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How Men and Women Age in TCM

Men and women don’t always see eye to eye—they even grow old in different ways.

According to classical traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), ageing occurs because congenital essence (a fixed amount inherited from our parents) and acquired essence (obtained from ingested foods and fluids) are depleting. Both types of essence are stored in the kidneys and form the material basis for all kinds of functional activities.

In TCM, life cycles are counted in cycles of seven years for women, and eight for men. The following is a brief guide to one’s Qi at these stages:

Female at…

• 7 years: has abundant Kidney Qi for the growth of permanent teeth as well as body hair.

• 14 years: starts to menstruate and is able to conceive. 

• 21 years: Kidney Qi level peaks, body development stops and wisdom teeth grow. 

• 28 years: peak physicality occurs, with strong muscles and bones, and thick, lustrous hair. 

• 35 years: body starts to decline; initial signs of ageing (sallow face, wrinkles or hair loss) are usually due to the degeneration of the Yang Ming Meridian. 

• 42 years: the three Yang meridians in the upper body begin to decline, which leads to facial sagging and gradual whitening of hair. 

• 49 years: body deteriorates, and ability to menstruate and give birth ceases.

Male at…

• 8 years: Kidney Qi consolidates, grows permanent teeth and body hair. 

• 16 years: Kidney Qi is abundant; as a result, Kidney essence will transform into sperm. 

• 24 years: Kidney Qi level peaks, body development stops, wisdom teeth continue to grow and limbs are strong. 

• 32 years: body reaches its peak, with sturdy and powerful bones and tendons. 

• 40 years: Kidney starts to decline at 40, leading to hair loss or loose teeth.

• 48 years: the body’s Yang-Qi starts depleting from the upper body; face will start sagging and hair will start greying. 

• 56 years: the liver degenerates, leading to joint problems; kidney degeneration leads to lower amount of essence, so vitality and body greatly wanes. 

• 64 years: hair and teeth may be lost.

Excerpted from the article “The External Issue of Ageing” by Elaine Ee, NATURA Issue 2.

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