Kidney Yin Deficiency

Plastic Kidney
Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

Kidney Yin deficiency is one form of a more general Yin deficiency with which it shares many symptoms.

In fact, what you get is really Yin deficiency combined with Kidney syndromes and deficiency of Jing-Essence.

If, by mistake, you’ve just arrived here expecting a discussion of the kidneys’ functions from the Western medical viewpoint, click here.

Otherwise, keep reading, because what Chinese medicine has to say about the Kidneys when they malfunction is equally relevant. To most of the Chinese medical terms there are links.

So, what is Kidney yin deficiency? It’s a syndrome in Chinese medicine, in other words a pattern of ill-health which is understood and treatable.

Causes of Kidney Yin deficiency

Loss of fluids

Being either perspiration, for example during a fever, or through diarrhoea during the course of a disease, or loss of Blood.

Blood loss can occur during an operation (and there is some doubt whether transfused blood immediately makes up for loss of your own) or from injury or  from heavy menstrual bleeding, especially if it occurs over many months. The latter, menorrhagia, at first exhausts Liver Blood, but then passes on to consume Kidney Yin too. (Why? Because Liver functions depend on Kidney functions and if you exhaust the child, you move on to exhaust the mother.)

Protracted, chronic disease

Chronic disease will affect the deep energies or zang-fu energy organs of the body, being the Liver, Spleen, Heart and Lung … and Kidney. All of these depend on the Kidney function so if one of them gets exhausted, it ends up at long-stop with the Kidney.


If you boost Yang too much, you may exhaust Yin’s ability to keep up with it.

Coffee and caffeine are well-known stimulants that eventually drain Kidney Yin if you take too much. Herbs and drugs to boost Yang (often to boost sexual energy) can do the same thing.

Some medications have the same effect, and most definitely, many social drugs, street drugs, which for a while make you feel fantastic do the same thing. (How do you recognise that they’ve had this effect? Because you feel exhausted the next or following days!)



Working Hard, for too long, can lead to kidney yin deficiency
Photo by from Pexels


What is meant is extremely heavy work without respite over many months, even years. Of course, young men can probably work for longer than their elders, but their elders sometimes have more discipline and are less easily led astray. In general, however, older people have used up more of their Jing-essence so overwork will exhaust them more quickly.


Sorry. Too much of this is regarded as bad for you, but actually we’re talking more about Men than about Women. Ejaculation dissipates Jing-essence and too much of this uses up this vital resource and reserve.

For women, having too many babies close together, or not recovering between them might amount to the same thing. Menorrhagia over many months can also exhaust, as already mentioned.

Of course, if a women achieves orgasm so often and intensively that she completely exhausts herself, that might amount to overwork, see above. For men, their teens are regarded as being the time when such loss is potentially most damaging in the long-run for their Kidney Yin. In any case, men are advised not to indulge in ejaculatory sex when ill as it uses up too many of their body’s resources, needed to get them well.

Symptoms of Kidney Yin deficiency

  • Low backache. This is not the acute kind, but the chronic kind, usually present after standing still or walking slowly for a while, and often better for sitting or lying down. Much worse if you carry something heavy, say a child on your shoulders.
  • Sweating during sleep at night. This is not the sweating that comes from a fever or from eating food that is too heating (eg curry and alcohol), but sweating that you cannot account for, when the ambient temperature is not hot. It can be drenching and embarrassing. It is not considered to be a good sign in Chinese medicine as it shows that your body is leaking vital Yang fluids. You will probably notice in the day after such a sweat that you have less vitality and may be more prone to upset or even infection. Women during their menopause often sweat this way and one of the first improvements they notice during the right treatment is that these sweats abate.
  • Mouth and throat get dry at night, when not necessarily so during the daytime.
  • Urine is darker than is usual, and there is less of it.
  • Prolonged exhaustion, tiredness and other symptoms in this list, after ejaculation. (Q: How long is ‘prolonged’? A: The next day or later, for instance.)


Then there are symptoms which often take longer to appear, or with age

  • Ear noises, known as tinnitus. This comes on very gradually, say over a period of years. In the first few months you may notice it just when tired or in the evenings, but gradually you notice it all the time. It doesn’t always interfere with hearing, though sometimes your hearing deteriorates at the same time.
  • Tiredness and lassitude, even depression. Lack of bounce. 
  • Dizziness, either on standing up or after standing for long, but eventually even when sitting.
  • Weak memory: a sign of ageing. You find you can remember things from long ago but not where you put your glasses. Concentration deteriorates.
  • Hearing loss, progressive.
  • Not just night sweats but nocturnal emissions.
  • Increasing insomnia.
  • Dry stools and constipation.
  • Lack of fertility in women who have not reached the menopause.
  • Tongue: usually normal colour but with no coating.
  • Pulse: floats, empty.

What happens next?

How Serious is Kidney Yin deficiency?

Well  … Kidney Yin deficiency is not a killer!

But it’s slow and insidious, and often leads to a range of symptoms that make you tense and anxious, can raise your blood pressure and stop you sleeping well, so lead on to chronic tiredness and lowered immunity.


Blood pressure often raised in people with Kidney yin deficiency
Photo by Crystal Kwok on Unsplash


Those in turn make it easier for you to get ill in other ways that may be more dangerous, even fatal. 

Once it develops, it’s very hard to cure by yourself: only good treatment will help it, and the longer you leave it the slower the cure.

So seek treatment early on if you notice symptoms developing like those listed above.

Kidney Yin Deficiency Acupuncture Points

Before stimulating these points, remember that they can be very yin-tonifying.

Well, of course, you say, that’s what I want – get on with it!

But if you are very yin deficient, your body may also be quite yang deficient without you realising it. So an experienced acupuncturist might start cautiously, or warn you to expect some days of feeling a bit weary and depressed.

Alternatively, if you are already doing other things advised on this page, your acupuncturist might use some yang points as well as kidney yin deficiency acupuncture points. This is so as to balance the treatment and help you feel gradually better, adapting easily to the beneficial changes in your metabolism from his treatment.

Here are kidney yin deficiency acupuncture points that acupuncturists generally use. But acupuncturists might do lots of other things too to build you up, including points for Qi and Blood.

And they would expect you to alter your diet and what you ate because eating the wrong foods, or eating food the wrong way, can negate your acupuncture. Check nutrition!

In the following list, each has many uses beyond those listed:

Treating the sacral area for Bladder damp heat
Acupuncture into sacral area
  • Bladder 23 – a main point, but powerful: use cautiously!
  • Conception Vessel 4 – another powerful point. Be careful!
  • Kidney 6 – more for dryness and hormone deficiencies
  • Stomach 36 – not specifically a Kidney yin point, but strengthens Blood
  • Kidney 3 – another main point. Helps both Kidney yin and Kidney yang.
  • Kidney 10 – more used for clearing Damp-Heat but thereby steadies Kidney yin
  • Governor 4 – more often used for Kidney Yang and Mingmen, but supports Kidney yin too
  • Kidney 1 – used to descend excess qi from head, so calming and reviving
  • Kidney 2 – used to clear deficiency heat caused by Kidney yin deficiency

Can YOU do anything about Kidney Yin deficiency?

  • Address the causes of your Kidney Yin deficiency – see above. Men, accept that for a while, ejaculation is a bad idea: you need to discuss this with your partner!
  • Learn to meditate. Failing that, learn to count your blessings and reflect upon your life.
  • Learn to take exercise that is slow and steady, and builds up your fitness gradually, for instance Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates. In particular, with yoga and pilates,  learn how to breathe properly and how to strengthen your back and abdominal muscles. Don’t undo benefits from these exercises by sitting poorly! Sort out bad posture!
  • For a while, avoid over-excitement and very competitive situations.
  • Deal with situations that are causing you continued stress. Sometimes this may mean giving up something valuable, perhaps even a job.
  • Read my pages on the causes of insomnia.
  • Find out what form of diet is best for you. Read my page on Nutrition, but also look at this book. Surprisingly, some foods for Kidney Yang deficiency may help, if taken in small quantities along with Blood Building Foods and general foods for Yin: see Nutrition for more on this large, important and complicated subject.
  • See if you can find a 5 Element acupuncturist who may help you direct your life better.
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2 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for sharing you knowledge and wisdom Jonathan!! I’ve noticed more inflammation under my eyes, so I searched. I’ve now linked a few other symptoms to my kidney yin deficiency. I’ll now be bringing this insight to my acupuncturist in two weeks. Oh and Thank you for the recipe for congee. Truly appreciate your kind knowledge!

    1. Hi Suzanne, Thank you for your kind comments – I’m glad you found the information you needed.

      Kidney deficiency can come from many causes, and produces quite a few different symptoms, though we mostly forget that the face shows more than we imagine. Indeed, there’s a whole form of diagnosis based round face diagnosis.

      Best wishes – Jonathan

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