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.


Hand reaching for the sky from under water
At this lesser yin stage, your body’s energy is sinking and precarious

Symptoms of Lesser Yin stage

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

Obviously, (to me, if not you) when a disease penetrates to this level, it gets serious.

Mainly this involves at first your Kidney energy. However, because Kidney and Heart have a special balancing relationship in Chinese medicine, if one is long affected, after a while the other will follow.

Fortunately, modern medicine is good at keeping us alive, but even so, when your body is being kept alive at this lesser yin shao yin 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!)

When that happens, your Heart’s viability is compromised.


1. Kidney Yang deficiency with Empty Cold

  • You will be feeling VERY cold (because you lack Yang Qi)
  • So, lie all curled up under as many coverings as possible
  • 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. That’s the danger! It may get so slow, it stops.
  • To some extent, if you feel your heart may stop, there is some sense in forcing yourself to walk around, to keep it going!

Treatment of this Yang deficiency

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

Moxa for lesser yin shao yin stage yang deficiency
Moxa to warm your yang energy.


An acupuncturist might use the following points with moxa: Bl23, K3 and 7, Ren4Ren6 and Ren8, St36, Du20 (to pull up the Yang). However, see a 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. (A great pity, because, used therapeutically in the right doses, it is a life saver. Still, you can take it in homoeopathic dilutions, which may help.) 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.
  • But! Eat small amounts at a time only. If you overeat, you either won’t be able to keep it down or more likely, it will give you diarrhoea and all come out looking not that different from what you swallowed.
  • Get someone to make you Clogstoun Congee with ginger added: nourishing, easily digestible and warming. Remember, eat it in small quantities, and even if it does reappear soon after, don’t give up: eat a very little at a time, chewing well before swallowing.
  • Make sure that whoever cooks your food includes ginger in the recipe.
  • Very important! Avoid cold, raw, chilled or iced food or drinks. Really, there’s no point eating them because they’ll go straight through you and when they emerge they’ll be carrying some warmth and energy which you desperately don’t want to lose.
  • As mentioned, if your pulse gets very slow or irregular, try to keep moving. It may or may not keep your heartbeat up, but it may help your nerves.
  • Theoretically, warm sweet coffee might help. But there’s a downside too which is that  it may deplete your Kidney yin resources, and at this lesser yin shao yin stage you really don’t want to deplete any of your Kidney energy. So, try a little, very occasionally. Its action is a little like that of aconite, which was mentioned above. See if you think it helps. If so, have a little more, but just occasionally.

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 for this lesser yin shao yin stage problem?

  • 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. (Yes, warm liquids, not cold – alhough you’ll probably prefer them cold.)
  • 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.
  • Clogstoun congee, without herbs (although possibly with a very little ginger – try it because ginger aids absorption), is moistening and nourishing. And yes, it’s listed above under help for the Kidney yang deficiency, because it helps that too. Mainly it’s nourishing and moistening and easily digestible.
  • Do not take coffee! Coffee stimulates yang energy, which is exactly what you’ve got too much of in relation to your yin energy. Do not take coffee. There. I’ve told you. And the same goes for other sources of caffeine or similar stimulants.

Reflections on Lesser Yin 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 become increasingly Kidney deficient.

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

With diminished Kidney qi you become more susceptible to this lesser yin shao yin stage problem.

However you get here, when you reach this 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 even by a healthy 20-year old. It’ s always serious because Cold can kill. The ancient Chinese knew all about this, even if we, in our centrally-heated houses, offices and cars, can’t imagine what they were talking about!

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.


Treatment AFTER the ‘attack’ at your lesser yin shao yin stage.


Finding Acupunture Points
Get some treatment after the attack!


When you regain relatively normal health, I strongly suggest you seek professional help from an experienced acupuncturist with knowledge of Chinese medicine syndromes. He or she will check your pulses and tongue, assess your situation and may be able to improve your chances for the future.

Once you’ve had one of these attacks, it’s easier to suffer another. That could be fatal. Please take this advice seriously!

Why should you bother? Because, although you didn’t get ill in the orthodox ‘malaise’ way, you were still seriously ill! That takes it out of you and a good treatment or two may put you back to where you were before, and possibly even better.



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.

Other pages to read:

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