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HoloSapiens - the TCM "Food as Medicine" Project




  • chronic illness
  • internal dampness
  • excessive sexual activity
  • old age


To understand the cause for Kidney Yang deficiency we need to quickly review the concept of Yin and Yang in traditional Chinese medicine.


Since Yang in nature represents activity, light, warmth it logically represents function/warming faculty in the human body. Since Yin in nature represents rest, quiet, slowness, in the human body it translates to structure, substance, matter. In other words Yin represents blood, body fluids and matter, while Yang is the force that gives them live.


There is good health when Yin and Yang are in balance. When there is deficiency of Yang, Yin instantly becomes excessive and vice versa – when there is deficiency of Yin, Yang becomes excessive. Yang deficiency manifests in coldness, lethargy and overflow as there is "deficiency of warmth and energy" which struggles to contain the matter. A main symptom in Kidney Yang deficiency is coldness. 


In traditional Chinese medicine the Kidney is the root organ of the body. Thus it is the foundation of all Yin and all Yang qualities. This means that the state of “Kidney Yin” determines the state of Yin in the other organs and the state of “Kidney Yang” determines the state of Yang in the other organs, and in the body as a whole.


Kidney Yang


There are many causes that lead to Kidney Yang deficiency. Chronic illness may consume the warming faculty of the body, as this is the energy the body uses to fight the pathogen. “Internal dampness” cools the warming faculty. Excessive sexual activity also leads to the exhaustion of Kidney Yang. The most common reason for Kidney Yang depletion is old age (1)


If you want to learn more about the Kidney and its functions from the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine you can read the material "The Kidney in Traditional Chinese Medicine" in the Physiology chapter.




  • aversion to cold
  • sensation of cold in the back
  • cold knees
  • lassitude
  • mental lethargy
  • lack of sexual desire
  • sterility
  • loose stools
  • frequent urination
  • edema
  • clear vaginal discharge in women
  • irregular menstruation in women


As mentioned above the main manifestation of Kidney Yang deficiency is “coldness”. Aversion to cold, sensation of cold in the back, and cold knees are all typical symptoms of Kidney yang deficiency. As the warming principle is diminished lassitude, mental lethargy, and poor spirit manifest. Since the Kidney governs the reproductive system in traditional Chinese medicine there is lack of sexual desire and/or sterility. There is not enough energy to hold and contain therefore there is loose stool, frequent urination and edema. Women have clear vaginal discharge, and the menses may be irregular.  (2)






The treatment principle of Kidney Yang deficiency is to tonify Yang and warm the body. Warm/hot foods, herbs and spices are needed.  


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(1) Maciocia, Giovanni (1989). The Foundations of Chinese Medicine. Nanjing: Harcourt Publishers Limited

(2) Pitchford, Paul (2002). Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books


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