Yin Deficiency: Reserves are Empty

Keeping healthy is a balancing act. Replenishing Yin deficiency helps you overcome many diseases and strengthens your resilience. No more Empty Yin!
Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash
  • Yin deficiency is what happens when you exhaust your reserves and your ability to relax
  • You can’t slow down
  • You become slightly hyper all the time
  • Body processes are undermined: burnout!

Digging yourself a Hole!

As life speeds up, Yin Deficiency (= empty yin) increases and we don’t notice. We think we’re digging for profit, but actually we’re digging ourselves deeper into a problem: the hole gets bigger and deeper!

But holes are empty and even if we eventually find the treasure, we may be so deep we can’t enjoy it.

For balance, you need enough yin and enough yang. Click here for more about the concept of Yin and Yang.

Keeping healthy is a balancing act between excess and deficiency. In the West, and increasingly in the East, we’re focused on acquiring riches. Obviously we need money, and too little of it is misery. But as your reserves of money increase, at what point will you feel comfortable that you have enough?

If you’re like most people, never: you will never feel sure you have enough. So you keep digging, or worrying that you’re not digging enough, or not finding enough treasure, or not being paid enough to dig for someone else’s treasure.

Yin deficiency is an important syndrome in Chinese MedicineWestern medicine hasn’t noticed it so far, though it is very commonly part of many Western defined diseases.

It is the experience of many practitioners of Chinese medicine that if you balance yin and yang, so clearing any yin deficiency, the disease disappears.

Overwork is one of the main causes of Empty Yin

For more about overwork and other CAUSES click here.

  • Overwork causes stress.
  • Prolonged Stress, over time, causes Yin deficiency.
  • Stress is such a big subject that I’ve written a book about it – ‘Qi Stagnation – Signs of Stress’You can buy it to read on your Kindle. Or you can get it in softback to keep on your shelf (after reading!)


Basic Yin Deficiency Symptoms

If you are Yin deficient, or suffering from Empty Yin (which means the same as Yin Deficiency), you’ll have some of the following symptoms:

  • Dryness in your throat and/or mouth, often at night
  • Your skin gets dry
  • Dry eyes
  • Perspiration at night, in your sleep, when there’s no obvious reason for it
  • Noises in your ears: this is called ‘tinnitus’
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness leading quickly to exhaustion, though when you start doing  something, or after a good sleep, you may think you have plenty of energy
  • Insomnia (either you can’t get to sleep, or more likely you wake in the night for no obvious reason)
  • Lack of genital lubricating fluids
  • If Empty Yin goes on for too long, either your body will already be thin, or you will start losing weight
  • Sudden flushes of heat, as in the menopause: these flashes, flushes, or ‘power surges’ mean your symptoms are moving onto another stage, that of empty heat 
  • Yin deficiency is frequently implicated in symptoms of infertility and sub-standard sperm: see also sexual impotence
  • Tongue: no coating on the surface, and possibly red in colour 
  • Pulse: ‘thin’ or ‘fine’, or may be ‘floating and empty’: these are terms used to describe qualities when the pulse is taken the Chinese way


By the way, the Chinese noticed these symptoms of Empty Yin 3000 years ago!

You may also, in time, develop symptoms of Liver Yang excess, a syndrome often noticed in people with high blood pressure.

Yin deficiency in other areas

That’s not all, because with these symptoms will almost certainly come one at least of the following, in due course:


Stomach Yin deficiency is often a problem in yin deficiency! It represents what happens when your digestion, especially your stomach, can’t do its job. It lacks the fluids – acids and other fluids that protect the stomach’s lining – to be able to digest your food properly. 

So it cannot replenish your reserves. With yin deficiency you’ve run out of reserves, so not having an effective stomach is definitely bad news! 

(How do you know if you have Stomach Yin deficiency? The easiest do-it-yourself way is to examine your tongue, specifically its coating. If you have a patchy coating, or even no coating – just raw flesh – you probably do have Stomach yin deficiency. To get this better you MUST change your diet and eating habits or you’ll get more ill and become more susceptible to increasingly serious conditions. Click Stomach Yin deficiency for more.)

Yin Deficiency: Reserves are Empty Video

What Can YOU do about Deficient Yin?

If you’ve read the causes of Yin Deficiency set out above, you’ll probably already know what you must do. Unless your problem came from fevers or inherited conditions, you have to learn to live a bit more slowly, to learn to enjoy life in the slower lane.

That’s not so easy! When your job goes, or your profits evaporate, and you want to maintain your standard of living, you’re forced either to work harder or take a new job – if you can find one.

Then, until your new job position is confirmed by your employer, you have to strain for good performance results, excellent productivity, sales and profits.

Otherwise you must rely on your savings – if you have any.

But you can do some things for yourself

Apart from getting treatment from someone who understands your situation and can help your body balance itself, you can almost certainly do some of the following:

  • More sleep: get to bed early at least three times a week. By ‘early’ we mean actually be in bed by 10pm, and put the light out by 10.30pm. Then aim to get up after allowing 8 hours for sleep, even if you don’t get 8 hours straight through. Also … It won’t hurt for you to retire to bed for several hours at weekends in the afternoon. You have to recharge your batteries!
  • And if you snore, see what can be done about it! Snoring means you are using up energy which should be used to help repair and rejuvenate your body. Click here for a page about snoring.
  • Learn how to meditate. Meditation is a technique (though it can become much more than just a technique!) for calming and steadying your mind. 
  • Once learned, you can even meditate while walking up and down in an airport departure lounge, or on a railway station, or while waiting to pick up your children from school.


Exercise for Yin Deficiency

  • Learn a simple form of exercise that you can do daily. 60 years ago a Royal Canadian Air Force physiotherapist was told to design a 10-minute exercise regime that all its staff could do every day. (Click here for a downloadable pdf of its essentials.) It’s got what you need, man or woman, to keep fit without over-straining yourself. You work through it at your own speed.
  • Try to take a 20 minute walk every day, during which you walk fast enough to get slightly out of breath, so that you can only just carry on a conversation. Of course, take your time to work up  to this!
  • Try the Nitric Oxide Dump: 4 minutes several times a day that moves your main muscles and exercises your heart. Work up to it slowly!

Make Time for Yourself! Especially with Food! 8 Things To Do!

Expresso coffee - a bad idea for yin deficiency!
  1. Most important! Avoid overstimulating foods. These include stimulants like coffee or containing caffeine, herbs like Chinese ginseng, and foods that are too heating such as curries and roasted meatsThere’s more about coffee here. Actually  coffee often helps people who are YANG deficient, a bit. But NOT YOU, if you’re YIN deficient.
  2. Take time over meals. Eat slowly, chewing well before swallowing. Don’t read or work while eating because doing so increases symptoms of empty yin.
  3. When you have this condition or ‘syndrome‘, your body lacks the resources it needs to power itself. So, many of your natural body functions that need time – like digestion – don’t work so well. 
  4. In turn, THAT means that you cope less well with eating the wrong foods or eating the wrong way. Check nutrition for more on this. 
  5. Also, don’t eat too many HOT-type foods, as these tend to increase heat in your body. Being yin-deficient, your body is not good at coping with too much heat.
  6. But be cautious about COLD-type foods too, because digesting cold or cold-type foods takes energy. You don’t have much of that either.
  7. Yang-type foods  – which you should reduce, if not avoid – tend to be spicy or sweet and include meat, especially when roasted or fried.
  8. Yin-type foods, which may benefit you, tend to be bitter, salty or sour. But take them cooked and warm where possible. Appendix 1 of my book on Yin Deficiency has over 8 pages of foods – nearly 200 of them – classified as to their actions.


Over-eating and Alcohol

  • Don’t eat large meals, or meals with alcohol, or drink alcohol, late in the evenings before bed. Everyone is different, but you should not rely on alcohol to help you sleep, because as your body metabolises it, it  will create heat and prevent replenishing, restful sleep.
  • Also, eating a large meal when you are tired is a disaster for your yin-deficient body. It just hasn’t got the energy for it.
  • More meals with smaller amounts per meal are usually better and easier to digest when you have yin deficiency.


Recipes Yin Deficiency

  • Yin Deficiency recipes. These are dishes you can cook and which are broadly balanced to help people with Yin Deficiency. So far, there are a few fish and vegetable recipes, but we’ll be adding beef, more fish and other recipes soon.


Other Useful Stuff YOU can DO for Yin Deficiency

  • Don’t take very vigorous exercise before going to bed. Leave at least 4 hours between finishing your exercise and going to bed.
  • Cold showers. Yes. You read that right! Cold showers can help you if done right!
  • Too much TV – and phones, tablets etc – disrupts your sleep, especially in the 3 hours before bedtime. You may sleep but it won’t be good! With yin deficiency you must nurture yourself.
  • Read our pages on (food) nutrition and supplements. If you are living a life that is exhausting your Yin energies, you’ll almost certainly need better nutrition.


Time - the enemy of yin deficiency!
  • Spend some time thinking about how you can reduce the time you spend rushing around.
  • When travelling, schedule time for relaxing body treatments such as rejuvenating exercise, aromatherapy, therapeutic massage, polarity therapy, bowen technique, shiatsu.
  • Spend time pottering about: preferably in boats, otherwise just looking around!
  • Don’t read exciting books before going to sleep.
  • Spend more time with friends who know how to take life easily.
  • And of course, consider acupuncture. Your acupuncturist may be a fund of good advice as well as being able to re-set your body via acupuncture! (If he or she has no idea about which points to use, nudge him in the direction of our page on Kidney Yin deficiency, where we’ve put some suggestions for Kidney Yin Deficiency acupuncture points.)
  • For a longer-term change, see someone who practises 5 Element acupuncture who may be able to steady the way your metabolism works and help you towards a less-fraught way of life.


Book specially written about this:
“Yin Deficiency – Burnout and Exhaustion – What to Do!”

If you enjoyed this page, I hope you’ll also enjoy the book that I’ve written. It’s not too long, but packed with information for you if you have empty yin.

Through Amazon you can buy the softback edition, or it’s available in a (2017) re-formulated version for Kindle that is very much more accessible than the original (2014) version. 

The book contains

  • an introduction to help you understand Yin and Yang from a different point of view (takes a little while to get your head round it!), and
  •  more on how to help yourself.
  • Western‘ diseases that often have this deficiency
  • A chapter with more on the mental symptoms
  • Lots more on the physical symptoms
  • A section on Nutrition for Yin Deficiency
  • More suggestions for exercise
  • Recipes for Yin deficiency
  • Softback version via Amazon – click the Amazon box or here 
  • Kindle edition also available 
A final thought! Yes, there’s also a syndrome called Excess Yin!
Jonathan Brand colours

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6 Responses

    1. Thanks hgf – Yin deficiency is a big problem and growing bigger worldwide what with water shortages and global warming. For some of us during lockdown, it reflects perhaps a lack of resilience. We’ll have more on this anon. Best wishes Jonathan Clogstoun-Willmott

  1. Dear Jonathan,
    Thank you for your website and for clearly explaining some difficulty concepts/theory. I would like to purchase your books but Amazon will not ship to Australia (& I’m not a fan of kindle or reading with a device). Is there a supplier in Australia you can direct me to?

    Best regards,

    1. Dear Natasha

      We have an arrangement with a company called Ingram, (also trading as Lightning Source) who supply many booksellers around the world. I am emailing you separately about this. Best wishes Jonathan

  2. Dear Jonathan,

    In your book “Yin Deficiency”, on page 97, you said a small meal before sleep may help Yin- and Blood-deficient people. Can you tell me the reason/mechanism explaining that? By the way, your book is very helpful. Thank you.

    1. Dear Don-hi

      With deficient Blood or Yin you are more likely to wake during the night, because Blood is the anchor or comfortable bed in which your Shen rests. If the bed is deficient, Shen cannot rest properly and wakes. A small meal (there are many kinds of such small meal: which is best for an individual depends on his upbringing, health knowledge and self-awareness) helps the body to maintain Blood quality through the night, helps the Shen to remain dormant.

      Such a small meal should not include very yang-type food! So avoid foods that heat or stimulate (for more, see hot foods). For example, avoid garlic, coffee, hot spices and curries. It should be easily digestible, and be well chewed before swallowing. Avoid carbohydrates that burn up too fast, so avoid refined white bread. For some, warm milk may suit, for others some nuts. Or try almond butter on rye-bread or an oatmeal biscuit – just some ideas.

      Glad you like the book, and it’s been useful – thanks for letting me know!

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