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HoloSapiens - the TCM "Food as Medicine" Project




  • excessive sexual activity
  • prolonged febrile disease
  • continual overwork


To understand the cause for Kidney Yin 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, overflow as there is "deficiency of warmth and energy" which struggles to contain the matter. And vice versa - when there is Yin deficiency the warming principle of the body (Yang) becomes excessive which in time will lead to accumulation of heat. Since blood and body fluids belong to Yin, Yin deficiency will also manifest in dryness. 




There are many causes that lead to the depletion of Kidney Yin. Maybe the most common one is excessive sexual activity as it leads to chronic loss of body fluids. Another cause is prolonged febrile diseases as they manifest with heat which dries out body fluids. Continuous overwork is another cause for Kidney Yin deficiency.


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.




  • dry mouth
  • dry throat
  • dry skin
  • constipation
  • scanty dark-yellow urine
  • night sweats
  • feeling hot in the palms, soles, and chest
  • thirst
  • dizziness
  • vertigo
  • poor memory
  • backache


The typical symptom of Yin deficiency is dryness. Kidney Yin deficiency predominantly manifests in dry mouth, especially at night, but there is also dry throat and dry skin. As there are not enough fluids to nourish the intestines there is constipation. The urine is scanty and dark-yellow. (1)


The excess Yang has generated heat, which manifests as night sweats, feeling hot in the palms, soles, and chest, and thirst. Since there is not enough Essence to nourish the brain (Kidney Essence belongs to Yin) dizziness, vertigo, and poor memory may manifest. Essence deficiency also may fail to nourish the bone marrow therefore there might be backache and bone ache. (1)




The treatment principle of Kidney Yin deficiency is to build Kidney Yin, moisten dryness, and clear accumulated heat. "Substance producing" and Yin tonifying foods are appropriate for this condition. 


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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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