Lung Yin

Lung Meridian Points
Lung Meridian Points - Copyright

Key Learning Points

  • Lung yin helps maintain calm steadiness
  • It supports our immune system
  • Modern life usually weakens it
  • Lots we can do to strengthen it

What is Lung Yin?

How do you keep ‘cool’ when life stresses? How do you tell your friends to calm down if they’re getting angry? (… “Let’s all just take a few deep breaths and then we’ll discuss it…!”)

Where do Yoga teachers tell you to breathe from?

Where do you concentrate your mind when you’re meditating? (Not in all, but in many kinds of meditation.)

Each of those questions is easy to understand when you understand Lung Yin. Of course, you need to know about Lung Qi as well so take a moment to check that too.

Path of the Lung channel

The Lung channel has various pathways, including a Primary (of which only the surface points are shown, see picture) and a Divergent channel.

Surprisingly, the Primary Lung channel doesn’t actually begin in the lungs! It starts further down, in the upper abdomen near the stomach, very near the point Zhongwan CV12.

From there, it goes further down, to below the umbilicus, to a point known as Dantien, or Qihai CV6.

So the first direction in which Lung energy works is downwards, and it connects with these two important points along the path of its channel.

Qihai is the point Dantien that people say you should concentrate on when meditating. (Not in all forms of meditation, however.)

It’s also the place you try to use when doing Yoga-type deep breathing. Sending your mind down to this point can have a deep, calming effect, when you know what to do.

But also, taking deep breaths sends energy down there, combating the rising energy from stress. (Stress? What are the symptoms of stress? Well, usually they ascend, giving you tense shoulders, furrowed brow, restless fingers, biting your lips …! Read more about this under Qi Stagnation and my book on it.)

Your Lungs are a major resource!

Although made up of empty space, your lungs keep you alive. You can do without almost every other major organ – though not your heart! – for a while, but without your lungs you’re dead within minutes.

They generate Qi for you – read about what that does at Lung Qi.

Working with your Kidney energy, to which Qi is descended when you breathe, you can stay calm and alert. They moisturise your skin and hair, and they regulate what are called your Water passages.

These functions are Yin functions: calming, moisturising, cooling. Your skin is flexible and toned, your voice stable, your mouth and throat are moist, and your energy steady.

The Lung energy also controls your Qi between 3am and 5am, indeed, in some ways up to 7am. That helps with your sleep patterns.

Lung Yin deficiency

What happens when your Lung Yin becomes deficient? Those calming, cooling and moisturising functions weaken, which means they become less efficient – they don’t work so well.

  • Dryness of your mouth, throat and skin
  • Throat tickles
  • Dryness in your lungs
  • Dry cough (sometimes with sticky phlegm, yellower the longer you’ve had it)
  • Voice fragile or hoarse
  • Sleep often wakeful or light between, typically, 3am and 5am
  • Low energy, or your energy soon dissipates when talking for long – which you probably dislike. For example, arguments with someone with a loud voice are insufferable, not to say physically impossible and exhausting.
  • Sweating at night in your sleep
  • Thin-chested people are more susceptible to Lung Yin deficiency
  • In the long-term, you may lose weight
  • Tendency to anxiety and inability to take a deep breath or to ‘collect’ yourself
  • Pulse: floating and empty – qualities used in pulse diagnosis.
  • Tongue: may be dry at the front without much coating. The tongue may have transverse lines on either side of the centre line near the front, indicating yin deficiency

Causes of Lung Yin deficiency

First read up on Yin deficiency causes in general. Then read the following.

Long-term causes that take time to develop Lung Yin deficiency

  • Genes: if your parents smoked a good deal either before or after you were born. Tobacco has a drying effect on your lungs which then start you off with a tendency towards Lung yin deficiency
  • If your parents or grandparents had a major disease weakening their lungs, such as tuberculosis, you may tend towards Lung Yin deficiency
  •  When you are thin-chested, you’ll have a similar tendency
  • If you had a major feverish disease when young which strained your lungs, such as whooping cough or pneumonia, you’ll have the same tendency
  • Long-standing grief or sadness, perhaps caused by being separated from someone you depended on, through distance or death, can weaken Lung Yin if the underlying tendency is already there. For example, this can happen later in the lives of people who as young children were separated from their parents to be sent away, or abroad, or to a boarding school far from home. Of course, many such children thrive on the new experience, but some need longer at home to be ready.
  • Talking or singing too much and too loudly strains the lungs resources; actors, teachers, sergeant-majors on the parade ground; singers who haven’t learned to husband their vocal resources (think of pop-singers who belt out their songs at full volume for years without resting properly) and even singers who have learned what to do but who, to preserve a career move, continue to sing too often and too loudly for their level of resources. (You sometimes see brilliant opera singers who went too far too early, didn’t rest enough and then burned out and required long periods to recover.)
  • Smoking any social drug, including tobacco, dries the lungs, Do it for too long and you’ll become Lung Yin deficient


Smoking weakens lung yin
Photo by Mathew MacQuarrie on Unsplash
  • Working or living with coal fires, or fires that introduce too much carbon into your lungs, so heating and drying them
  • Some central heating can also dry the atmosphere. To compensate, use humidifiers.
  • Working or living in a very dry environment for too long: worse, if it’s hot too. So living in a dry, hot desert area or working in hot, fiery jobs (being a stoker, fireman or cook perhaps?) could harm your lungs, specifically your Lung yin energy.
  • Poor diet, or eating too late at night or irregularly. This weakens the Spleen and Stomach Qi which then can’t support Lung Qi and Yin. To make more sense of this see the Five Element diagram and its theory.


Lung Yin Posture and Movement Causes 

  • Sitting wrongly for too long, stoop-shouldered, leaning forward in such a way that you compress the lungs, hinders their capacity to breathe properly and eventually reduces their yin potential. When does this behaviour occur? For example:
  • Cyclists using drop handle-bars all the time
  • Working bent over a desk for years
  • Stooping over a computer for long periods: “posture“!
  • Lying in bed wrong either reading books on your back or using a laptop which rests on your stomach
  • Standing with poor posture
  • Sitting at a desk so that your knees are higher than your bum, so encouraging your pelvis to tip backwards so your lumbar spine leans forward dropping your upper chest down
  • Not taking enough exercise that makes you breathe deeply
  • Working in cramped positions for long periods, preventing you from taking full breaths
  • Working in atmospheres that harm your lungs or dissuade you from breathing deeply – deep-sea divers perhaps?
  • Watching TV from a recumbent position too often


Lung Yin deficiency can also arise from other deficiencies, like Kidney Yin deficiency, which usually arises from overwork, and from poor eating habits which caused Stomach Yin deficiency.

From the list above you can see that modern life in ‘developed’ countries, especially where people work in offices all day, predisposes us to Lung yin deficiency conditions. Because of that, we really need to maintain good eating habits and nutrition to compensate. And, of course, we should take enough exercise to make our lungs work regularly without over-straining them.

But there’s more! ….

Lung Yin deficiency from Liver Qi stagnation

It can also arise as a result of Lung Qi deficiency, itself caused by long-term Liver Qi stagnation. Why? Because Liver Qi stagnation prevents free movement of Qi.

If someone is all ‘buttoned up’ and doesn’t let himself vent feelings, (venting feelings lets Qi flow through the lungs), the lungs can’t move and expand properly as in good breathing. When Qi doesn’t flow through them Lung Qi stagnates and can lead to Yin deficiency.

This could also happen if someone doesn’t breathe fully the normal way, say during sex or masturbation. Sex usually releases Qi stagnation, but in this case the Lung Qi stagnates and blocks the Lungs which, because sex causes Heat, tend to dry out.

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Lung Yin deficiency with Empty Heat


Water Sprinkler
Photo by Methi SOMÇAĞ on Unsplash


Our bodies mostly have an organic tendency to warm up when Qi doesn’t flow properly. So when Lung Yin has been deficient for some time – perhaps for years – an additional factor comes into play, called Empty Heat.

Think of the moisturising qualities that healthy Lungs provide. If, because of deficient Lung Yin, this is absent, then a situation of weak heating occurs.

This is because, by moisturising, the Lungs help to cool, just as on a hot day you can cool yourself by spraying water on your skin. But when there’s no such moisturiser, and you don’t sweat enough, you continue to warm up.

Symptoms of Lung Yin deficiency with Empty Heat

  • Symptoms of Lung Yin deficiency, see above.
  • Mild Fever. Unlike a strong fever, Empty Heat has very little or no fever. Indeed, you may feel as if you have a fever when, according to the thermometer, you don’t. Such a fever is called ‘low-grade’.
  • Cheekbones (your ‘malar’ bones) may look or feel hot, particularly later in the day and evening. They may flush slightly, making you appear healthier than normal or permanently flushed.
  • Your palms and soles may get hot. You’ll find you want to walk about barefoot on cool surfaces, even in winter. You may find you like changing your shoes throughout the day. This is ‘Five palm heat’ – a sensation of warmth, a kind of glow, in palms, soles and – often – chest. Also ears sometimes. It’s unpleasant. Like the perspiration mentioned below, it dissipates your energy. That increases your tiredness and makes you more prone to passing infections like Wind-Cold.
  • Your chest may also feel hotter than normal. This isn’t like a hot flush, if you know what that feels like: it’s more a steady warmth or glow. It’s not a particularly pleasant feeling.
  • Some breathlessness – shortness of breath. Sometimes leads on to asthma.
  • With Lung yin deficiency, of course you’ve probably already got a dry cough.
  • If Kidney Yin is also deficient, your ears may burn or look hot and you may have tinnitus – noises in your ears unrelated to noises in your environment.
  • Your pulse may go faster than usual.
  • Low energy: (in Chinese medicine) your Lungs ‘rule’ your energy. When Lung yin is low, there’s nothing in the tank.
  • Lung yin is also the home of what is called your ‘Po’. Po means something like the earthy bodily energy of your body. If you don’t have much lung-yin then your Po lacks a comfortable home. How would you feel if your home suddenly became un-inhabitable perhaps from desert-like heat? Anxious and worried is how I’d feel! So with Lung Yin deficiency and a tendency to empty Heat, there is no residence for your Po, you have lots to bemoan, and may be tearful and low in spirits. Of course in hot parts of the globe you go out on the roof at night to rest, to see the bigger picture and get some sleep. But if you’re stuck indoors, you can’t sleep from the heat and that exacerbates your condition. And it makes you even more tired.
  • With Lung yin deficiency you already have a tendency to night sweats. Now with Empty Heat in addition, you will definitely be perspiring when asleep. This sweating could wake you. Initially you’ll want to bare your skin, but cover up again soon or you’ll be susceptible to chilling. The theory says this will happen mostly during the Lung ‘time’ between 3am and 5am.
  • Phlegm in your lungs. This condition makes it more yellow and thicker. The Empty Heat can cause small amounts of blood to escape, making your phlegm blood-streaked, but usually there isn’t much blood, just a trace.
  • Pulse: for acupuncturists reading this, the typical pulse type is floating and empty. It may be a little faster than normal.
  • Tongue: When this condition becomes more permanent, your tongue will look redder, or definitely more pink than normal and it may even look as if it’s been peeled. With this condition, there is seldom any coating. Little transverse lines may appear on either side of the main central line (if you have one) towards the front of your tongue


What Doctors think of Lung Empty Heat

If tempted to visit your doctor with these Empty Heat symptoms, he’ll suspect a low-grade infection and probably offer antibiotics.

Medicines like antibiotics on orange surface
Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko

If you’ve been coughing for more than a month or so, even slightly and in the evenings, he may want to do more thorough investigations.

Of course it’s up to you whether you go ahead with such investigations. These might include X-rays which are also ‘drying’.

What YOU can do about it

Personally, we’d try to take a holiday (NOT somewhere too hot or dry) where we can take pleasant, not-too-taxing exercise such as swimming or walking. We’d need at least 2 weeks of it.

Why? Because if we’ve been working hard, it’ll take us the first week to relax and calm down. Then we only have one week to recover. That’s not really enough to cure a mild Lung yin deficiency which, make no mistake, is a form of illness. Though mild, it can easily lead on to more serious conditions and in any case it makes you more susceptible to invasions of Wind-Cold and Wind-Heat: coughs and colds.)

And we’d get some acupuncture before and after the holiday.

  • Before – to calm us down from all the work we’ve been doing and put us into the relaxed state it might otherwise have taken us the first week to achieve
  • After – to strengthen our Lung yin energies and consolidate health benefits from the holiday

Resolve to –

  • Improve your posture eg standing, at desk or computer
  • (For example, make sure you sit so that your bum is slightly higher than your knees, which will make it much easier for you to maintain good posture)
  • Take more breaks away from work
  • Take exercise which makes you breathe faster/deeper
  • Consider using humidifiers if you have central heating, or live or work in a very dry environment
  • Stop smoking (has anyone mentioned this to you?): I suspect e-vapes have a similar effect, but milder – but still drying if not actually heating like tobacco
  • Reduce dependence on coal fires, wood-burning fires and the like. Carbon in what you breathe has a heating effect. You certainly don’t want that if you have Lung Yin deficiency with Empty Heat!
  • Avoid social drugs that are inhaled. Medical drugs, on the other hand, like steroids, are initially cooling. But their long-term effects are eventually warming. If this makes no sense to you, read Primary and Secondary Actions of drugs. 
  • Cycle with upright handlebars!
  • Be thrifty with your lung power when speaking or singing (and learn to keep calm: anger usually causes Heat, drying your Lungs). Shouting, belting songs or bellowing too often, though sometimes cathartic in the short run, in the long term can be exhausting for your Lung Yin reserves. Singing is a great way to learn to husband your Lung’s resources, but do it with someone knowledgeable. For example, join a choir with a good choir master, or work with a singing teacher. See a voice therapist?
  • Drink more fluids: fluids provide moisture – but don’t take too much straight fluid! Why? – see below under Clogstoun Congee.
  • However, if your urine is usually colourless or only very mildly yellow, you may already be drinking enough water, or getting the fluids you need from vegetables and fruit. More fluid will actually become a drain on your Lung and Kidney energies. 
  • Improve your eating habits and diet: see Nutrition.  Also see specific Lung Yin foods and herbs below. Consider adding Clogstoun Congee or Clogstoun Porridgee to your diet because both help your body husband its yin resources better. They also help your body absorb water at a rate it understands and so can assimilate it better.
  • Eat more oily fish or eat more omega 3 oils. These also help to moisturise.
  • Your acupuncturist may have other suggestions for your diet (see below, too), and also Chinese herbs to help.
  • Get more exposure to good sunlight. Vitamin D has many benefits, not the least being on your lungs via your skin.
  • Do not watch TV or play computer games in bed (because bed posture nearly always compresses your lungs)
  • Sort out problems which cause Qi stagnation
  • Check other ways listed at yin deficiency.


Foods for Lung Yin Deficiency

Think carefully about your diet. Reduce hot foods and increase cooling foods (but eat them hot) and don’t forget to read our page on Nutrition. Chinese medicine is all about balance so don’t over-compensate! 

Healthy Food for gut health
Healthy Food Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Some herbs and foods that help recover Lung Yin quality include:

    • Comfrey: often thought of in relation to bone repair, but is a great herb for strengthening yin, repairing tissue and reducing inflammation. Make an infusion of the leaf, or if you know how, make a syrup from either root or leaf.
    • Iceland or Irish moss: make a decoction – it should taste bitter. But do not use if any fever remains.
    • Barley: barley contains gluten, so is not appropriate for people with gluten intolerance but otherwise include barley in soups and stews.
    • Fritillaria: many herbalists and some pharmacies sell syrups.
    • Ginger root: benefits Lung and Spleen and digestion in general. Add a slice to hot water and sip or add slices to other hot dishes.
    • Onion: fry very slowly in a little olive oil or butter then make into a soup with vegetable stock. Not too much onion however, it can be heating.
    • Pears: the juice from cooked pears helps throat and lungs.
    • Apples: cooked apples with a little sugar soothe lung tissues.
    • Nuts: almonds, pine nuts and walnuts are considered the best nuts for lung health. Chew well before swallowing or include in teas.  
    • Citrus peel. Prepare dried peel from tangerines and mandarin oranges, which you would otherwise discard after eating the flesh. (NB Before eating the fruit, wash it carefully in soap and water to clean the skin of pesticides. Better still, buy organic.) Let the peel dry fully in the sun or in an oven set really low for some hours. Make a small amount into a tea, or use in cooking stews and other dishes. Relaxes and opens the lungs.
    • General: a little food eaten frequently is best. Don’t overeat because that overloads your Spleen energy and besides, if your belly – stomach and intestines – are stuffed full, there’s no space for your lungs to expand into!


Beware Phlegm forming foods

Avoid phlegm-forming foods such as dairy products (cheese, milk, cream, even yogurt), sweet food and cold or raw food. These all challenge your Spleen energy.

Your Lungs and your Spleen work very closely and if one goes down, it can bring down the other too. Then you get phlegm after every meal.

Those with Lung Heat enjoy ice-cream because it is cooling and sweet, which both cools and energises you. But …

… Ice-cream is not recommended! – Sorry to be a spoil-sport! It can be too much of a challenge for your Spleen. Too many phlegm-forming foods and you’ll have not just Lung Heat but Lung Phlegm Heat too: you don’t want that! Click here to see why not! 

If you get Lung Phlegm-Heat, your family will want you to go straight back to your doctor for more antibiotics (though you should instead go to your acupuncturist!)

Worse, you might get Lung Phlegm Heat with Lung and Spleen deficiency plus your Lung Heat. All the coughing and sleeplessness will almost certainly lead on to more Lung Yin deficiency too. Bad news.

Once you’ve cleared the Empty Heat and mended your Lung Yin deficiency, you’ll be able to make more use of our page on how to understand and overcome tiredness.

Summary of Advice for Lung Yin Deficiency – your To-Do List!

  1. Get your Posture right
  2. Exercise right
  3. Breathe right – check the air you breathe and avoid coal dust in it, for example – and don’t smoke!
  4. Eat right
  5. Enjoy life more!
  6. Get some acupuncture


Other Pages to Read

Click to return from Lung Yin to our Home page.

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2 Responses

  1. The information presented here is the most comprehensive and comprehensible I have yet to find. Thank you for making the meridians and systems of TCM so readable and enlightening!

    1. Thank you MArgaret for your compliments! I have a tendency to Lung Yin deficiency and this page was written to help myself. I’m glad if it helps others.

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