduction and development
Kidneys regulate water metabolism and receive air (known as Qi) through breathing
Kidneys play vital role in regulating the secretions of the body fluid like urine,  semen, and vaginal moisture.
Kidneys produce marrow to fill up the brain
Kidneys manufacture blood
Kidneys dominate bone, auditory sense as well as anus & urethra
Kidneys manifest as hair on the head
Kidneys house the will-power

Let us go through some of  these functions;

How do kidneys store “essence” and dominate development and reproduction?

In TCM, “essence” is the foundation of body matter. Storing and controlling this ‘essence’ is primary function of kidneys and hence they are of immense importance in functional activities like promotion of growth, development and reproduction, production of  marrow and providing the basis for mind.

Well, before moving ahead, let’s understand this “essence” first...

There are two types of essence described in TCM: Congenital and Acquired. 

Congenital essence comes from the parents and determines a person’s basic constitution. Congenital essence cannot be altered, but it can be positively influenced by acquired essence. Acquired essence is produced from food by the spleen and  stomach, and is then stored in the kidney and circulated in the body. 

Congenital and acquired essence have a promoting/ controlling relationship with each other and they all play part in determining growth and development, sexual maturation, reproduction, and aging.

Congenital essence exists at the time of conception, carrying the essence from the parents. So a child is born with congenital essence at time of birth. From birth onwards, acquired essence becomes responsible for replenishing the congenital essence and for starting the first independent essence cycle. It is this first independent essence cycle which controls growth and development for the next seven years in girls and for the next eight years in boys.

When the child loses its baby teeth, its body begins the pre-adolescence cycle. Then comes the next essence cycle – adolescence cycle; it is during this cycle that kidney essence matures and causes the Ren (sex) meridian to open and flow. At this time, part of the kidney essence is transformed into a substance named Tian-Kui, which develops and maintains reproductive function. 

During the next stages, physical growth stops and eventually declined essence leads to exhaustion of Tian-Kui, thus extinguishing reproductive ability. Understandably, the declined essence leads to death at the end.

                                        Kidney Yin and Yang

All of the body’s functions rely on the warmth and nutrition provided by the kidney. The warmth provided by kidney Yang and the nutrition substance provided by kidney Yin – both are the primordial Yin and Yang of the entire body. Kidney Yin, as nutritive substance, moistens and nourishes the body, while kidney Yang provides warmth and promotes functions of various organs and tissues.

How does the kidney regulate body’s water metabolism?

The kidney plays a vital role in regulation of body’s water metabolism, hence it is considered as the “body’s water gate”. 

The fluid in the kidney is divided into two types, clear and turbid. Clear fluid, as nutrition, is sent upward to the lung which distributes the nutrition downwardly to the entire body. Turbid fluid is a waste; it is sent downward to the bladder for expulsion out of the body. The water gate also regulates opening and closure of drainage ducts of both urethra and anus.

Water’s motion also relies upon force of breathing. In human body, the lung controls respiration, while the kidney co-ordinates inhalation which leads the water downwardly. Thus, the lung and the kidney work in a co-ordinated manner to maintain the water metabolism.

Additional Functions of the kidney:

The kidney is also responsible for hair lustre and auditory sense, for production of bone and brain matter, and for manufacturing blood. Mentally, it’s responsible for supporting memory, while emotionally it’s linked to determination or will power.

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