Lung Yin

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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 all, but 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 know as Dantien, or Qihai CV6.

The direction in which Lung energy works is downwards, but it also descends to 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 or in 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 the 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.

  • Dryness of your mouth, throat and skin
  • Throat tickles
  • Dryness in your lungs
  • Dry cough (sometimes with a little sticky phlegm)
  • Voice fragile or hoarse
  • Sleep often wakeful or light between, typically, 3 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.
  • Sweating at night in your sleep
  • Thin-chested people are more susceptible to Lung Yin deficiency
  • In the long-term, you may lose weight
  • 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

  • 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 off with a tendency towards deficiency
  • If your parents or grandparents had a major disease weakening their lungs, such as tuberculosis, you may tend towards Lung Yin deficiency
  • If you are thin-chested, you'll have a similar tendency
  • If you had a major feverish disease when young or more recently which strained your lungs, such as whooping cough or pneumonia, you'll have the same tendency. Perhaps now we should include coronavirus and flu.
  • 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, to boarding school
  • 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
  • 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. If so, 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 fireman 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.
  • 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
  • - watching TV from a recumbent position for years on end

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 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.

Lung Yin deficiency with Empty Heat

Lake with Spray

©Colleen Combe

Dreamstimers Stock Images

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.

  • (Also, many animals, like dogs, lack proper sweat pores so  they pant to cool down. Of course, the tongue itself helps to cool them too.)
  • 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 sometimes called 'low-grade': it has no 'power'.
  • Cheekbones (your 'malar' bones) may 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, too. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Little transverse lines may appear on either side of the main central line (if any) 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.

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. We need more.)

And we'd get some acupuncture before and after 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
  • to take more breaks away from work
  • to take exercise which makes you breathe faster/deeper
  • to consider using humidifiers if you have central heating, or live or work in a very dry environment
  • to stop smoking (has anyone mentioned this to you?): I suspect e-vapes have a similar effect, but milder ie drying
  • to reduce dependence on coal fires and the like
  • to 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. 
  • to cycle with upright handlebars!
  • to 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?
  • to drink more fluids: fluids provide moisture. Also, eat more oily fish or eat more omega 3 oils which also moisturise. 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, and more will actually be a drain on your Lung and Kidney energies. Drinking lots of water is somewhat frowned upon in Chinese medicine, as it can weaken or dissipate your Kidney yang energy. Better to take more green tea, or eat more Clogstoun Congee which gives you energy at the same time as it gradually releases to you its fluid content.
  • to improve your eating habits and diet: see Nutrition. Also see specific suggestions for Lungs, below.
  • Get more exposure to good sunlight. Vitamin D has many benefits, not the least being on your lungs.
  • not to watch TV or play computer games in bed (because bed posture nearly always compresses your lungs)
  • to 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 cold foods (eaten hot) and don't forget to read our page on Nutrition. Chinese medicine is all about balance so don't over-compensate! 

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, though 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.
  • 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!

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.

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.

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