Kidney Jing According To Traditional Chinese Medicine

Jing (Essence)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine and Taoist teachings, we learn that our organ systems have their own spirits. Kidney Jing is the spirit of the kidneys, which translates to essence. Our kidneys consolidate and store life essence that initiates and keeps life growing. They carry our genetic blueprint or DNA inherited from birth and are the carriers of our heritage. The Chinese character for Jing indicates a substance that has undergone a process of refinement and purification that needs to be cherished and protected.  

Jing is the organic substance that forms the foundation of growth, development, sexual maturation, and reproduction. The kidneys store energy to use in times of growth, crisis, and transition. They store what is essential to life, vitality, and endurance. They house our intellect, creativity, and instincts to procreate and survive. 

Our kidneys and adrenals are the batteries that provide us with energy. We need this energy to circulate through the Eight Extraordinary Meridians so our body can create bone marrow, menstrual blood, and semen. 

There are two kinds of essences: prenatal (pre-heaven) and postnatal (post-heaven):

Prenatal Jing Essence is a fixed amount that is inherited from our parents. It starts to nourish us as we develop fetuses, determines our primary body constitution, and promotes the healthy development of our brain and the strength of our physical body. It is our genetics. 

Postnatal Jing Essence is obtained after we are born and is heavily influenced by our lifestyle choices. It is produced by the spleen from the food we eat. Essentially, it is the essence of our epigenetics that shows how our behaviors and environment can cause changes in our gene expressions. Both types of essences are stored in the kidneys.

Kidneys transmit our physical and cultural inheritance. The source of our imagination enables us to look backward at our ancestral origin and heritage and look forward to envisioning our future and creating our progeny. 

The natural decline process of Jing leads to the natural decline of sexual energy and fertility. Nourishing the jing helps slow down the decline process. According to Taoist medicine, the average person should live to 120 years old with robust health. When the kidneys are declining, you can see they are not keeping the spine strong. This is seen most in our elderly when they start to hunch over. That is caused by kidney decline and patterns of disharmony. Jing needs to be treated like a precious substance that needs to be preserved and enhanced. This can be controlled by lifestyle changes, proper nutrition, and kidney-tonifying herb blends.

Jing is also responsible for reproductive health. Low libido means that the kidney fire is low. The kidney supports the reproductive organs ( ovaries, uterus, testicles, prostate), the reproductive material (sperm and ovum), and reproductive activity (sexual impulse, ovulation, ejaculation, fertilization, gestation). When the kidney qi is abundant, sexual and reproductive energy is vigorous. 

Healthy kidney jing supports the growth of the body’s structural elements, life force, and resistance to disease. Aiding with proper maturation of physical and mental health with the proper supply of essence. Which transfers to the proper development of marrow, brain, spinal cord, bones, teeth, blood, and hair. The cleverness and acuity of the mind and senses are due to the energy of the kidneys. 

Unhealthy kidney jing shows up as poor health, developmental deformities, fragile bones, premature aging, the withering of skin, deterioration of joints, fading mental faculties, stiff spine, loss/premature graying hair, dim hearing, blurred vision, loss of teeth, impotence, and infertility. It can be caused by inadequate sleep, excessive exercise, sexual activity, or work. 

kidney jing

What Depletes Jing?

  • Overexertion (mental, physical, and emotional)
  • Chronic Stress
  • Staying up late and insufficient rest
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Excessive Sexual activity
kidney jing

What Nourishes Jing?

  • A healthy digestive system
  • Inner Work- Working through emotional trauma, barriers, patterns and issues. 
  • Cultivation of meditation, tea, Qi Gong or Tai Qi practice.
  • Receive acupuncture and practice acupressure to support proper energy flow to support energy flow in the meridians
  • Eat eggs, animal proteins, organ meats, bone broth, bee pollen, kidney beans, sea vegetables, royal jelly, black rice, black wood ear mushrooms, walnuts, black sesame seeds.
  • Take herbs that support kidney health. Angelica root, goji berry, black sesame, dendrobium, cordyceps, fox nuts, fleeceflower, eucommia, rehmannia, and asparagus root.

The Kidney System

Element: Water

Sense Organ: Ears

Tissue: Bones 

Emotion: Fear

Season: Winter

Environmental Factor: Cold

Color: Black

Taste: Salty

Kidney Time of Day: 5 pm to 7 pm

Bladder Time of Day: 3 pm to 5 pm

A healthy kidney system means healthy fluid regulation with hydrated skin, joints, and sexual organs. The person will feel energized and lively, with strong vitality, bones, teeth, hearing, and libido. Helping us transition through different stages of life. 

Our kidneys help manage healthy stress responses. They also help maintain minerals in the blood, like phosphorus and calcium. It also activates vitamin D and turns it into calcitriol, which is essential for bone health. Our bones are the deepest tissue, which is why they are considered the most yin tissue, according to TCM. When the body is stressed, the adrenals use up potassium and sodium to build and secrete stress hormones. Kidneys also remove waste, manage fluid metabolism, and help make red blood cells. 

Wintertime is the season correlated with kidney energy. When we are supposed to live in balance with the yin energy of nature. The trees become bare, and the world around us becomes quiet and still. Like the trees, it is time to go within. We are tending to our inner life. We should not push ourselves and tend to our life force to maintain strong immunity. Be careful where we exert our limited qi. 

Water is the element that relates to the kidney system. Out of all the elements, water is the most destructive. We are dependent on it for our survival. When the water system is out of balance, so are the kidneys. Our mind and spirit feel flooded and eroded, creating fear and depletion of our inner reservoirs. 

kidney jing

Kidney Yin

Kidney Yin is like the root system that helps nourish and moisturize. It is the basis of all liquid substances in the body. Accepting and storing what it receives from the downward movement of energy through the lungs and the upward movement of the small intestine, spleen, and stomach. If too much fluid condenses in the lower body, it stagnates, causing bloating, swelling of the knees/ankles, and puffiness below the eyes. All other organs depend on the kidney yin for moistening and regeneration. The primary contributor to aging is anhidrosis- dryness of joints, skin, organs, etc., that is due to the dysfunction of water metabolism and mineral absorption in the kidney system. 

Kidney yin can be damaged by chemical agents, antibiotics, analgesics, tranquilizers, food additives, air pollutants, recreational drugs, inadequate intake of water, and bitter, salty, hot, and spicy food. This is known as kidney yin deficiency. 

Kidney Yang

Kidney Yang is the seed that represents the fire that balances and circulates liquid constituents. The fire within the water element sustains the function of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. Kidney essence enables the Shen Spirit to express itself. Jing and Shen then create the soma or psyche, the water and fire, the yin and yang. Kidney yang also fuels metabolic processes, supplying the body’s internal warmth, animating the spirit, activating the spleen/liver, assisting lung qi, instigating reproduction, regulating water metabolism, and overseeing the bladder’s functions. All other organs depend on the kidney yang for warmth and animation. 

If kidney yang is balanced, one is more resistant to cold, has reliable digestive power, and has lifelong sexual potency. 

When the kidney yang is unbalanced, the circulation of fluids is not regulated, the person feels cold, respiration weakens, and food cannot be digested. Symptoms manifest as diarrhea, frequent/incontinent urine, infertility, impotence, premature ejaculation, loss of hearing, ringing in the ears, dizziness from fatigue, weakness, and pain in the knees, lower legs, and lower back. Kidney yang can be damaged by cold exposure from cold weather, air conditioning, and iced/cold foods and drinks. 

The Bladder

The bladder is the mate of the kidneys. The kidney filters fluid into urine, vaporizing moisture upward and recycling nutrients and lubricating fluids. The bladder holds and releases unneeded fluid. The kidneys control the heat of the urine, the urethral sphincter, lower sphincter of the anus/cervix and regulate the retention and release of stool and menstrual blood.

The urinary system is also responsible for electrolyte balance and hormone production. Helping maintain healthy blood pressure. If there is a weakness in the kidney function, it can be treated through the bladder meridian which runs on either side of the spine and down the length of the back and legs. 

kidney jing

Water Element

The element water is the foundation of all life. Water becomes the most prominent element with the fullness of snow and frost in the winter. Water is the image of the darkness of an underground stream, endless as the depths of the sea and as fertile as the womb. Darkness represents the unknown and the unconscious. Underneath the darkness of the unconscious is where all of our wisdom lies. 

The descending energy of water is stored in the roots of trees and plants. For humans, our kidneys act as our roots. Movement slows, energy condenses, and nature hibernates. Beneath the surface of an inactive environment is the process of gestation and germination that will burst full and renewed as soon as spring arrives. The seeds of life need proper rest before they emerge. The essence of our being harbors in the kidneys like a seed that feeds and renews our life force. 

The way of water is always flowing. It is the path of least resistance. It is what Taoists call “the watercourse way”. Flowing within the water element, we become intuitively aligned with what is happening in our lives with a sense of alignment and flow.  Water does not resist anything. It represents the virtues of humility, modesty, and letting go. That teaches us how not to force our willpower or identity. Resting in the “beginner’s mind.” 

When we intentionally flow like water, our instincts and intuition become stronger. This is the gift of doing inner work with the water element. We start to tap into our intuitive knowing, potential energy, and hyper-hearing. When all the conditions are right the seed will grow, and you can then start to lay down the blueprint for your life (your tao) and become in touch with the will of heaven (your purpose). When our intention becomes permanent, we have willpower. Water is ceaseless, like strong willpower. 

Zhi – The Spirit of Water

  • Instinctual power
  • Aligned Will
  • Courage
  • Wisdom

“The highest form of goodness is like water. Water knows how to benefit all things without striving with them. It stays in places loathed by all men. Therefore it comes near the Tao.” – Lao Tzo, Tao Teh Ching, Chapter 8

Water is the first and last element that occurs on the wheel of life. It is the beginning and the end. A turning point that begins and feeds a new cycle of life. 

Looking at water within the macrocosm of a mountain. Zhi is like a dark cavern of the underworld, the source of the mystical rivers of fire that flow from the core of the Earth. The power of zhi can be described like the power of a hot spring, a geyser, or the steaming vents of sulfurous fire that shoot up from the depths of the ocean floor. Emerging and bursting upward. Within the depths of the earth, moisture condenses into minerals that collect in caves, roots, and creatures. The sheen of saltwater illuminates algae and plankton. Zhi is the iridescent blue-green color of chlorophyll within all plants and the rich red color of the marrow within our bones.

Water within the body’s microcosm is the psyche; the zhi resides in the most hidden parts of the body’s unconscious. It is the instinctual responses of the sex organs, the biochemical intelligence of the endocrine system, and the knowledge within our bones. The zhi connects us to the collective unconscious, drawing us in and out of the infinite of our imagination. The power of zhi within the body is related to the power of the life force, the instincts, the will, and the urgency of ambition. Zhi gives us our will to live and the unknowable mystery of our quickening life. Rising from the spring of our being, imbuing us with a desire to grow, thrive, and fully live. We encounter the mystery of life when a child is born, a seed sprout or an impulse of a new creative idea emerges from the depths of our being. 

Zhi is arising of will, the mystery behind all matter, and the potency of life. It is not ego-driven control or the initial energy of abstract ideas and visions. It is more like yin fire, the pilot light that ignites the flame of life. 

Zhi also relates to what is known as karma in Ayurvedic philosophy. Karma is the realm of unconscious forces and collective energy that determine the course of our life. The light of the consciousness is buried in darkness, like the minerals and nutrients that wait in the soil until they are released back into the cycle of life. 

kidney jing


Fear is the emotion connected to the kidney system and the winter season. The winter time is about dropping below the surface of our fears and thoughts. Historically, winter was a time of scarcity; humans had to store and conserve essential resources to survive the winter. 

The energy of fear moves inward; it is sinking and contracting. The body physically reacts when it feels fear and curls inward to protect vital organs. 

When you are terrified, you lose control of the waterways of the body. Losing control of your bladder, a chill runs down the spine, you become frozen with fear, and your blood runs cold. The adrenal glands release cortisol, the primary stress hormone that activates the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight or flight response. This response alerts us of potential danger or life-threatening situations.

Stress activates these hormones regularly in our modern world. Most experience symptoms of chronic stress and trauma. This creates an energy leak; our kidneys start to run in overdrive and make us feel depleted. Fear is normal and adaptable but can become chronic and create an imbalance. Causing emotions to rise, like lack of willpower, insecurity, aloofness and isolation. 

Also, since winter is the most yin time of year, it is the coldest and darkest time of year, which can be hard to surrender too. Yin energy is slow-moving, allowing for spaciousness and introspection. We struggle to take the time to slow down and face our fears. The spaciousness of winter can cause depressed states that some of us feel, and others love it. This can tell you a lot about your relationship with fear and the water element. It is essential during the winter season for us to incorporate yin practices like meditation so we can look at our unexamined fears. 

Our society is very Yang, constantly focused on growth and moving at a fast pace. Always being productive can overstimulate the adrenals and erode the kidneys, causing feelings of burnout. We then pollute our inner waters the same way we pollute the waters of the Earth with toxic substances and stimulants that deplete our reservoirs of ambition and will, as well as our digestive fluids and sexual drive. Excess graphic media and sexual activity shock the subconscious emotions and affect us physiologically. We have to create environments that encourage rest and recovery and start to nourish our relationship with our emotions. When we feel strong emotions, we need to let them flow through the body. 

When we try to control fear, it shows up as hyper-compulsive disorders that try to distract the mind. We have to ask what am I afraid of? Then, come to grips with the reality of impermanence and immortality. By going through the trials and tribulations of our minds, we come to know ourselves, build inner trust, become aware of our potential within the unknown, and work to uncover our wisdom. We do this by summoning our willpower in the wintertime and doing practices that help us feel present in the moment. 

The opposite of fear is trust. Are you living in wisdom/trust or fear?


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