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As distinct from the Western medical concept of Kidneys, this concept from Traditional Chinese Medicine is more a way of describing a set of interrelated parts than an anatomical organ. (See Zang Fu theory)To differentiate between western or eastern concepts of organs the first letter is capitalized (Liver, instead of liver, Spleen instead of spleen). Because Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is holistic, each organ cannot be explained fully unless the TCM relationship/homeostasis with the other organs is understood. TCM also looks at the functions of the organs rather than fixed areas and, therefore, describes different organs that are not actually physical, like the Triple Burner (San Jiao). This also leads to controversy about the validity of TCM, which comes a lot from the difficulty of translating and lack knowledge about TCM concepts and Chinese culture. So, to avoid conflict and to keep an open mind, please realize that these notions evolved in a different culture and are a different way of viewing the human body. The Kidneys (Shen) is a Zang organ meaning it is a Yin organ. The other Yin, or Zang, Organs are the Lungs (Fei), Liver (Gan), Spleen (Pi), and Heart (Xin). Sometimes the Pericardium (Xin Bao) is included. Yin organs store, secrete, make, and transform Essence, Blood, Spirit, Qi, and Fluids. These nourish the body.The Kidneys store the Essence (Jing) and are considered the root of everything. The Kidneys govern water metabolism, reproduction, secretions and some brain functions. The Kidneys are responsible for growth and development. The Kidneys produce Marrow, dominate Bones, and manufacture Blood. The Kidneys open into the ears. They receive Qi from the air (Kong Qi). Open at the two yins, (anus and genitals). Health of the Kidneys is reflected in head hair. Houses the Zhi (or will). Fluid secretions are urine, semen, and vaginal fluids. The peak time for the Kidneys is from 5-7pm.In Traditional Chinese medicine there is only one Kidney which includes both left and right kidneys and the space between them know in TCM as the San Jiao or triple warmer or triple burner.
Kidney's Main Function The main function of the Kidney is to govern the growth and development of the body, via its vital roles in storing jing (essence) and dominating reproduction and development. The Kidney is considered to be the congenital foundation of the body and its functions and, therefore, the Kidney dominates growth and development (Cheng, et al. 1987, p. 32-33 & Dong, 2006, p. 34).The primary function of the Kidney is to store and control ‘essence’, or jing. jing is the essence of qi and the basis for all body matter, such as the bones, the blood, etc., and much of the body’s operations. According to Chinese medical theory there are two types of jing that are required for the support and development of life; these are congenital jing and acquired jing, which are both stored in the Kidney, and which together in the greater whole are known as Kidney jing. Unlike qi, jing circulates in very long cycles (seven years for females and eight years for males) that govern the different stages of human development. The function of jing is to promote growth, development and reproduction, to provide the basis for Kidney qi, to produce marrow, and to provide the basis for all of the body’s jing, qi and shen (mind). (Cheng, et al. 1987, p.32; Maciocia, 2005, p. 46 & Yin, & Shuai, 1992, p. 34).Congenital jing comes from the parents and determines one’s basic constitution; it cannot be altered, although it can be positively influenced by acquired jing. Acquired jing is produced from food by the Spleen and Stomach and is then stored in the Kidney and circulated throughout the body. Congenital and acquired jing have a promoting/ controlling relationship with each other and their interaction produces Kidney jing; all three play a part in determining growth and development, sexual maturation and reproduction, and the aging process (Cheng, et al. 1987, p. 32 & Maciocia, 2005, p. 46).Every new cycle of jing prompts a new cycle of human development. For example, congenital jing exists from conception, carrying on from the jings of the parents. Once the child is born, acquired jing is responsible for replenishing the congenital jing and starting the first independent jing cycle which, for the next seven years in girls and eight years in boys, will control the growth and development of the child. Then, when the child looses its baby teeth, its body begins a new cycle, that of pre-adolescence. The next jing cycle is then adolescence, when Kidney jing matures and causes the ren meridian to open and flow. At this time, part of the Kidney jing transforms into tian gui, which develops and maintains reproductive function; hence the Kidney is considered to dominate reproduction. In the next stage the body finishes its physical growth, and eventually the decline of jing leads to the exhaustion of tian gui, thus extinguishing reproductive ability. Inevitably, the further decline of jing eventually leads to death. (Cheng, et al. 1987, p.32; Maciocia, 2005, p. 45-46 and Zhiya, Yanchi, Ruifu & Dong, 1995, p. 193-194). All four of the Kidney energy aspects are essential in the growth and development of the human body. The four aspects are Kidney jing (essence), Kidney yin (water), Kidney yang (fire) and Kidney qi. The ‘essence’ is cooked in the ‘water’ using the ‘fire’ to produce life-promoting ‘qi’. All of the body’s functions rely on the heat provided by Kidney qi and the gate of life (the space between the left and right Kidneys) (Maciocia, (2005), p. 49). Kidney jing is the foundation of the yin and yang of all the body’s organs. Kidney yin and yang are the primordial yin and yang, and the root of yin and yang to all the zang organs. Kidney yin moistens and nourishes the whole body, while Kidney yang provides warmth and promotes all of the body’s organs and tissue (Yin, & Shuai, 1992, p. 34-35). Kidney yang is the dynamic force necessary to start the body’s system of balancing water metabolism, which also employs the Spleen, Lung, Liver and San Jiao (Zhiya, et al.,, 1995, p. 194).Of the five zang organs, the Kidney is considered to be the water element. As it is the body’s water gate, it regulates the body’s water metabolism and the reception of qi. The foundation of yin fluid that nourishes and moistens the whole body is Kidney yin. When the Kidney receives fluid the qi of Kidney yang divides it into to two types, clear and turbid. The clear fluid is sent upward through San Jiao to moisten the Lung and for the Lung to distribute to the rest of the body, while the turbid fluid is sent downward for expulsion by the bladder. The water gate, as its name implies, is also responsible for regulating the opening and closing of the drainage ducts, namely the bladder and the anus, which rely on the activity of Kidney qi. Also, while Lung qi controls respiration in the body, Kidney qi coordinates inhalation. (Cheng, et al. 1987, p.32, 34; Dong, 2006, p. 34 & Zhiya, et al., 1995, p. 194)The yang (fu) organs transform food into pure, refined, vital substances that the yin (Zang) organs then store. Being a zang organ, the Kidney generates and stores qi. It is also responsible for the lustre of the hair, the production of bones and brain matter, the correct functioning of the ears, and the regulation of the opening and closing of the bladder and the anus. Mentally, the Kidney is responsible for supporting memory, while emotionally it is linked to determination, or will power (zhi) (Dong, 2006, p. 29-30 & Maciocia, 2005, p. 93).As stated in Giovanni Maciocia’s book, The Foundations Of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text For Acupuncturists And Herbalists, ‘At the basis of all is qi: all the other vital substances are but manifestations of qi in varying degrees of materiality, ranging from the completely material, such as Body Fluids, to the totally immaterial, such as the Mind (Shen)’. Congenital jing is the origin of the body’s qi. qi is the energy that drives the body; it comes from primordial qi, which comes from Kidney jing. qi is replenished by the combined efforts of the stomach, Spleen, Kidney, and Lung. This replenishment is achieved through the Stomach’s and the Spleen’s transformation and transportation of food and water, and also through clear qi taken into the Lung from the air; both come together in the Kidney and interact with the Kidney jing to provide qi for the whole body. Essential qi is stored in the Kidney and derives from the combination of both congenital and acquired jing. Essential qi, which comes from the parents, provides the body’s basic matter and is the basis for all growth and development of the body. During childhood, essential qi is in development, as is the child, and henceforth qi mirrors the development and decline for the entire human life cycle. For all these reasons, Chinese medicine considers the Kidney to be the root of qi. (Maciocia, 2005, p. 49; Zhiya, et al., 1995, p. 193-194 & Yin, & Shuai, 1992, p. 34-35, 50-51, 53).In Chinese medicine the Kidney is the key to human growth and development because it is the root of all qi and jing, and is, therefore, the impetus for all of the body’s ability to grow and develop. As qi and jing develop and decline, so does the human body’s development and abilities, for qi and jing are the essential energies of life.
BibliographyCheng, X.-n., Deng, L., & Cheng, Y. (Eds.). (1987). Chinese Acupuncture And Moxibustion. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. Dong, Lin (2006). Lecture Notes For COTH2140 Chinese Medicine Theory 1 History Of Chinese Medicine Component. RMIT University: Bundoora West.Maciocia, G. (2005). The Foundations Of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text For Acupuncturists And Herbalists. Philadelphia, MA: Elseverier Churchill Livingstone. Zhiya, Z., Yanchi, L., Ruifu, Z. & Dong, L. (1995). Advanced Textbook On Traditional Chinese Medicine And Pharmacology (Vol. I) . Beijing: New World Press.Yin, H.-h., & Shuai, H.-c. (1992). Fundamentals Of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Beijing, China: Foreign Languages Press.
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