In Five Element (Phases) theory, Winter is ruled by the Water element, which is associated with the Kidneys, Bladder and Adrenal Glands. The Kidneys are considered the source of all energy or “Qi” within the body (the body’s batteries.) They store all of the reserve Qi in the body so that it can be used in times of stress and change, or to heal, prevent illness, and age gracefully.
I like to think of the Kidneys as our Energetic Trust Fund - Its what was handed down to us by our parents. Ideally, we shouldn't tap into our trust fund on a regular basis, because once we've exhausted it, we're shit out of luck.
People who are constantly tapping into their Kidneys for energy - rather than relying on adequate rest and nutrition - are potentially depleting their Kidneys and accelerating the aging process.
During the winter months, it is important to nurture and nourish our Kidney Qi; it is the time where this energy can be most easily depleted. Our bodies are instinctively expressing the fundamental principles of winter – rest, reflection, conservation and storage.
Its ironic, that this is the time of year when we tend to be the most stressed - with the holidays, social engagements, and family commitments. All of our energy is being projected outwards, when we should be consolidating it inwards.
The desire to hibernate during this time of year is energetically and seasonally appropriate.
The Nei Ching, an ancient Chinese classic, advises people to go to sleep early and rise late, after the sun’s rays have warmed the atmosphere a bit. This preserves your own Yang Qi for the task of warming in the face of cold.
Eating warm hearty soups, whole grains, and roasted nuts help to warm the body’s core and to keep us nourished. Sleep early, rest well, stay warm, and expend a minimum quantity of energy.
Here are some additional Chinese Medicine facts about the Kidneys and ways that you can help nourish them - with food and lifestyle modifications:
Kidney Functions (Chinese Medicine Theory)
- Stores Essence; Goversns Birth, Growth, Reproduction, Development
- Produces Marrow - fill up Brain, Controls Bones
- Governs Water
- Controls Lower Orifices
- Root of Life; Source of Creation (talent and ability)
5 Element Theory
- Kidney - Yin Organ
- Season - Winter
- Element - Water
- Color - Black, deep blue
- Manifests - Hair
- Sense Organ - Ears
- Rules Over - Bones, teeth, marrow, nerves
- Tongue - Root
- Secretion - Urine
- Stores - Essence
- Emotion - Fear and Depression
- Flavor - Salty
- Climate - Cold and Wet
- Development - Death
- Instinct - Will (zhi)
General Kidney Deficiency Signs/Symptoms
- Sore/weak Low Back
- Sore/weak Knees
- Deafness or Diminished Hearing
- Tinnitus - constant low pitch
- Urinary complaints (incontinence, enuresis, frequency, etc.)
- Low Libido, Impotence
Essence (stored in the Kidneys) If there is a deficiency of Essence, all of these will be effected.
- Nourishes Fetus
- Controls Growth
- Sexual Maturation
- Determines Constitution/Vitality/Strength
- Produces Marrow -> Becomes Brain, Spinal Cord, Bone Marrow, Bones
Foods to help you renew and restore: Nourishing the Kidneys
- Water – The Kidneys are associated with the Water element. Drink ample amounts of water, at room temperature, throughout the day.
- Kidney Shaped Foods – Black beans and kidney beans are excellent examples of kidney shaped foods that nourish and benefit Kidney Qi.
- Blue and Black Foods - The colors blue and black correspond to the Water element of the Kidneys and are thought to strengthen the Water element. Include blueberries, blackberries, mulberry and black beans in your diet.
- Seeds - Flax, pumpkin, sunflower and black sesame seeds relate to fertility and growth which is governed by Kidney Qi.
- Nuts – Walnuts and chestnuts have been found to be especially effective for increasing Kidney Qi.
- Vegetables – Dark, leafy green vegetables are the best choice for Kidney Qi. Other Kidney Qi boosting veggies include asparagus, cucumbers and celery.
Acupressure for Replenishing the Kidney and Improving vitality
- Rub along the sides of the lumbar region, 30 times.
- Use the knuckles to knead forcefully the sides of the upper lumbar vertebra (Bl23, Bl52), 40 times.
- Clench the fists and thump on midline of loin region, 10 times.
- Use the finger tips to strike on the midline of the pelvic front, 40 times.
- Cross the hands and press below the navel, and rub 30 times.
- Knead 1-finger-breadth below the anterior crest of the tibia (St36), 30 times on each leg.
- Knead the area 3-finger-breadths above the inner malleolus of each ankle (Sp6), 30 times.
This massage tonifies the kidneys, helping to relieve back soreness, limb coldness, night sweating, insomnia and sexual dysfunction as well as weakness caused by aging. When kneading or pressing on particular points, there should be enough force to bring about numbness or soreness, while rubbing or wiping should create a feeling of warmth.