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Condition Index

The functions of the TCM Kidneys


The root of pre-heaven Qi.  Our Essence is taken from our parents and established at conception.  The Kidneys are the foundation or primary Yin and Yang for all other organs.  Kidney Yin is fundamental for birth, growth, and reproduction.  Kidney Yang is the momentum behind all physiological activities.  The Kidney Yin provides material for the Yang to burn, without Yang the Yin would be inert.  Therefore, they each need each other to exist.  If one becomes deficient, the other will become deficient (like a fire running out of wood, or like a pile of wood with a small waning flame).  When treating disorders of the Kidneys a practitioner should note that treatment of both Yin and Yang is necessary.   If the flame of a fire is stoked but there is little wood, the fire will quickly consume.  If there is a very small fire and too much wood is added it will smother the flame.  The Kidneys are the water organ, and they are also the source of fire for the body ‘the fire of the gate of vitality (Ming Men)’.

The functions of the Kidneys are:

     - Store Essence and govern birth, growth, reproduction, and development

     - Produce Marrow, fill up the brain, and control bones

     - Govern water

     - Control the reception of Qi

     - Open up into the ears

     - Show their health on the hair of the head

     - Control the two lower gates (orifices)

     - House will power (Zhi)

     - The gate of vitality (Ming Men)

     - Effect dreams



Store Essence and govern birth, growth, reproduction, and development


Essence is inherited from our parents and is constantly replenished to a certain extent from our food intake or breathing exercises.  Essence nourishes the fetus and after birth governs growth, maturation, and development.  This is the basis for our constitution.  It is also the basis for sexual functioning, i.e. sperm and egg production.  If the Kidney Essence is deficient infertility, impotence, slow growth in children, and early senility can occur.  The Kidneys also store post-heaven Essence from the Spleen and other organs. 

Aging is a natural decline in the Essence.  It is said that Essence has a cycle of 7 years in women and 8 years in men.  Kidney Essence is the basis for Kidney Yin, therefore supplementing the Kidney Yang for warming purposes.  If the Essence is strong the Kidneys are strong.


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Produce Marrow, fill up the brain, and control bones


Essence is the foundation for the making of Marrow.  However, do not be confused with the western concept of bone marrow, this is only a small part of how TCM views the marrow.  In TCM Marrow is what makes up the bones, bone marrow, brain, and spinal cord.  This is why it is said that the Kidneys fill up the brain.  If the Kidneys are strong the brain functions will be sharp (i.e. memory, etc.).  The Kidneys are also considered to be the origin of skill and intelligence.  The brain and spinal cord are referred to as the Sea of Marrow.  If the Kidneys are strong the bones and teeth will be strong.  The Kidneys determine both the mental and physical strength of the individual, and the will power.


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Govern water


In the five element theory the Kidneys correspond to water. 

1) The Kidneys control the two lower gates (orifices) for the proper regulation of fluids. If the Kidneys are strong the urination will be normal in quantity and colour. 

2) The Kidneys are in the lower Jiao, the organs in the lower Jiao are looked at as the drainage ditch – they excrete waste fluids.  The Kidneys provide Qi to the Bladder to perform its physiological function.

3) The intestinal functions of separating pure and dirty fluids is also under the control of the Kidney Yang.

4) The Kidneys also recienve fluids from the Lungs.  They are then further separated, the waste excreted and the pure steamed back up to the Lungs.

5) The Kidney Yang provides the Spleen with the heat needed for its function of transforming and transporting fluids.


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Control the reception of Qi


The Lungs direct Qi down to the Kidneys and the Kidneys hold or grasp the Qi.  If the Kidneys do not perform this function properly it will result in chest congestion and trouble breathing.  This is a very common root to asthma.


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Open up into the ears


The ears need Essence for their normal functioning.  If the Kidneys are weak there may be trouble hearing or tinnitus.


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Show their health on the hair of the head


The hair needs Essence to grow and be healthy.  It is when the Kidney Essence is weak that there is premature hair loss or other troubles with hair health.


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Control the two lower gates (orifices)


The opening and closing functions of the urethra and spermatic ducts in men, urethra in women, and the anus in both sexes is dependant on the health of the Kidney Qi/Yang.  If there is weakness there can be urinary leakage, incontinence, enuresis, spermatorrhea, or nocturnal emissions.  This may also cause diarrhea or prolapse of the anus. 


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House will power (Zhi)


If the Kidneys are strong our determination and will power will be strong.  Mental strength, focus, and drive to achieve goals will flourish.  Lack of motivation will respond well to treatment of the Kidneys.


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The gate of vitality (Ming Men)


The fire of the gate of vitality (Ming Men fire) today is considered to reside between the two Kidneys.  It is the motive force of all functional activities of the body.  It is also referred to as the “minister fire’.  It gives heat for all bodily functions and for the Kidney Essence.  The Kidneys are the root of fire and water in the body, the Ming Men is considered to be the fire. 

Main functions:

1) it is the root of Yuan (original) Qi

2) it is the source of fire for all the internal Zang Fu organs

3) it warms the lower Jiao and Bladder

4) it warms the Stomach and Spleen to facilitate digestion

5) it harmonizes sexual activities and warms the Essence and Uterus

6) it assists the Kidney function of receiving Qi from the Lungs

7) it helps the Heart to house the mind


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Effect dreams

“When the Kidneys are weak, one dreams of swimming after a shipwreck.If the dream takes place in winter, one dreams of plunging in water and being scared.” (Simple Questions).“When the Kidneys are in excess, one dreams that the spine is detached from the body…When they are weak, one dreams of being immersed in water.” (Spiritual Axis).
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