Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine for Kidney Health
Kidney disease is a chronic and potentially fatal condition. However, conventional treatment options are limited. Some of the most common medications (corticosteroids and immunosuppressants) carry the risk of serious side effects, and some cases of kidney disease are highly resistant to treatment. This has led more and more people to seek out complementary therapies for kidney disease, including acupuncture and Chinese medicine.
In this article, we take a look at how the Chinese medicine view of the Kidneys differs from that of western medicine, and explore how acupuncture and herbs may benefit the health of these small but vital organs.
The Functions of the Kidneys in Western and Chinese Medicine
In western medicine, the primary role of the kidneys is to act as a filtration system. They allow waste products and excess water to be removed from the body while useful nutrients are reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. Due to their important role in the water balance of the body, the kidneys are also crucial for controlling blood pressure.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the Kidneys also play an essential role in water balance. They work closely with the Bladder to produce urine, and are seen as a gate which opens and closes allowing urination to start and stop.
Despite this similarity, the functions of the TCM Kidneys are much more varied than those of western medicine. This is due to the fact that the TCM Kidney system includes the adrenal and reproductive glands as well as the kidneys themselves.
In addition to regulating fluids and urination, the TCM Kidneys have the following functions:
Providing a Source of Yin and Yang
In TCM, the Kidneys are seen as the original source of all yin and yang within the body. Since the balance of yin and yang are essential for good health, this function makes the Kidneys one of the most important organs in TCM. Warming yang is essential for providing energy for processes such as movement, digestion, and reproduction. Cooling yin, on the other hand, is necessary to stop yang from burning out of control and heating the body too much. When the Kidneys are healthy, yin and yang will be harmonized. But if the Kidneys are sick and yin and yang fall out of balance, a whole range of symptoms can occur.
The Kidneys also have the important task of storing essence, a substance which is needed for healthy growth, development, and fertility. Essence not only plays an essential role in reproduction, but also governs the aging process.
In TCM, the Kidneys work closely with the Lungs to control the receiving of qi. The Lungs are responsible for taking in qi from the air, but it is the Kidneys which are responsible for ‘grasping’ it and keeping it inside the body. This means that conditions like asthma can be attributed to weak Kidneys as well as unhappy Lungs.
Controlling Bone and Brain Health
The Kidneys are said to produce marrow, which in TCM is a major component of the brain as well as bones. This means that healthy Kidneys are necessary for good mental function as well as strengthening the teeth and bones.
Benefiting the Ears and Hearing
The Kidneys are said to open into the ears and play a crucial role in the sense of hearing. Therefore, problems such as deafness, tinnitus, and vertigo can all be a result of a Kidney imbalance.
Benefiting the Hair
The hair on the head is also controlled by the Kidneys while body hair is controlled by the Lungs. Therefore, thick, lustrous hair is a sign of having healthy Kidneys, whereas thin, brittle, or dry hair could be your Kidneys crying out for help.
In TCM, each of the organs is responsible for an aspect of the spirit, and in the Kidneys’ case, this is willpower. The Kidneys are associated with water, which is known for its ability to wear away even the hardest rocks over time. In the same way, the Kidneys can provide motivation and determination to achieve your goals and see projects through to completion.
Kidney Disease in Chinese Medicine
From a TCM point of view, when your Kidneys become imbalanced, this can cause symptoms throughout the whole body. These include:
• Pain in the lower back or knees
• Dizziness or vertigo
• Tinnitus or deafness
• Poor memory and concentration
• Urinary problems
• Fluid retention
• Loose stools
• Asthma or breathing difficulties
• Slow development in children
• Premature aging
• Low libido
• Sexual dysfunction
As you can see, many of these are similar to the symptoms of kidney disease in western medicine. However, in TCM, Kidney symptoms are much more varied.
Acupuncture for Kidney Disease
From a TCM perspective, acupuncture can be used to strengthen the Kidneys and improve their overall function. This includes restoring balance between yin and yang, nourishing essence, and regulating the storage and circulation of fluids.
There is limited research available on how acupuncture works for kidney disease from a scientific perspective. However, studies have found that stimulating acupuncture points could help to relieve symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and sleep problems which often accompany kidney disease.
In addition, acupuncture could help to reduce creatinine levels and increase eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate). Acupuncture is also well known as a treatment for pain, another common symptom experienced by patients with kidney disease.
Acupuncture is an holistic treatment, meaning that each patient is treated in a unique way depending on their presenting symptoms. When you have acupuncture for the first time, your acupuncturist will take a detailed case history and plan your treatment based on your individual needs.
Improving Kidney Health the Chinese Medicine Way
Here is a simple tip to try at home. It is suitable for everyone, whether you are suffering from kidney disease or just want to improve your general health using ancient, TCM wisdom.
Massage Kidney 1 (Bubbling Spring)
Bubbling Spring is the first point on the Kidney channel and can benefit the health of these organs when massaged daily.
You can find the point on the sole of your foot, around two thirds of the distance between your heel and the base of your toes. The point is located between the second and third metatarsal bones, and should form a hollow area when you curl your toes down toward your heel.
Press the point firmly but gently or massage using small, circular movements for 1–2 minutes each day. This may feel uncomfortable at first but will become much easier over time.
Call Us Today
To learn more about how acupuncture and Chinese medicine could help to improve your kidney health, contact us at 773-878-7330. Our experienced acupuncturist will be happy to answer any questions you may have.