When you study the anatomy and physiology of the body’s organs in Chinese medicine, there are many similarities to what we know in western medicine. For example, both systems of medicine understand that the kidneys are the small bean shaped organs that are housed in the lumbar area of the body and are responsible for controlling urination. But in Chinese medicine, each organ has a much broader function. The Kidney is probably the best example.
Every organ in the body, like everything else in the universe, has a Yin and a Yang aspect and its own energy, or qi (pronounced “chee”). The Kidney is unique in that it also has another property, called Essence. Chinese medicine believes that the Kidney encompasses our whole genetic makeup, providing the human body with the vital substance of its being at birth. This Essence is acquired from parents, determines a person’s constitutional strength and vitality, and is supported through life with proper nutrition and lifestyle.
Kidney Essence is stored in the Kidneys, but circulates through the body. This Essence is the basis for all of the growth and development in the human body. It controls sexual maturation and reproductive capacity. It controls the growth of teeth and bones and hair. It is essential for normal brain development, sexual energy and fertility. The aging process in the body is evident by observing the normal physiological decline of Essence.
Kidney Essence is manifested on the hair. If Kidney Essence is strong, hair will be healthy – thick and lustrous. If it is weak, hair will be thin and brittle or may turn gray at an early age.
The Kidney, a Yin organ, is paired with the Bladder – its Yang organ, and as such provides the energy for the Bladder to store and eliminate urine. When the Kidney energy is strong, urination is normal in color and quantity.
The Kidney not only controls the opening and closing of the urethra, but also of the spermatic duct and anus. When the Kidney energy is weak, a person may experience urinary incontinence, spermatorrhea or chronic diarrhea.
The Kidneys control the reception of the Qi of the air that is breathed in by the Lung. The Lungs send this energy down to the Kidney. When the Kidney cannot hold this Qi, it creates congestion in the chest. This is a frequent cause of chronic asthma.
The Kidney opens to the ear. When the Kidneys are weak, hearing may be impaired or there may be tinnitus.
The Kidney generates heat and energy for the proper functioning of all the organs in the body.
The Kidney is associated with the emotion of fear. Fear, either as a sudden fright or a chronic state of anxiety will weaken the Kidneys.
Kidneys are associated with the color black. Overwork and exertion weaken the Kidney energy. Dark circles under the eyes are a sign of Kidney deficiency.
Kidneys are associated with the season of winter.
The Kidneys house will power. If the Kidney is strong, we will be able to set goals and pursue them. In this first month of 2009 when we all think of a new beginning and setting New Year’s resolutions, isn’t this the perfect time to think of tonifying Kidney energy!