Erectile Dysfunction in Chinese medicine

Photo by Kazi Faiz Ahmed Jeem on Unsplash

Key Learning Points

  • Brief discussion of ‘external’ factors, like infections, causing erectile dysfunction
  • ‘Internal’ factors causing it
  • Flowchart to help self-diagnose
  • Causes and what to do


Men worry about achieving or maintaining erections. Sooner or later, it happens: erectile dysfunction. Embarrassing!

Chinese medicine has given it considerable thought. Yes – it happens in China.

Now this is a long page, so settle down. It’s a serious subject and you’re not wasting your time.

Why does it happen?

This is Chinese medicine, so you need some familiarity with yin, yang, qi and blood. Then you’ll need to know about the energies of your Liver, Kidney and Heart, even your Gallbladder. Using terms like these, Chinese medicine can diagnose and treat a huge range of diseases, and certainly this one.

For the whole thing to get going, there should be some Fire. Fire is yang and equates here to your reaction to whatever turns you on, such as foreplay or visual stimulation.

We think of ED as caused by deficiency (such as lack of courage, lack of energy, lack of blood … and of course we worry about weakness and lack of masculinity), but it could also be caused by an excess of yin factors, just as lots of water puts out a fire.

Most of these excess ‘yin‘ factors that commonly dampen Fire contain both Damp and Heat, words which mean what they say. If you want to put out a fire, you need something damp, you’ll agree. But combine Damp with Heat and you get something that scalds, that overheats, causing damage to your skin. Damp and Heat in Chinese medicine often suggest infection, which may or may not be from sexually transmitted disease.


Stress can cause erectile dysfunction

Also, there’s one huge blocking factor, common to everyone sooner or later, and that’s stress.

Stress could come from anxiety, worry, frustration, anger, envy, jealousy, demands at work or at home. Stress causes something in Chinese medicine known as ‘Qi stagnation’. Qi stagnation blocks the channels (remember, this is Chinese medicine!) so they don’t work as designed. This means they stop Blood pumping through properly. And, you’ll agree, you do need a good supply of Blood, pumping away to achieve an erection.

By the way, you may think all this is complicated enough, but wait until you hear about the female sexual system. Dear Oh! Dear! Much more complicated. I’ll write a page on that too, but don’t hold your breath.


One important matter to mention!

This page talks about erectile dysfunction but if getting erections is not your problem, you may still have sperm that are substandard, leading to male infertility.

Male infertility is a major cause of women not being able to get pregnant and gestate a healthy baby, and it needs to be investigated at the same time as gynaecologists examine the woman’s health.

Otherwise much time can pass, leading eventually to IVF (expensive!) before it suddenly occurs to someone that it’s not the woman’s fault at all and just might be due to the male’s infertility.

So for information about this important subject see our page on Male Infertility. (It’s mainly focussed on Western medicine, however.)


Let’s separate out what are called external factors first. These can have a very debilitating effect on your erections. Often, they embarrass you for other reasons too, such as making it unpleasant for your partner.

What could these excess factors be?

person washing hands on sink, to combat infections that might cause erectile dysfunction
Be Aware of Hygiene to Combat Infection!

Often, they come from something you have caught, like a bacterial infection, but sometimes they come from internal inflammatory processes which, possibly from your diet, you have unwittingly encouraged.

  • They make you moody and, possibly, depressed: Qi stagnation


And on the purely physical plane:

  • Your urine is full of cloudy stuff, possibly red too, an infection?
  • Urinating may be painful or difficult
  • Your genitals itch – perhaps a rash?
  • That you have a discharge from your urethra. It may smell, putting everyone off.
  • Your tongue may have a yellow rather sticky coating on it, and at the rear of your tongue you may have little red spots or dots on its surface. These may suggest an infection and anyway, if your partner enjoys tongue exploration, having all that stuff in your mouth may diminish the passion of the moment.


With the exception of the irritability, these point to something a doctor might diagnose as an infection.  (The existence of these symptoms might also make you irritable and moody, of course.) From the Chinese medicine point of view you may not actually have an infection (as from a bacteria or virus), but these symptoms suggest you could be more susceptible to such an infection.

These symptoms suggest you have a condition known as Damp Heat either in your lower abdomen or in your ‘Liver/Gallbladder’, possibly both.


There are treatments for Damp-Heat causing erectile dysfunction, both Chinese (acupuncture and herbs) and Western medicine (antibiotics), but quite possibly you have brought this on yourself!

burger with lettuce and tomato: junk food may lead to erectile dysfunction
Don’t eat this kind of food too often. Definitely not recommended!

Yes! Eating the wrong foods – or drinks – can make you more predisposed to this Damp Heat condition. To get better faster, whatever treatment you choose, avoid foods that make it worse! You can see (via that link) the kinds of foods that tend to produce these symptoms, if eaten too often or to excess.

Or you may have discomfort or pain that interferes with enjoyment, such as:

  • Pain in your lower abdomen
  • Distension in your abdomen, with wind and unreliable stools (veering between constipation with wind – farting! – and very loose, urgent smelly stools, even diarrhoea).
  • Pain in your testes and/or your perineum, the area between the base of your penis and your anus.


Pain and Stress

Of course, pain anywhere can put you off, including a headache from indigestion or from the common cold, but those often come and go with your general health. In the lists above, I’m talking about problems that specifically affect your sexual energy, time and again, because of an underlying health problem.

The above three symptoms suggest there may a different kind of blockage, caused partly by Phlegm that prevents the free movement of sperm. (Of course, the distension with wind and stool problems can come from other causes too, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome – IBS. They can also arise from Qi stagnation – stress!)

If Stress has been prominent in your life recently this can produce signs of Heat, leading sometimes to Damp-Heat symptoms as described above. There’s more on Qi stagnation stress below, but just bear in mind that in time it can produce quite strong physical conditions, and these can make you more likely to get infected.


Internal factors are what most men worry about.

Internal factors and worries leading to erectile dysfunction
Worried? Nowadays we check the internet!

External factors listed above are easy to understand and, with the exception of Qi stagnation stress, can often be treated easily with Western medicines but also with acupuncture, herbs and of course by avoiding the wrong foods.

Qi Stagnation stress often responds well to acupuncture, though you must deal with its underlying causes.

Of course, there are a number of Western medications for the physical symptoms arising from stress. For example, these include SSRIs such as Prozac, to relieve signs of anxiety.

Just a small comment on medication, however! Most, probably all, forms of medicine have primary and secondary effects. There’s a list of medications below known to affect sexual energy: adversely.

In general, Chinese herbal prescriptions don’t unfavourably affect you because they contain internal balancing herbs that compensate for any ill-effects of the main herbs. However, you need to receive the correct prescription.

Internal factors fall into two broad categories, and you can have syndromes from both categories at the same time.

Physical factors

Although mostly physical, each physical factor also has a potential mental factor. However, putting right the physical syndrome often automatically improves its mental aspect.

How easy is it to ‘correct’ the physical syndrome when you’ve identified (see flow diagram below) the one affecting you?

  • Usually if the word ‘Blood’ is in the syndrome name, it is easier to correct. (I emphasize the word ‘usually’ in that sentence! Correcting a Blood problem can take persistence.)
  • Blood is a very physical substance and what we eat, drink and do make a huge difference to success.
  • If the word ‘Kidney’ occurs in the description, it takes longer and may have slowly developed over a longer timeframe. Treatment here might include acupuncture and herbs for example. You must also contribute to success with better habits. Unless you do, you’ll relapse.


Mental/Emotional factors

black and white printed shirt

Two words with mental/emotional connotations crop up when describing the different syndromes or patterns of illness: depression and timidity.

‘Depression’ means lowered spirits and a negative attitude to life. It may be caused by physical symptoms, and Stress can cause it: adverse circumstances that weigh us down. Depression can be so strong that it saps resolve to help oneself. It can be treated with Chinese medicine though it may take time.

‘Timidity’ is different. It lacks resolve, so of course can occur with depression, but timidity here denotes a lack of gall, of courage. This, in Chinese medicine, is often from a ‘weak’ Gallbladder. Again, it can be treated. Usually a weak gallbladder has a detrimental effect on Heart energy, so you’ll see below that one of the syndromes is described as ‘Heart and Gallbladder deficiency’.

As explained, calling them ‘mental/emotional’ factors does not mean that only psychological or psychiatric help will work. Chinese medicine, acupuncture and herbs, greatly help, sometimes just as much as Western methods. And don’t forget that Chinese medicine has been in regular use for a lot longer than the Western medicine we are used to! Also, it doesn’t have the same side-effects.

To reduce repetition …

… you’ll find much more about some of the syndromes mentioned under other pages I’ve written for this website. For example:


Those linked pages describe how and why the syndrome occurred and what to do about it. So, please, although there are summaries below – when you decide which fits you – do read them.

For which Chinese medicine syndrome(s) may be the reason for your own erectile dysfunction, check the flowchart below.

NB Because you may have several syndromes at the same time, the flowchart isn’t perfect. For example, Liver qi stagnation often combines with Liver Blood deficiency, or with Heart and Gallbladder deficiency.

By the way, you’ll read it better if you download the pdf for it – here’s the link.

Let’s take a brief look at these syndromes.

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Kidney Yang deficiency and erectile dysfunction

Here you have both impotence, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, and possibly dizziness too. With all Kidney conditions you often get backache, specifically lumbar backache. For example if you stand for too long, or carry something heavy: typically, it starts later in the day. Likewise, you probably notice increasing tinnitus, especially when tired or after a poor night’s sleep.

How did you get Kidney yang deficiency?

  • Frequent or long-term exposure to cold, especially when growing up. Perhaps you wore too little? (Girls! – I know you’re reading this! You can get this too and in some cases it can reduce your fertility but it can also be a major reason for dysmenorrhoea – painful periods. See an acupuncturist who will almost certainly be able to help.)
  • A period of your life when you were often fearful or very anxious, more often occurring when growing up.


physical overwork can lead to Kidney yang deficiency and erectile dysfunction

  • Overwork, especially physical overwork. This could be lifting weights beyond your strength. Alternatively, participating in contests (including running) that drain you without enough time to recover properly in between them. Or it could be using a spade to shift earth – too often or too much.
  • Ejaculating too often may contribute to Kidney yang deficiency but more commonly causes or comes with Kidney Yin deficiency.


Often with Kidney yang deficiency you feel the cold more than other people. If you are an athlete, you may also have a slower than normal heartbeat and, possibly, low blood pressure: cold hands, too. You’ve been told this is good because physical exertion raises your pulse and blood pressure up to normal. (So it’s easy to get hooked on regular exertion, running for example.) However, in Chinese medicine this is nearly always regarded as a deficient condition, and you should rest more, eat warm foods, and keep warm.

As your yang energy recovers, so will your erectile dysfunction.

Read more at Kidney Yang deficiency.

Kidney Yin deficiency

This seems very different to Kidney Yang deficiency, not least because you don’t often feel cold. In fact, you may have nice warm hands, but you also notice that at night you perspire in your sleep. Also your sleep is poor – you often wake – and it’s unrefreshing.

Urine is dark and scanty and may be painful to pass.

With Kidney function problems you’ll get lower backache and tinnitus. As these are also conditions of old age, this syndrome and any erectile dysfunction is also common amongst the elderly. Look at your tongue: with Kidney yin deficiency it is often red and lacks a coating.

The commonest cause of Kidney Yin deficiency is overwork, mental overwork.

Working all hours can lead to erectile dysfunction from Kidney Yin deficiency
We all need time to rest and sleep and not to work all hours.

That means taking work home with you, working all hours, burning the candle at both ends. It also occurs when you juggle too many activities at the same time. You may believe that such variety is good, but if you never have time to rest properly, it’s not.

This can also occur when, being ill from an acute illness, you insist on carrying on without proper rest.


Moisture in the form of water is also a yin substance and if you are yin deficient your body is probably not able to maintain its best-functioning moisture levels.

If so, it is very important to eat food that is not too dry – you need ‘wet’ food (see below), and probably you also need more water in your diet.

Try several glasses of warm water first thing after rising in the morning. Don’t flavour it with lemon or anything else – just water (ideally filtered, of course!). Unflavoured it will quickly pass down to your large intestine which absorbs whatever is needed, and this may also help reduce any yin deficient tendency to constipation.

Wet foods

‘Wet’ food means food that retains its original moisture when eaten; steamed vegetables, for example. Also ‘clogstoun congee’ and ‘clogstoun porridgee’.

Don’t ignore this cause! Nowadays we often eat processed foods that are very concentrated and not like the foods from which they were made at all. Our bodies get used to providing the moisture from our own resources ie our blood. So you then get Blood deficiency, see below, and eventually Yin deficiency.

The effect of Ageing

As explained, Kidney Yin deficiency also occurs among the elderly, in which case there would be signs of advancing age, tooth problems, hearing difficulty, grey hair, loss of hair and bone and joint problems: also increasing forgetfulness.

As we age, unfortunately we develop more Kidney function problems and even if you are mainly Kidney Yin deficient, you may also be Kidney Yang deficiency. With yang deficiency you’ll find you need to urinate more often, including at night.

Although, over time, you may be able to correct this yourself, get some acupuncture treatment – it usually works much faster – though not necessarily in one treatment!

AVOID Heating foods

If you have yin deficiency, avoid heating and spicey foods.

red chili pepper with green leaves

They incline your body to warm up which worsens your yin deficiency. Such food includes hot peppers, chillies, strong spices, onion, garlic.

Find out more under Hot Foods. However, don’t eat raw or chilled or cold or frozen food. Always eat warm, cooked food if you have kidney yin deficiency.

Read more at Kidney Yin deficiency.

Liver Blood deficiency

Your Liver acupuncture channel travels round and through your genitals. Liver Blood produces the erection. Without enough Liver Blood you may also feel dizzy or faint, for example on exertion or when standing up too fast from sitting or lying.

Another major function of Liver Blood is to supply the blood for your vision. Without it, you easily get visual blurring, for example when tired. Taking a few deep breaths to oxygenate your blood may help temporarily. Long-term, Liver Blood deficiency can lead to deteriorating eyesight.

You may also get headaches, often at the very top of your head or at your temples. Probably you like to press, rub or stroke the area. Lying down often helps. So does sleep.

Another sign of Liver Blood deficiency is frequent cramps or spasms. Theory states that your Liver Blood nourishes your tendons. The cramp often happens more when tired or later in the day or evening or after being still for a when you first move, say in bed. Some people with Liver Blood deficiency get numbness in their hands or feet when not moving much. You may have a slight tremor.

Your Liver energy has a major effect on you mentally. Without Liver Blood you may lack confidence and be often anxious. Also, you look pale and have pale lips. You may be underweight.

Why do you have Liver Blood deficiency?

  • Your eating habits need to improve. That means not just what you eat, but also how often you eat and how much time you give yourself to digest before rushing on to the next thing in life. Probably you need more time after meals, resting or relaxing. Taking a short walk outside often helps settle your digestion before returning to work.
  • Stress symptoms, explained by Liver Qi Stagnation, can lead to Liver Blood stasis, which can lead to this Liver Blood deficiency. What that means is that if you are always juggling many different activities with seldom enough time for each of them, you lay yourself open to Liver Qi stagnation (stress!), no matter how much you enjoy the variety. That leads to poorer blood circulation. You need to slow down!
  • It can work the other way too! Without enough Liver Blood, your Liver can’t do its job, and this easily leads to Liver qi stagnation, meaning you feel stressed more easily than normal.
  • For healthy Blood, you need protein. This need not come from meat, although meat is the traditional food for this. If you are vegan, think about this carefully and read the list of ingredients on soya-based meat substitutes which often contain much more salt, sugar and fat than the food they replace, leading to other health problems.
brown nuts on white ceramic bowls
Protein builds Blood
  • You may have suffered from Blood loss at some time. This could be from a haemorrhage or from donating Blood too often.
  • If Kidney function is low (see above), this can contribute to Liver Blood deficiency.
  • To understand why these are Liver symptoms, read up on your Liver.


What to do about Liver Blood deficiency?

  • Improve what you eat (for a simple example, avoid cold or raw food, eat more cooked and warm food). For a start, read the page on Nutrition.
  • Improve the time you take both to eat (chew well!) and to rest after meals.
  • Get more deep, restful sleep. Read Insomnia.
  • Read our pages on the Stomach and Spleen deficiency.
  • Stop overstimulating your body with excitement, drugs and so on. Do less!
  • Some nutritional supplements may help. See more below.


NB Severe, untreated Liver Blood deficiency can cause Heart Blood deficiency, see next.

Read more at Liver Blood deficiency.

Heart Blood Deficiency

Symptoms include:

  • Loss of libido (ie loss of sexual desire)
  • Occasional dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Palpitations – sometimes this amounts to atrial fibrillation – but what ‘palpitation’ means in Chinese medicine is an uncomfortable feeling in the chest associated with the heart.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold hands
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Dreams disturb your sleep
  • Complexion pale or dull
Pale face is one of the signs of Heart Blood deficiency, a possible cause of erectile dysfunction.
Body looks strong, but face has dull complexion
  • Pale lips
  • For why these symptoms occur read about your Heart in Chinese medicine.


Heart Blood Deficiency Causes

  1. When (in Chinese medicine) your Heart is involved, it nearly always includes an emotional or mental aspect. Here the kinds of emotions meant include fear, anxiety, worry and grief, probably over a long time. This affects your Shen-Mind, the Chinese word that denotes your spirit. Other causes include sudden bad news and major loss/disappointment.
  2. Major blood loss is another cause. This can occur from haemorrhage or via a small daily loss over time – eg from bleeding internally. This is a danger during or from surgery and from wounds. Men! – spare a thought for women! Heavy periods can lead to this, and blood loss during childbirth can lead to post-natal depression related to this syndrome.
  3. Good food leads to healthy blood, assuming digestion is good. Poor nutrition and poor eating habits lead to blood deficiency and in time, Heart Blood deficiency.
  4. Over-exertion can lead to Blood deficiency. Over-exertion has other effects too, including Kidney yang deficiency, which itself leads on to Spleen deficiency which means poor digestion which leads – again – to blood deficiency.


What you can do about Heart Blood deficiency

  1. Acupuncture works well, Chinese herbal prescriptions too.
  2. Eating right is vital. That means eating the right way, eating the right foods and not eating when working or rushing. Take time to eat, in pleasant surroundings with people you like and trust who give you support and encouragement.
  3. Supplements? If the foods you eat are right for you, supplements won’t make much difference, though they may help a bit. Eat enough protein – very important! Fish oil supplements are beneficial for you. But if you have severe Blood deficiency of any kind (eg of Heart or Liver), theory suggests that Blood-moving herbs may be counter-productive – for example, Turmeric. To read more about why, click on Turmeric.
  4. Take some exercise, even if when starting you get a bit breathless. However, if you stay breathless throughout your exercise, ease up!
  5. Adequate sleep is also vital.
Proper sleep is vital to avoid erectile dysfunction.
This doesn’t look like someone getting adequate sleep!

Expect improvement within months. There is seldom a one-day cure for Heart Blood deficiency.

By the way, sometimes Heart Blood deficiency goes on to produce Heart Yang deficiency. That’s a further downward step, though treatable, of course.


Heart and Gallbladder deficiency

Symptoms of Heart and Gallbladder deficiency

  • Anxiety
  • Tiredness
  • Indecisiveness
  • Easily saddened
  • Lacks courage
  • Unwilling to take the initiative
  • Depressed
  • Palpitations
  • Wakes early in morning and cannot get back to sleep
  • For more, click on Heart and Gallbladder deficiency.


Causes of Heart and Gallbladder deficiency

  • Inherited disposition or genes
  • Lack of support from parental figures: possibly vehement criticism from them, or singular lack of encouragement
  • Fatigue, especially mental exhaustion


What can you do about Heart and Gallbladder deficiency?

  1. Get some good acupuncture treatment but realise that results take time.
  2. Some herbal treatment may help. They need to be adapted to your particular needs.
  3. Take organic cider vinegar, one teaspoon in warm water, morning and evening daily.
  4. Learn to ask questions before undertaking projects. Develop assertiveness!
  5. Learn ways to calm and steady your mind. These could include yoga, meditation, prayer, and sometimes a little less humility. Our page on Shen-Mind is an introduction to how Chinese medicine regards your Mind.


silhouette of bench near body of water during daytime

Liver qi stagnation

This is probably the single most common reason for erectile dysfunction. It also occurs as a result of any of the other syndromes, compounding the problem.


  • Abdominal distension, especially up under the ribs on the right and in the lower right-hand quadrant of the abdomen: it feels as if stretching, almost as if it is trying to burst: bloating!
  • Changeable bowel actions
  • Stools often look like small pebbles, impacted together
  • Belching and farting
  • Sighing
  • Emotional outbursts: depressed and moody
  • Feeling of something stuck in the throat
  • Restless sleep – you may wake around 1am or 2am
  • Coffee craving on rising am. Daily over-consumption of caffeine.
  • No desire for breakfast when you wake in the morning.
  • Read our page on your Liver functions in Chinese medicine.



frustration leads to Qi stagnation causing erectile dysfunction

  1. Anger or frustration
  2. Having to achieve impossible targets within very tight parameters
  3. Eating too much food rich in sugars or that quickly turn into sugars when eaten – these are often high-glycaemic foods, often highly processed; also alcohol!
  4. Poor abdominal ‘tone’ probably caused by a lack of exercise and over-eating and alcohol
  5. Loss of vital fluids, including blood
  6. Deficient Liver Blood, see above.


What you can do about Liver Qi stagnation

  1. Take regular exercise, that gets you out of breath for at least 20 minutes, several times daily. (What does ‘regular’ mean? It means at least once, and preferably twice, daily!) This could be walking or cycling, for example. Ease up on competitive sports, especially if you think winning is the only point of playing!
  2. If you habitually sit at a desk, get up and move around a bit every 30 minutes.
  3. Acupuncture is brilliant for Liver Qi stagnation. However, you need to address the underlying cause which, for some, may mean a change of job or career. (As a result of this bit of advice, I became a student of Chinese medicine, eventually changing career!)
  4. Avoid or reduce foods that are too ‘heating’. These include spicey and dairy foods and fried and fatty foods (which include curries, for example); also, junk foods, processed foods and red meat.
  5. Avoid Alcohol because it leads to internal Damp-Heat which obstructs your Liver qi. Having said that, if you seldom drink you may find just half a glass of wine daily has a relaxing effect. (Unfortunately, even half a glass can dull your willpower to stop there.)
  6. Reduce stimulant foods like coffee, including anything including caffeine. Yes, that includes cola!
  7. Don’t over-eat.
  8. Chew well (very important!)
  9. Eat when relaxed and comfortable, not when tired or exhausted or tense or when working.
  10. Don’t eat much during the three hours before sleep.
  11. If food is not organic, be very careful to wash it thoroughly before cooking it.
  12. For more, including foods and herbs that may help Liver qi stagnation, click on Liver Qi Stagnation


Heart and Kidney not communicating with yin deficiency


man grayscale photo

  • Impotence in the elderly or those run-down and exhausted by life
  • May be able to achieve an erection
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Mental restlessness and tendency to worry and make haste
  • Poor sleep, (frequent waking, or dream-disturbed)
  • Lumbar backache
  • ‘Palpitations’ ie an uncomfortable chest feeling associated with the heart beat
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Tinnitus
  • Poor hearing
  • Sweats at night in sleep without obvious cause such as from ambient heat
  • Palms, soles and chest may feel uncomfortably hot at times, especially in the afternoon and evening.
  • Mild thirst or dryness at night, but you prefer small sips of liquid, not long drafts of it
  • Tendency to constipation and dry stools
  • Urine tends to be dark
  • Poor memory
  • Tongue has little or no coating and may be red
  • Pulse floating and empty



man sitting on concrete brick with opened laptop on his lap

  • Overwork, meaning working all the time, or too often without adequate rest and sleep; also working under conditions of great stress for long periods, and often with poor diet and lack of sleep: these all drain reserves of yin and may create Heat which disturbs Heart function
  • Poor diet over long period may contribute to this because food supplies Blood and if Blood is deficient it can lead to Yin deficiency
  • History of insomnia contributes to this syndrome
  • Worry, anxiety, usually about work or just always thinking about work or duty
  • Major emotional upset, stress and worry can so ‘inflame’ the Heart that it exhausts its yin resources in the Kidneys; this often is the main cause of this syndrome in elderly men
  • A history of ejaculating too often in men as they age drains their Kidney jing energy, eventually leading to yin deficiency of both Kidney and Heart.
  • Excess worry ‘hassles’ the Heart which finds no stability from the Kidneys, so cannot settle or calm down, leading to panicky chest feelings
  • See also the discussion under causes of Heart and Kidney not communicating, with QI deficiency, next below.


What to do about Heart and Kidney not communicating with yin deficiency

  • Calm, restful conditions without worry will gradually help
  • Good diet, over a long time
  • Better sleep: sleep is vital to help ‘cure’ this syndrome
  • Massage to steady and relax the body and mind
  • Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been used for this for millennia
  • Lazy walks in the countryside settle the soul


brown wooden bridge on mountain

  • Less ejaculatory sex


Symptoms of Heart and Kidney not communicating, with qi deficiency

  • Impotence
  • Low libido
  • Premature ejaculation
  • Feels slowed down, not up to the task at hand, but tendency to worry
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Insomnia caused by not being able to get to sleep more than by frequent waking from sleep
  • Lumbar backache
  • Poor hearing
  • ‘Palpitations’ ie an anxious feeling in the chest, often associated with the heartbeat, but not necessarily palpitations in the Western medical sense
  • Tinnitus
  • Facial pallor
  • Urine frequent and pale
  • Tongue pale
  • Pulse Deep and weak



There are many similarities between this syndrome (Heart and Kidney not communicating, with Qi deficiency and with Heart and Kidney not communicating, with yin deficiency).

This, the Qi deficiency syndrome, is a bit less serious and sometimes easier to ‘cure’ than the yin deficiency syndrome, because it occurs in younger men more often than in the elderly, and the young have greater powers of rejuvenation than the elderly. When men are older, they have used up more of their life supplies of yin and jing and so have less in the ‘bank’ to recover.

Bottle of essence
Jing Essence – an ancient idea for the source of life

That said, the qi deficiency type is more tired so has less libido and desire. They need more frequent rest and may not be able to achieve an erection, whereas the yin deficient type can often achieve an erection (yang manifests more easily because unrestrained by yin). The trouble is, the yin deficiency types then have more sex, ejaculate more, and use up even more supplies of their jing, depleting yin still further. The result is accelerated aging and its attendant symptoms, plus erectile dysfunction.

What’s the main difference?

The biggest or most noticeable diagnostic signs are in the tongue and pulse.

With qi deficiency the face and tongue are pale, because qi cannot summon enough Blood (or, there isn’t enough Blood to make Qi).

For the same reason, Qi, being yang, cannot raise the pulse towards the surface, so with this kind of erectile dysfunction the pulse is deep and weak.

On the other hand, with the yin deficiency type, there is no cooling yin energy to clear heat from the tongue, which therefore looks red, and there is no yin energy to sink the pulse, which is therefore floating and empty. For the same reason, without yin to anchor it, yang easily rises to the chest and head, giving hasty anxiousness and mental tension.

Someone with the qi deficiency type may ‘tip over’ into the yin deficiency type.

  • Overwork is a main cause, with lack of rest and, often, a poor diet
  • Poor diet and poor digestion, often exacerbated by worry or ‘over-thinking’
  • Lack of rest, and in some cases lack of time spent asleep, even if sleep is good


What to do about Heart and Kidney not harmonised with qi deficiency

  • Less work, less worry: give someone else responsibility!
  • Less sex (ejaculatory sex)
  • More rest and time spent asleep
  • Better diet
  • More time to digest food
  • More time to relax
  • Calmer and less stressful environment
  • Very little exercise until tiredness resolves: just stretching eg with yoga is good
  • No heavy lifting
  • Acupuncture and herbs to help recover energy better

Medications that ruin sex life ie they cause Erectile Dysfunction

assorted medication tables and capsules


Modern science has produced drugs to maintain life, fight disease, control pain and inflammation. We are grateful.

However, every medicine has a primary and a secondary action. Sometimes the secondary effect seems good – for example: Viagra, originally developed for hypertension and angina pectoris. However, even now, nobody quite understands how it works!

(Well, actually, Chinese medicine has a pretty good idea how Viagra works! I’ve explained it below under Drugs that overstimulate Yang, exhausting yin.)

 But many kinds of medicine can ruin your sex life. Using the principles of yin (including Blood) and yang (including Qi) let’s see.

Let’s start with alcohol.


Alcohol is complicated and depends on what you drink (also, of course, on your individual reaction to it).

Generally, its primary action is good in reducing yang in the sense that it helps clear or release Liver Qi stagnation, a situation of yang tension. That’s why we (or at least, I) like a glass of something alcoholic after a long, tiring or tense day at work.


This initial or primary actions of alcohol belies its secondary actions which I’ll describe further down. However, first, let’s take the primary action: as I say, this is usually to release tension.


Beer is also cooling in nature, even if taken at room temperature: still more cooling if chilled. The more bitter the beer, the less damp-forming it is but this ‘positive’ action is counter-balanced by how sweet it is, because the sweetness weakens your Spleen action, leading to signs of damp.

That Damp (click here for more about how Damp messes with your body) then leads to a range of possible problems, from Athlete’s Foot to oedema and fat.

The coolness of the drink also makes it somewhat harder to digest, weakening your Stomach’s Yang energy. Read more at ‘Why Does My Stomach Hurt’.


chilled beer may weaken Stomach qi
Chilling Beer makes it harder to digest.

I think an additional reason beer helps to balance yang tension is that you drink it in quantity. It’s not just a dainty wineglass, it’s half a litre!

That puts a whole balloon of cold liquid in your abdomen, which helps to counteract the upward tensions caused by yang. Only if you lie down with a bellyful of cold beer might you start to get tensions again in your upper chest, breathing and head.

(Try it! – NoDON’T! I don’t want anyone suffering from the effects of it all coming up or overwhelming their ability to breathe, or worse.) Beer includes stout, by the way. And yes, some beers are rich in vitamin B but to get the same amount of vitamin B from beer or stout as from a plate of eggs or leafy greens you’d need to drink gallons of the stuff. Take it from me: gallons of beer won’t improve your erectile dysfunction.


Wine of any colour is warming, the more so the redder it is. So even white wine, though often drunk cold – hence the reason we consider it cooling – is actually to some extent warming. For example, to help some Chinese herbal formulae work better, they cook them in red wine, to assist with digestion.

Just to remind you, the other primary action of alcohol is to reduce the yang tension, to clear Liver Qi stagnation. But you need very little to do this. Unfortunately, what is enough is hard to judge when you’ve already taken some alcohol: for some people, a tablespoon is more than enough. For the rest of us, half a wineglass (and I don’t mean a large wineglass!)


Wine and spirits are warming. Yes, their primary action is dispersing but after that it’s all downhill. The more concentrated the alcohol, the more heating and damp-forming it becomes.

Your liver and gallbladder then produce symptoms of Damp and Heat, or Damp-Heat. Just read that page to discover why your partners may be less keen on you if you have Damp-Heat. Your body’s yang energy is ‘diverted’ into Heat production so has less available for sex. That Heat disturbs the formation of Liver Blood and the Damp-Heat obstructs your acupuncture channels so not enough energy gets through for you know what.

Result? Erectile dysfunction!


Medications that reduce yang:

drugs to reduce yang may also produce erectile dysfunction

  • Drugs to reduce Blood pressure, including Beta-blockers and thiazides. (For diuretics, see below.) Beta blockers put a lid on how hard your heart works, and thiazides make your kidneys excrete water and sodium, reducing the quantity of blood (ie the quantity of yin) your heart has to move. So they are often used together. But with less ‘push’ from your Heart and less ‘blood’ to push, you may understand why you get erectile dysfunction.
  • Drugs to reduce mental tension, such as anti-depressants: these lower both yang and libido, potentially increasing erectile dysfunction.
  • Painkillers: these often reduce signs of fever too. Fever is yang so many painkillers reduce your yang. You need yang for healthy erections, but not the yang of raised blood heat: you need the heat – yang – of libido and passion!
  • Antihistamines automatically reduce your body’s ability to produce a yang reaction
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors relax your blood vessels so reduce blood pressure that way, but you need to raise blood pressure a bit otherwise you get erectile dysfunction. In other words, ACE inhibitors reduce your body’s ability to get excited, which you’ll agree is important. Result – a choppy pulse, one of the signs of Heart Blood deficiency.
  • Calcium channel blockers. These also relax your blood vessels, like ACE inhibitors (above). Some also slow your heartbeat, putting another lid on your heart’s action. Result? Can be a hesitant or uneven and rather weakened heartbeat, (“choppy”) with Heart Blood deficiency, described above.

Medications that reduce yang and increase yin, impeding the energy of clear yang

  • Opiate analgesics, often used for pain (such as codeine, fentanyl, methadone, morphine)


cigarretes impede yang

  • Nicotine’s primary action is to stimulate your Lungs to ‘descend’ qi, which is why it relaxes you, as it pushes yang energy downwards. Its secondary actions are not so good. Look at what it does to smokers’ skin and voices: you see them growing old in front of you. In effect they are using up their supply of Jing-essence (often called Kidney-Jing). Nicotine releases Qi stagnation but smokers then get symptoms of Heat in their lungs, even (which is worse) symptoms of Lung Phlegm Heat, and to some extent black sputum up from their Stomach too. That phlegm depletes their Lung’s ability to provide Qi, hence fatigue. Without Qi, Blood doesn’t move (hence nicotine’s effect on circulation): hence erectile dysfunction. That’s not all! Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs can transfer to the Heart causing Heart-Fire. You certainly don’t want that!

Drugs that overstimulate Yang, exhausting yin

  • Amphetamines and barbiturates overstimulate yang, weakening yin reserves like Liver Blood. So, initially they may seem to banish erectile dysfunction! But as Blood depletes, that leads to tremors and anxiety, insomnia and restlessness.
  • Viagra (in Chinese medicine) stimulates Kidney Yang. That’s great. But that erection doesn’t come from the pill, but from what the pill persuades your body to do, which is to use its supplies of Yang to produce your erection. Where do those Yang supplies come from? They come from your Kidney Yin reserves and your Jing-Essence. Reducing the latter has the effect of ageing your faster with – in time – signs of Kidney Yin deficiency, with tiredness, poor sleep, sore knees and back and much more AND, importantly, what many don’t understand, an apparent excess of Kidney Yang, which can give good erections EXCEPT that they last less and less long, as you ultimately burn out. This can develop into Heart and Kidney not communicating, with Yin deficiency (see above) or even Heart and Kidney deficiency with Empty Heat. After few years, you may find you need more Viagra, or it won’t work. After that, it’s a slippery slope, especially as you grow older – which you will: faster!


Drugs that cause Blood deficiency

  • Chemotherapy clears yang factors of Heat and disperses Blood stasis and signs of Phlegm. These may be necessary from Western Medicine’s viewpoint: Chinese medicine focusses on supporting the patient’s Qi first, only later aiming to help it clear Blood stasis and Phlegm. (So, with Chinese medicine treating it, the size of a tumour may not reduce much at first, but the patient feels stronger.) From the point of view of this page, if chemotherapy is reducing yang and in effect dispersing Blood, it is removing both the energy and the means for effective erections.


Drugs that overstimulate yin, depleting yang

Rather than repeat myself, let’s just look at the effect of Marijuana – Cannabis. Cocaine and Heroin have somewhat similar effects.

  • Marijuana – Cannabis makes your system work faster, accelerating how your body turns your (yin) reserves of Jing-Essence into what seems like Qi, especially as it affects your Shen-Mind, hence producing psychedelic effects, working physically as an anti-inflammatory – hence good for pain – and giving you a sense of vision and connectedness with Universal Spirit. Vision like this comes under your Liver in Chinese medicine. The long-term effect is to overwork your Liver, creating Heat which appears physically for example as strained, inflamed eyes, and mentally as irritability and depression, symptoms of Liver Qi stagnation and Liver Fire. That Heat then ‘transmits’ to your Heart, becoming Heart Fire with inability to ‘turn off’. By depleting your Jing-Essence, you reduce your sex-drive, leading to erectile dysfunction. There are lots of other effects of long-term abuse of cannabis but including them would make this page too long. For this page’s purpose, the culminating effect is to lower sex-drive and function by weakening Jing-Essence and disturbing Blood with Fire. (Another day I’ll write a page on how Cannabis helps pain, though it’s not all good.) One more thought about this! – How do people react to the long-term effects mentioned? Answer – by increasing the dose which in turn increases demand for it. That’s why it’s a drug!
  • (In case you wonder, Heroin, included here, is a faster acting form of morphine, absorbed into the brain faster than morphine, listed above under drugs that reduce yang and increase yin. It’s just a matter of emphasis as to which heading to put them under.)


So that’s enough on erectile dysfunction for one page!

For more help, click on Erection Difficulty Treatment for suggestions on foods and supplements for erectile dysfunction.

Other pages you may like:

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