Yang Deficiency

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Yang deficiency occurs where the creative, transforming energy that maintains life in your body, and keeps all your mental and bodily functions going, lacks full power.

In a city, if the power is reduced, lights are dimmer, machines work less efficiently, TV pictures are smaller, it’s darker. Things don’t move or happen as quickly. Mobiles are slow to charge up, cooking takes longer because the heat isn’t as high, messages are relayed more slowly, decisions protracted, repairs delayed. Traffic lights are underpowered and misunderstood. Everything is more sluggish.

It’s the same in your body!

Low Energy

ID 35588488 © Yusakprahadi | Dreamstime.com

Basic Yang Deficiency Symptoms

  • Body can’t keep itself warm properly
  • Feeling of coldness, better for being covered or warmed
  • Poor circulation: cold arms, hands, legs and feet
  • Prefer warmth, of weather, clothing, central heating, of food and drink
  • May have low back pain or soreness
  • May have pale or transparent urine: often copious
  • Digestion may be poor
  • Stools may be loose or contain undigested food (Stomach Yang deficiency)
  • Tendency to withdraw, to reduce communications
  • Tongue: often pale
  • Pulse: often slow, may be weak
  • Yang deficiency leads to another syndrome: Empty Cold

Causes of Yang Deficiency

  • Invasion by Full cold that has injured Yang
  • Long exposure to cold from not wearing enough: don't ignore this! Many people from fashion consciousness wear too little, especially in winter. They look great - ! - but by continually or frequently exposing themselves to cold, they gradually deplete their Yang energy.
  • Consuming too much ‘cold’-type food or drinks. These are either cold or icy cold to the touch, or raw, or inappropriately cold to the season, or foods with a cooling or cold-increasing effect on the body.

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  • Physical work that is too much for your constitution. The exertion or load may be too heavy, or have gone on for too long: overwork. 
  • Weight-lifters beware! Work up to heavy weights gradually: don't over-strain yourself! 
  • Jogging beyond exhaustion does the same!
  • 'Overwork' includes any form of physical activity, even if enjoyable and enjoyed, that exceeds your body’s ability to recover properly in the available time. Some athletes permanently injure their Yang energy by training at just beyond their body’s capacity – overworking themselves. 
  • Even jogging and running are great, but when they exceed your body's ability to repair itself properly, you'll injure your Yang energy.
  • Not giving yourself enough recovery time from even normal levels of physical activity is another way to overwork.
  • Mentally, in impressionable people, bullying may harm Yang.
  • Fear, prolonged, may damage Kidney Yang.

Yang Deficiency in other areas

The Organ energies of the body, the Zang-fu, more susceptible to Yang deficiency are:

What can You do about it?

  • Rest more! Take more time between bouts of physical activity. Get plenty of sleep – little and often naps are good if you can.
  • Keep warm. If you’ve recently suffered from exposure to severe cold, or had an illness that caused full cold in the interior, you must allow your body time to recover before you resume your former levels of activity.
  • Be careful if the day seems mild but there is a breeze. The breeze makes the mildness colder on your skin. For example, if on holiday in a warm climate you decide to relax over a drink in the cool of the evening, be careful when there is a breeze! It may feel wonderful, but it is cooling and if you are Yang deficient, you may not cope well with it.
  • Consume nothing that is cold, icy, or raw. Make sure all food and drink you consume is warm and warming. Chew all foods very thoroughly before swallowing. If circumstances allow, and the only food is cold, icy or raw, try to take a warm drink (eg green tea, but even a little warm water will do) both before and after eating.
  • Eat nourishing, warming foods. It is usually better to eat well within your stomach’s limits rather than to over-eat and stuff yourself. Try to eat 5 small meals a day rather than 3 big ones.
  • Your acupuncturist may be able to prescribe a Chinese herbal recipe that fits your particular needs.
  • Add a little ginger to what you eat. Ginger, from fresh root, (not from ginger powder which is reckoned in Chinese medicine to be too heating) helps your Spleen Yang and Stomach perform better. Put a thin slice in a mug and pour boiling water over it: leave for 10 minutes, then sip the warm gingered water from time to time. Or add small slices to a vegetable stir-fry, or to a soup or stew.
  • Avoid physical exhaustion. Take gentle activity, only slowly building up to what you did before. As your body ages, be even more cautious.
  • Sex? Less: or practise abstinence for a while! In some people regular sex can be very draining when they already have Yang deficiency. This especially applies to Men. (Why? Because, simplifying a bit, semen comes from Jing, which is the root of both Yin and Yang. Women, on the other hand, are born with all the eggs they'll need, but may use Jing up during an exhausting pregnancy or if they have too many heavy periods: but not during sex - presumably unless they always completely knacker themselves!)
  • Enjoy plenty of warm sunlight. Don’t let yourself burn, however, and realise that over-exposure to heat can also be draining.
  • Try giving your eyes a sunbath: take off any glasses or shades you are wearing and if possible take out any contact lenses, though this is less important.
  • Then, with your eyes closed, face the sun and, still with eyes closed, look towards the sun for 10 minutes daily. (Do not open your eyes while they are facing the sun!)
  • Don’t talk or sing for too long at a time. Don't shout.
  • Let someone else take important decisions for you until you feel better.
  • Avoid standing for too long, especially if you are carrying anything, and avoid walking very slowly for long periods. So, no window-shopping! 
  • No dawdling as you wait for a friend: go and sit somewhere or arrange to meet them where you can sit while waiting. (And make sure it's warm!)
  • Avoid worrying and fearful situations or stimuli.


Well ... you’d expect us to say acupuncture, this being an acupuncture focused site. Acupuncture however, whilst great for mobilising your body’s Qi to create the circumstances for Yang creation, should be an important accessory here.

  • Moxibustion over the appropriate acupuncture points, and other treatments that are warming, are initially more important than acupuncture on its own. Hot stone treatment, warm baths, warm friends and surroundings will help.
  • Don’t try to treat this deficiency yourself. Get expert help. Why, especially here? Because your body is made up of both Yang and Yin energies. Strengthening Yang will affect Yin. Too much Yang-enhancing treatment, especially with herbs, may produce symptoms of heat or over–excitement of Yang before Yin has had a chance to catch up. If that happens you may begin to drain your Yin energy as well.
  • Also, if there is any sign of Full-Cold, or Damp, or Phlegm, (each of which is a form of excess Yin), as well as Yang deficiency, then the Full-cold, Damp or Phlegm must usually be cleared first before addressing the Yang deficiency. But don't think you're being overcharged for unnecessary treatments! By clearing the Yin obstacle, your Yang energy will naturally begin to recover, just as the tectonic plates under Northern Europe are rising now that the 3 Kilometres of ice-age snow has gone. (Mind you, they seem to be taking their time.)
  • Let someone else judge when best to stimulate Yang and when to stimulate Yin. For example, you may think you have Yang deficiency, but your friendly neighbourhood acupuncturist might realise that you also have Yin deficiency. If Yin deficiency predominates, tonifying Yang first with moxa or Yang-tonic herbs might be counter-productive.
  • Also, in advising you which foods or herbs are best for you, your acupuncturist will have to decide how strong your digestion is: no point suggesting strong Yang tonics (which can be heavy and cloying) if you can’t digest them. Read our page on Nutrition to begin to get a feel for all this.
  • It is seldom correct just to strengthen Yang and to ignore Yin (and the reverse applies too.) In strengthening Yang, you affect your body’s ability to digest food, to perspire, to think creatively, to warm up and cool down. Each of these also has roots in your Yin energy.

So get expert help. See a member of the British Acupuncture Council.

Once you're better from this deficiency?

If you over-strained yourself physically because you don’t normally take any form (or much) exercise, then do try to take up something physical that you know you can keep up and that will improve your physical capability.

60 years a Royal Canadian Air Force physiotherapist designed a 10-minute exercise regime (see left) that all their staff could do every day. It's got what you need, man or woman, to keep fit without over-straining yourself. You work through it at your own speed.

I've used it for years and found it kept me fit to run for buses and up stairs, able to lift heavy objects and generally just feel comfortable in my body. (But I also do some yoga.)

An Even More Heroic Method

The following is really good for stimulating Yang if done regularly. But you need to do it right, and you must not do it if ill, over-tired, after major loss of blood, if exhausted or chilled.

It's called a cold shower! Click here for how to do it right!

Then please read our page on Yin deficiency because you’ll find some of it applies to Yang deficiency too.

And again, what may seem obvious, please don’t let yourself become over-exposed to cold! Make sure you keep warm.

One common form of Yang Deficiency is Kidney Yang deficiency

Yin and Yang are two of the 8 Principles.

Return from Yang Deficiency to Yin and Yang.

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