Lesser Yin Stage
(Shao Yin stage)


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This Lesser Yin stage, (also called the Shao Yin stage) as disease tramples over your body's defences on its way to the core, is one of the Six Stages of Disease, described 1800 years ago by Zhang Zhong Jing.

Far from being mythical hocus-pocus, his prescriptions are used by practitioners of Chinese medicine the world over, to this day

Symptoms of Lesser Yin stage

In Chinese medicine, the Shao Yin level involves the Heart and the Kidney energy organs (zang-fu organs).

You will realise that when a disease penetrates to this level, it becomes potentially serious.

Mainly this involves first the Kidney, but because Kidney and Heart have a special balancing relationship in Chinese medicine, if one is long affected, after a while, so will be the other.

Fortunately, modern medicine is good at keeping us alive, but even so, when your body is being kept alive at this level, its energy is frail and susceptible to potentially life-threatening developments from adverse circumstances.

Lesser Yin stage (Shao Yin stage) symptoms come in two forms:

  1. Kidney Yang deficiency with Empty Cold
  2. Kidney Yin deficiency with Empty Heat

Both mean that at this lesser yin stage your body's ability to regulate its reaction to cold and heat is severely compromised.

(Compromised? What does this little word mean? It's much used by medical professionals to mean something terrible might happen to you and now they've told you they're not responsible: "you're gonna die, so there". Well, take heart. The ancient Chinese offer hope!)

1. Kidney Yang deficiency with Empty Cold

  • Feeling VERY cold (because you lack Yang Qi)
  • Lie all curled up under as many coverings as possilbe
  • Likes warmth
  • No sign of fever: temperature may even be reduced below normal
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Listless
  • Need to sleep all the time
  • Can't retain food: diarrhoea containing undigested food
  • Want warm food
  • Not thirsty but if drinks, wants warm fluids
  • Lots of pale urine
  • May sweat a little, even though cold
  • Tongue: very pale, moist, thin white coating
  • Pulse: very weak, slow, deep

Treatment of this Yang deficiency

The aim is to 'expel' the cold and to strengthen, or warm, the Yang.

An acupuncturist might use the following points with moxa: Bl23, K3 and 7, Ren4, Ren6 and Ren8, St36, Du20 (to pull up the Yang). However, see an professional for this treatment. It needs to be adapted to your particular needs.

The classical herbal recipe is Si Ni Tang. However, this contains aconite which is banned in some countries. If so your herbalist will have to use a milder recipe. Chinese ginseng might be used.

What can YOU do for this?

At this stage, you will not really be up to doing much for yourself.

  • You need warmth, fast. 
  • You can try sitting in a warm bath for up to 15 minutes fairly regularly
  • Take simple cooked food, warm, chewed well. Take small quantities at a time only
  • Make sure that whoever cooks your food includes ginger in the recipe.
  • Avoid cold, raw or iced food or drinks

2. Kidney Yin deficiency with Empty Heat

  • You feel hot all the time
  • This spills over to being irritable, touchy
  • Insomnia: either you can't get to sleep or you keep waking
  • Perspiration during sleep at night
  • Mouth is dry
  • Throat feels dry
  • Skin may be dry, even itchy
  • Eyes may be dry
  • If thirsty, for cool fluids, sipped
  • Urine is dark and scarce: may be sore to pass
  • Tongue: dark red, redder tip, no coating
  • Pulse: rapid, weak

Treatment of this Lesser Yin stage Yin deficiency

The aim in this Lesser Yin stage is to nourish, or support, your Yin energy and thereby to cool the heat and calm the Shen (your 'spirit').

Acupuncture points might include Ren4 and Ren6, K3, K6, Sp6. Moxa would be inadvisable. Make sure you get a professional acupuncturist to treat you. Don't do it yourself. 

The main herbal recipe for this is Huang Lian E Jiao Tang.

What can YOU do here?

  • Avoid hot places and people or circumstances that make you irritable.
  • Surprisingly, given your Yin deficient state, you may not be thirsty but you do need to drink. Preferably take warm fluids, sipping them. 
  • Make sure you get enough Omega 3 and 6 oils, mainly omega 3.
  • Meditation or prayer is good, but in your state, finding the patience to meditate may be beyond you.
  • Although others may irritate you, if they are calming and quiet and friendly, you may find their presence reassuring.
  • Although you are more 'lively', if that is the right word, than the other kind of Lesser Yin state described above, this is just as serious a condition: your heart-beat will be getting faster and faster and probably your blood pressure is rising.

Reflections on Kidney Yin/Yang deficiency

Of course, it is possible to 'acquire' Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang deficiencies in other ways than from invasion of Cold. As you age, you get Kidney deficiency.

Indeed, one might say that by definition as Kidney Qi diminishes over time, you age, although there are other factors involved in aging, such as Blood stasis.

However, when you reach the Lesser Yin stage as a result of invasion of Cold, you will be in a serious condition.

From Cold invasion, this stage could be reached by a child, an old person, or by a healthy 20-year old, because Cold can kill.

Cold demolishes your Yang energy. If I were stuck, with few clothes, inside an icebox, I would quickly reach this Lesser Yin stage, probably without many or any of the intervening stages. If you are younger than me, fitter than me, stouter and stronger constitutionally than me, you might take longer.

But if the cold didn't let up, you too would arrive at the same predicament, probably that of Kidney Yang deficiency, pretty soon.

Neither the Yang deficiency nor the Yin deficiency stage on this page is indicative of a long and happy life. You do need good treatment.

Since the Kidney supports the Heart, the Heart energy can fail, either by going too fast, or by going too slowly to keep going.

Your doctor would probably prescribe a number of different treatments, to calm you, to steady your heart-beat and control your blood pressure.

He's probably not as good as Chinese medicine at controlling your Kidney deficiency, however, that being your fundamental problem.


What are The Six Stages as Cold penetrates?

Note that this is not the order mostly used since antiquity, but makes more sense to me. For nerds, I'm with Giovanni Maciocia on this one.


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Yang Deficiency - Get Your Fire Burning Again!

Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine



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