Copyright Edward Acupuncture Clinic 2006
Oriental Medicine
A selection of articles about Oriental medicine by
Edward Obaidey. Originally published in the Japan
Times, 1996-1999.

Loss of kidney energy key to aging
A patient celebrating, or maybe I should say
"mourning" his birthday, once said to me that the
thing he most noticed about turning 40 was that he
had become invisible to a certain portion of the
population. That part of the population, he went on
to explain, appeared to be females between the ages
of 18 and 26.  

Those poor unfortunates were cruelly handicapped, I
assured him, and conscious of his concerns, I
administered acupuncture to revitalize the
gentleman's kidney energy.

In Oriental medicine, aging and kidneys are
considered closely linked. The kidney energy has its
source with one's parents and is therefore "inherited"
at birth. The kidney is represented by the element
water in Oriental medicine, which I will often refer to
as "OM" in this series.

The ancients saw that a baby is born soft, with a lot
of fluid in its tissues, which is gradually lost with age
until, hard and dry, we shuffle off this mortal coil. This
means that the kidney energy is gradually depleted
until it runs out, leading to death.

In OM the kidney energy permeates the brain, and so
receiving acupuncture treatment regularly for the
kidney is well known to be one of the best steps for
prevention of senility. With this relationship then,
death of the kidney automatically means death of the
brain. It is interesting to note that of late the clinical
definition of death has shifted from death of the heart
to that of the brain - which in OM is the kidney.

On the other side of the coin, the kidneys are also
responsible for reproduction. There is an old saying
that the kidney is the first and the last. Trying to
understand the situation in ancient China, where this
way of thinking came about, leads us to see that a
large part of everyone's life at that time was
concerned with ancestor worship and the rest of the
time with furtherance of one's family line; both are
aspects of kidney energy.

Kidney energy is said to be irreplaceable, although
there are some people who believe that a portion of
it can be replaced by certain practices resulting in
rejuvenation. That doesn't mean that you will become
a teenager again, but who would want to go through
the terrible teens a second time anyway?

Normally one of the first signs that the kidneys are
losing their power is a shift in interest from sex to
food and a corresponding increase in fat content in
the body. This change in body composition is also
marked by a puttylike, doughy feeling on the surface
of the body when touched, partly due to water
retention. The kidney energy is related to water
metabolism and cooling actions within the body.
Young people with strong kidneys often like to
sunbath, absorbing the sun's warmth and balancing
it with the cooling energy of the kidneys. However,
as people get older and their kidney energy declines,
the cooling mechanism breaks down and less time
can be spent comfortably in the sun. Also, as the
kidneys weaken, the ears, which traditionally are
regarded as the flowers of the kidney, tend to
gradually protrude further from the skull over time.
This can be equalled with a slowdown in metabolism
as well.

Often symptoms such as ringing in the ears, inability
to think clearly, heavy legs and lower back and
urinary problems are cited as examples of kidney
weakness. This is normally an advanced stage where
the patient is so far gone, it may be very difficult to

In this case, depending on the individual's
constitution, the cooling power of the kidneys is so
weak that when the individual overworks hot flashes
often occur. Over time this heat may rise into the
brain, causing damage known as brain hemorrhage
in modern medicine. The difficulty is not so much
physical but mental (in reality there is no such
distinction but for the ease of explanation I have
taken the liberty) inasmuch as these types of
individuals are extremely set in their ways, making
shifts from the present diseased state to one of
health an uphill struggle.

A lot of these patients are often classified at one
time or another as suffering from disorders of the
autonomic nervous system, that part of the nervous
system responsible for involuntary bodily functions,
such as production of urine, beating of the heart and

Kidney energy checklist:

1. Is your back constantly sore?
2. Do you urinate more or less frequently than usual?
3. When you are tired, do you find yourself
over-heating easily, especially in the upper body and
4. Has sunbathing recently become uncomfortable for
5. Are you less able to handle stress of late?

If your answers to any of these are yes, then the
next article dealing with self-help techniques for the
kidney will, I hope, be of interest to you.

Edward Obaidey