Kidney Syndromes: what drains the life out of you!

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

Kidney syndromes are the ways your Kidneys (capital K for Kidney, meaning the Kidney Zang-fu energy organ in Chinese medicine) mis-function. In other words, how Chinese medical theory describes Kidney patterns of disease.

This page has links to other pages describing the syndromes in more detail, with what can be done about them. 

(But first, you ask, what’s with the picture of the horses, above? Well, it’s dawn, they are wonderful strong animals, rested and powerful, a huge resource for their owners. Rather like healthy Kidneys.)

On this page you’ll find a list of the syndromes but first, why do the Kidneys mis-function?


Bottle of essence: fundamental idea behind kidney syndromes
Jing Essence – an ancient idea for the source of life

Aetiology of Kidney Syndromes

Why your Kidneys mis-function!

First, read what in Chinese medicine the Kidneys are said to do, the Kidney functions. The rest of this page describes why you get Kidney syndromes, ie why your Kidneys fail to function and do the jobs described on that page.

Inherited problems

The ancient Chinese doctors recognised problems inherited from parents, being more-or-less what we would describe as genetic defects, as being a major cause of Kidney syndromes.

In particular, they wanted

  • your parents at the time of your conception to be young, fit, rested and healthy. As what is called Jing Essence (which the Kidneys look after) declines as people mature and age, and the essence from each of your parents is what goes to make your Jing Essence, ideally you need healthy young Jing Essence making yours!
  • their parents ditto ditto, ie your grandparents
  • your mother’s health to be good throughout the pregnancy
  • the birth to be free from problems

Stress and Strain

Stress can deplete your Kidney energy. For more about this read my book ‘Qi Stagnation – Signs of Stress‘ but prolonged or great stress is exhausting, as most people recognise.

What gets exhausted is your Kidney energy – your Kidney Qi.

If you thrive on stress and it doesn’t exhaust you, you probably have strong Kidney Qi.

Well Done! However, don’t get too vain because if your life involves constant change, many occupations, your searchlight brain attention trying to deal with too many things at once, then, whether you enjoy it or not, over time you will still probably over-use your Kidney Qi.

This is you over-working yourself. This depletes Kidney Yin more often than Kidney Yang.

In particular, emotional strain is damaging. Strong fears, panics, great anxiety or shock are worst.

One might add (being a parent) that if you allow your children to stay up at night too often, getting too little sleep (see below), and watching – in particular – very frightening movies, you may inadvertently be draining their Kidney Qi.

So Kidney syndromes can arise from doing things you enjoy! Unfortunately. (What? You ask – even ice-cream? Answer, well, yes, at least in theory. Though I think you’d need to work at it. But other things would suffer before it got to your Kidney energy: Stomach and Spleen energies for example.)

Prolonged or very Intense Illness

This draws on more resources than you can muster from the food you eat and the air you breath so it eats into your reserves of Kidney Qi and Jing Essence. Which Kidney syndromes are mainly affected? Kidney Yin especially.

Intemperate Sex

This varies according to your sex and makeup.

  • Women. In general, orgasm was originally thought to exhaust a woman’s Jing Essence but this is now considered less important than having prolonged menses with heavy bleeding, or having babies too soon one after another without recovering properly between them. Also, sex too early in life may deplete a woman’s Kidney Qi, and sex during periods can cause Blood stasis in her abdomen, which her Kidney Qi has to deal with, possibly exhausting itself in the process. 
Sensible sunbathing helps lungs
Sensible sunbathing helps immunity

Copyright Rebecca Abell Dreamstime 

  • Of course, if a woman has prolonged or very intense orgasms repeatedly to her total exhaustion, it is possible that she might deplete herself and, if she fails to rest and take nourishment, then she would be dissipating her Jing Essence. This is, however, rare.
  • Men. If your inherited constitution was weak, then too much sex (ejaculation) could be too much even if only very occasional. For others, endowed with great inherited Jing Essence and Kidney qi, one can only marvel and envy their prowess. Men use up Jing Essence each time they ejaculate.
  • For more on all this read sexual impotence.


Ageing and kidney syndromes
Photo by Firdaus Roslan on Unsplash

As you age, you use up your Jing Essence and your Kidney Qi, giving you signs of ageing. Many signs of ageing are directly attributable to Kidney function declining, including the effects of age on bones, joints, hearing and vitality including sexual vitality. As you age you become more susceptible to Kidney syndromes.

Rest and Sleep

If you don’t allow yourself time off to recover from work, you may dip into your reserves of Kidney Qi and even Jing Essence.

Sleep, rest and holidays are important, especially for children and teenagers. A regime of early bed for them, especially during school-time, is vital. Check Insomnia if this is a problem.

It also inculcates good habits and means they learn how to sleep properly. They are then brighter and more alert and amenable next day, so learn more, giving them a better chance in life.

What is the effect on Kidney syndromes of taking NO exercise?

Does taking no exercise harm your Kidney energy? Well, no, at least not for a while. Taking no exercise doesn’t seem to deplete Kidney Qi to start with BUT it does weaken your Spleen.

As time passes a weak Spleen can lead to all sorts of other problems, including Qi StagnationDamp and Blood Stasis. Eventually those problems include an effect on the Heart energy and so eventually on Kidney, mainly Kidney Yang.

Also, a weak Spleen energy makes poor Blood. You can improve and possibly add to your supply of Jing Essence by having healthy Blood. So a weak Spleen and poor Blood make more inroads on your long-term deep Jing essence reserves. Hence you age faster.

Of course exercise also  improves your Lung function, which also helps your Kidney function in several ways (by descending Qi and via the 5 Element Mother-Child law.) Healthy lungs give you good energy.

Good energy then inclines you towards healthy exercise, another way of moving qi around your body, for example along your acupuncture channels. For more click on acupuncture theory.

Too much Exercise?

If this amounts to over-strain, then yes. This mostly depletes Kidney Yang and can cause Blood Stasis too.

What Kidney Syndromes are there?

When the Kidneys fail or mis-function, various syndromes of disease occur and the main ones are as follows.

Click on the one you’re interested in to go to a page describing it in more detail.

When the line is NOT in red it means the link has not been made yet, or perhaps the page has not been written!

(For which my apologies, but Chinese medicine is a big subject and I only write pages as I need them to explain problems to my patients, or so that people reading one of my books online can click on a link in the book to help them understand a concept.)

Regarding deficiency or ‘Empty’ situations:


Syndromes that have both Emptiness but also some Fullness:


Combined syndromes, ie syndromes where another of the Zang-fu Energy organs shares or contributes:

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