Kidney Pattern Differentiation in Chinese Medicine

Kidney Pattern Differentiation in Chinese Medicine

Etiology of Kidney Syndromes

  1. Heredity: Prenatal Jing/Ancestral (Yuan) Qi of each individual is formed at the moment of conception from a combination of the parents' Jing, both in general, and especially at conception. If parents had unhealthy or weak Jing (perhaps also inherited), or if conception occurred when they were too old or exhausted, the offspring could have a weak constitution.
  2. Emotions: The Kidneys in Five Element theory correspond to Water, which is associated with fear, anxiety, and shock. Fear descends Qi. Kidney rules the two lower orifices, control of which is often lost during bouts of extreme fear. Fear in children can cause enuresis. In adults, fear tends to deplete the Yin of the Kidneys and cause Kidney Yin Deficiency that may lead to Heart Yin Deficiency.
  3. Excessive Sexual Activity: Weakens Kidney energy, especially in men, since ejaculation depletes Kidney Jing. The Heart is directly related to Kidneys in that they mutually support an nourish each other. Therefore, weak Kidneys can weaken the Heart. Conversely, Deficient Heart Qi from sadness and/or anxiety can weaken Kidneys causing impotence, frigidity, inability to have orgasm.
  4. Chronic Disease: Most chronic disease eventually weakens the Kidneys, causing Deficiency of Kidney Yin or Yang.
  5. Aging: Kidney Jing declines with age
  6. Physical Overwork: Weakens Kidney Yang
  7. Mental Overwork: Weakens Kidney Yin (very common in Western culture).

As we use Kidney Yang energy in physical labor, the Postnatal Jing (derived from food and drink by the Spleen) replaces this quickly. However, if one has a lifestyle of stress, constant activity, long hours, irregular eating habits, excess mental activity, etc. with not enough time allowed for the body to rejuvenate, all this weakens the deeper Yin energy, which is less easily replaced. Worry and anxiety can lead to Empty Heat.

Kidney Jing Deficiency


Developmental Problems

  • Slow mental and physical development in children
  • Late or incomplete fontanel closure in infants

Kidney Areas

  • Poor skeletal development and brittle bones
  • Soreness and weakness in the lumbar area and knees
  • Premature graying and hair loss
  • Dental and teeth problems

Depleted Sea of marrow

  • Mental retardation, poor memory
  • Premature aging and senility
  • Dizziness, deafness and tinnitus


  • Low sex drive, infertility


  • Variable with deficient Yin or Yang
  • Yin is usually more Deficient presenting with a red peeled Tongue


  • Deep, weak
    Possible Floating/Empty or Leather Pulse


Overlapping Western medicine conditions:

Impotence, frigidity, infertility, arthritis, slow physical and mental development in children, tinnitus, premature senility.

It is assumed that Yin and Yang are equally Deficient, and there are no additional Signs of Heat or Cold, (never happens in clinical practice)

Signs include those of major life processes presided over by Jing, (birth, development, reproduction and aging) with specific reference to systems ruled by the Kidney.

Kidney Yang Deficiency


Yang Deficiency

  • Chills and aversion to Cold, Cold limbs, bright pale face, apathy, lethargy

Kidney Areas

  • Soreness and Cold in the lumbar region
  • Weakness and Cold of knees

Kidney Yang fails to hold fluids

  • Low sex drive, impotence, or frigidity
  • Sterility, spermatorrhea
  • Copious clear urine, Frequent urination or incontinence

Kidney Yang fails to circulate fluids

  • Reduced urine and edema
  • Loose teeth
  • Deafness

Kidney Yang fails to warm the Spleen

  • Loose stool, especially early AM (cock's crow diarrhea)

Kidney Yang fails to grasp Lung Qi

  • Asthma or shortness of breath on exertion


  • Pale and flabby with thin white coat


  • Deep, weak or minute and slow


Overlapping Western medicine conditions:

Lumbago, chronic nephritis, incontinence, impotence, infertility, asthma, emphysema, cardiac insufficiency, edema, chronic ear problems, adrenal hypo-function, neurasthenia.

Kidney Yin Deficiency


Deficiency Yin causing empty heat

  • Hot palms and/or soles, malar flush, red cheek bones, night sweats, afternoon fever
  • Constipation, dark urine, thirst

Kidney Areas

  • Soreness of knees and lumbar region

Kidney and Brain (Kidney Yin fails to cool Kidney Yang)

  • Tinnitus, poor memory, dizziness
  • Sexual dysfunction such as premature ejaculation and nocturnal emission (especially with dreams)


  • Red, little/no coating, may be cracks


  • Thin and rapid


Overlapping Western medicine conditions:

Hypertension, lumbago, chronic ear problems, chronic urogenital problems, chronic nephritis.

References Used

The TCM information presented here has been referenced from numerous sources; including teachers, practitioners, class notes from Five Branches University, the following books, as well as other sources. If you have benefited from this information, please consider supporting the authors and their works by purchasing the books below.

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General Diagnosis

4 Pillars of Diagnosis

Zang Fu Organ Patterns

Differentiation of Syndromes

TCM Gynecology

General TCM