Understanding The Role Of The Kidney

In TCM, there is a saying that goes “The waist is the house of the kidney” due to its anatomical location. The kidney stores a substance called the jing or essence which can transform into ‘qi’ and blood. It is also the source of primordial yin and yang, hence the kidney is viewed as an essential organ for the production of fundamental substances required for life activities.

Eu Yan Sang’s Luk Mey Pills, a popular proprietary medicine amongst middle to old-aged individuals to maintain the health of their kidneys, liver and spleen. Research studies have shown that Luk Mey Pills have anti-aging effects, enhance the immune system, lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Kidney – The root of life

In modern Science, the kidneys may be playing the role of maintaining the composition of blood by removing waste and excess water, however the kidney system in TCM has a broader range of functions. A person’s growth, maturation and reproduction is also believed to be governed by the kidneys. The essence stored in the kidney is bestowed to each individual from their parents at conception, hence TCM regards the kidney as the “congenital constitution” and origin of life. The kidney essence is critical for growth and development, and normal aging process will see both vitality and essence decrease. After birth, kidney essence increases gradually and becomes abundant as the body develops. During the early years, the individual undergoes physical changes marked by permanent teeth, hair and height growth. During adolescence, kidney essence peaks to drive the maturation of organs and form the basis of our ability to reproduce. Energy levels are at its highest and bones are strong during middle age. However, it goes downhill thereafter. Kidney essence depletes and the functions of the organs decline with advancement in age, showing worrying signs of senescence such as deafness, hunchback, hair and teeth loss. Imbalances in kidney essence, ‘qi’, yin or yang can affect the growth and development of humans, resulting in development disorders, congenital mental retardation, soft and weak bones in children and premature aging in adults.

Deer Velvet is another precious traditional herbal remedy, which has long been regarded as a nourishing tonic for many deficiency syndromes, especially in the kidney. The benefits of deer velvet include reinforcing the kidney to bolster yang, boost essence, nourish blood and strengthen bone structures. They can enhance immunity and increase the body’s resistance to disease and aging.

Kidney dominates human reproduction

Like a seed which holds potential of an entire plant, the kidney system in TCM forms the basis of reproduction in humans. This is important as the abundance in kidney essence drives the maturation of reproductive capabilities during adolescent years where females face the onset of menstruation and males undergo an increase in size of their genitals and experience their first ejaculation. These changes provide humans with the capacity to reproduce. Kidney essence depletes by late 30s or early 40s, depending on individual, signals the start of pre-menopause and the ability to conceive diminishes.

From the TCM perspective, primary fertility issues are most commonly linked to the imbalances in the kidney system. While Western medicine may say that you have low progesterone levels, a TCM diagnosis may refer it as a deficiency in kidney yang. It is a different way of saying similar things, just from different medical perspectives.

Congenital vs. acquired constitutions

“Congenital constitution” forms an individual’s basic constitution and it cannot be altered since it comes from our parents. However, making a conscious effort to take care of our body through positive lifestyle habits can certainly influence our “congenital constitution” to reflect an overall high quality of life.

“Acquired constitution”, on the other hand, is produced from food taken in by the spleen and stomach, which is then stored in the kidney for circulation around the body.This “acquired constitution” supports an individual’s physiological activities, growth and development after birth.

For those born with a weaker “congenital constitution”, by knowing that they are more fragile and prone to illnesses, they can choose to embrace good lifestyle habits, such as having adequate sleep, establishing a regular exercise routine, thinking happy thoughts, eating healthily and avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption. Some of these people can have longer lives than those who were blessed with strong congenital essence but frittered away with poor lifestyle choices.

Importance of kidney yin and yang

The theory of Yin-Yang is fundamental to TCM practice and it is believed that when overall yin and yang in one’s body is imbalanced, illness occurs. While the other organs have their own yin and yang, the kidneys form the centre of the body’s yin and yang. Kidney essence generates kidney 'qi' which in turn transforms into both kidney yin and yang to serve different functions within the body. Primordial yin is the foundation of yin fluid of the entire body and is responsible for nourishing organs and tissues in our body while primordial yang is the foundation of yang ‘qi’ of the whole body to warm the body and promote optimal functioning of organs and tissues. They are interconnected and interdependent where they restrain each other to maintain a balance of yin and yang in the body.

A deficiency in kidney yang can result in cold and soreness in the knee and back regions, aversion to cold, enuresis, incontinence, edema and diarrhea in the wee hours of mornings. A kidney yin deficiency, on the other hand, can present as dizziness, ringing in the ears, hearing problems, dry mouth and throat, hot flushes, sweating in the palms and feet amongst many others.

Bone and hair health

The brilliance of the kidneys’ health is said to manifest in our hair. If both kidney essence and blood are abundant, our hair receives sufficient nourishment and appear lustrous, healthy and thick. A deficiency in kidney essence and blood will result in dry, brittle and dull hair. Selecting foods and herbs beneficial to kidney health can result in healthy and lustrous hair growth. Such foods include black soybean, black sesame seeds, black fungus, fleece flower root, privet seeds. Since hair is made of protein, it may be wise to also include high protein sources, like tofu and beans, into your diet.

Hair thinning and “greying” at a relatively young age can be a source of concern and embarrassment – and the pressures of modern life are causing more and more people to suffer from early hair problems. These worrying conditions can be relieved, but only by treating the underlying health-related problems that cause them.

Eu Yan Sang’s H4H Hair Formula is made from a combination of natural herbal ingredients, specially formulated to enhance the quality of hair and reduce issues such as thinning or “greying” of existing hair. It works by supporting the functions of the liver and kidney, invigorating and cooling the blood, and boosting circulation and metabolism to promote inner health.

Bone health is also closely associated to the function of kidney essence. The essence is able to transform into bone marrow which is responsible for nourishing bone structures to support their growth and repair processes. A deficiency in kidney essence can lead to brittle bones and stunted growth in children, as well as osteoporosis in the elderly.

The kidney is the most fundamental organ system of your body, which holds the genetic blueprint of your inherent body constitution and how healthy you will be. Whether yin or yang deficiency, it is essential to trace back to the kidneys’ reserves and address the issue immediately. Seeking the right balance between work and rest can ensure the kidneys get enough time for recuperation.

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