Chinese medicine describes 12 primary organs and bowels, that form the basis of our physiology. Each solid organ (zang) is paired with an associated hollow bowel (fu), and these are categorized according to elemental quality. The Kidneys and Bladder are part of the Water element in Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine describes the functions of each of the organs and bowels in a systematic method.
The functions of the Kidneys are:
- Store the Essence (Jing) and govern birth, growth, reproduction and development
- Produce Marrow, fill the brain and control the bones
- Govern Water
- Control the reception of Qi
- Open to the ears
- Manifest in the hair
- Control the two lower orifices
- House the Will (Zhi)
I have previously discussed the functions of controlling the bones and storing the Jing in these articles:
Jing means essence. Pre-natal essence is derived from our parents, and is stored in the Kidneys. It is expressed through Yuan Qi, or source Qi, which is the Qi that is transformed from Jing and that arises at the Source points along the acupuncture channels. Yuan Qi is the dynamic, transformative aspect of the Kidneys. When it is said that the Kidneys “govern birth, growth, reproduction and development,” it is through the action of the Yuan Qi that this occurs. More specifically, the Yuan Qi fosters the expression of the Yang Qi of the Kidneys throughout the body. The changes through infancy, childhood, teen, adult, maturity and death are all governed by the Kidneys. As Yang increases and circulates through the Yuan Qi, we grow, develop and transform. As Yang diminishes, we decline. Teething, puberty, menarche, menopause, andropause…these are all expression of the rising and then declining Kidney Yang.
Pre-natal Jing cannot be readily replenished, but can be protected through good self-care. Sleep, rest, good diet, stress reduction, gentle exercise such as Qigong, acupuncture and Chinese herbs can all help to preserve Jing and thus allow for smoother and easier transitions through life cycles.