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How Overwork Can Tax Your Kidneys

First off, Happy Chinese New Year! I am heading off to New York City’s Chinatown soon, to partake in some delicious cuisine to bring in the New Year. What a treat it’s been to have so many chances at renewal with all of these New Year celebrations!

Today’s blog post topic comes to us from Steve, an Alcantara Acupuncture & Healing Arts Blog subscriber. Thank you for dropping me a line asking me to talk about Kidney Yin Deficiency in an upcoming post!

In Chinese Medicine, the main Kidney function is to store Essence, and govern birth, growth, and reproduction. Kidney Essence, or Jing, is something we’re born with, and is given to us by our mother and father. I talk more about Kidney Essence, as well as how to supplement it with delicious bone broth in my previous post, “Traditional Chicken Bone Broth: A Recipe To Build Qi And Blood For Immune Building, Fertility, And Postpartum”.

The Kidney has many aspects in Chinese Medicine:

  • The Kidneys store the Will. As everything has Yin and Yang aspects, so does our Will. Our Yang Will is our most assertive, dynamic of ourselves that helps us create decisive shifts and helps us to take responsibility of our lives. Our Yin Will is our more elusive, hidden, more intangible, and about the ultimate destiny that already exists. It also allows our creation of the virtue of Wisdom. In this case, the Wisdom of the known and unknown.
  • The Kidneys rule the bones. It is said that the Kidney Essence produces the marrow, and the marrow creates and supports the bones, including the teeth, which are considered the surplus of bones.
  • The Kidneys open into the ear. According to the Nei Jing (a classical Chinese Medicine text), “If the Kidney is harmonized, the ear can hear the five tones”. This is why it’s common for us to have poor hearing as we age, since weakened Kidney Essence occurs as we become elderly.
  • The Kidneys manifest in the head hair. Our Kidney Essence keeps our head hair moist and supple. Think that having a great head of hair is simply about beauty trends? This beauty standard came about, back in the day, due to the knowledge that a great head of hair indicated healthy Kidney Qi! And, in Chinese Medicine, our head hair depends on Blood for nourishment, which is why hair has traditionally been called “the surplus of the Blood”.
  • The Kidneys rule the grasping of Qi. When you want to regulate breathing, not only is it helpful to look at the Lungs (“the foundation of Qi”), but also at the Kidneys (“the root of Qi”), since they help us “grasp the Qi”.

To be more specific about Kidney Yin, it is the root of all yin in the body. This means that it is the basis of all yin actions within the body, such as collecting and storing, and thus helps us with all nourishing and sustaining actions in our body. It helps us build our endurance and reserves.

And our Kidney Yin is closely related to the Heart, Liver, and Lung. So, when our Kidney Yin is taxed, it often taxes our Heart, Liver, and Lungs, as well, or is transmitted to the Kidneys from the Heart, Liver, or Lungs.

What can tax our Kidney Yin? Many things can assist, such as hereditary weaknesses, emotions, excessive sexual activity, chronic illness, and old age. But, by far, the most common cause of Kidney Yin Deficiency in our modern culture is overwork.

Are you overworked? Check out some of these signs:

  • Working for long periods of time under conditions of stress
  • Lack of relaxation
  • Long hours of work
  • Hurried meals
  • Irregular eating schedule
  • Eating late at night
  • Discussing business while eating
  • Excessive mental work not balanced with physical exercise
  • Cultivation of fear

Having a couple of these signs, especially when experienced over a long period of time, indicates a toll on the Kidneys, and the body is never given a chance to recuperate. This depletes our Kidney Yin.

Some symptoms of Kidney Yin Deficiency are:

  • Dizziness
  • Tinnitus
  • Vertigo
  • Poor memory
  • Deafness
  • Night sweating
  • Dry mouth at night
  • 5-palm heat (heat or sweating in the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and the chest)
  • Thirst
  • Sore back
  • Ache in bones
  • Nocturnal emissios
  • Constipation
  • Dark, scanty urine

Some of the above symptoms may intersect with other organ patterns (as many of us tend to have more than one organ involved in our imbalances), but these are some of the more classic signs.

Acupuncturists are adept at feeling pulses and looking at tongues to confirm a diagnosis, but you can easily start being more aware of your own health by checking out your tongue under a good, bright light. Check out the body color of your tongue, its shape, it’s coating, and moisture. Is your tongue red, with no tongue coating (a peeled tongue), and with cracks, especially in the middle? If so, you may be experiencing Kidney Yin Deficiency.

As for the pulse, which is harder for a non-Acupuncturist to discern, since there are 12 pulse positions to feel, which takes some practice, a Kidney Yin Deficiency pulse will have a floating, empty and rapid, quality.

An Acupuncture session can help you rebalance your Kidney Yin, and so can Chinese herbs. It may also be a time to re-evaluate your lifestyle, particularly your work schedule, and include some Kidney Yin enriching foods!

Build your Kidney Yin by:

  • Being more present with your daily activities, rather than rushing through them
  • Making changes to your present job so that you are not burning your candle at both ends (or, if appropriate, time to consider that leaving your toxic job may be in order!)
  • Taking more breaks at work
  • Balancing all the mental work with physical activity
  • Enjoying your food
  • Eating at more regular times throughout the day, and try not to eat past 7pm (this, and the previous tip, both also help the Spleen)
  • Addressing your fears, since fear is the emotion of the Kidneys when they are out of balance
  • Meditating (this is closely related to helping you address your fears and transform them, as well as helping you become more present)

And here are some foods to help you build your Kidney Yin:

  • Barley
  • Black beans
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Black soy beans
  • Black wood ears
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Duck
  • Millet
  • Pork
  • Seaweed
  • String beans

Do you see a recurring “black” theme in the above ingredients? It’s not a coincidence! Black is the color of the Kidneys.

So, bottom line is, be kind to your Kidneys by being kind to yourself!

Have you experienced overwork?
And if so, how did you address it?

Honoring your true Kidney wisdom,







P.S. If you haven’t already, please check out the Alcantara Acupuncture & Healing Arts page on Facebook! And, if you like what you see, please feel free to “Like” the page!

P.P.S. If you’d like to see a specific topic explored in a future blog post, please drop me a line and let me know! I’d love to hear from you.



Copyright © 2014 by Alcantara Acupuncture & Healing Arts. All rights reserved. You may quote, copy, translate and link to this article, in its entirety, on free, non-donation based websites only, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website. All other uses are strictly prohibited.

All information on this website is my own opinion, and not to be taken as medical advice. Reliance on any information provided on this website is solely at your own risk. Please refer to your medical practitioner before making any medical decisions.


  1. Zuleima Hernandez
    April 19, 2014

    Excelente, esto me servirá de mucho, la verdad que es bueno conseguir paginas como esta, ahora mismo trataré de comenzar un trabajo que se relaciona bastante con esto.

    • Margarita Alcantara, M.S.Ac., L.Ac., Reiki Master/Teacher
      April 19, 2014

      Thank you, Zuleima, for your comment and for visiting my blog. Although my writing Spanish isn’t as fluent the one you’d left, I appreciate your kind words, and encourage you in your quest to explore your work as a healer!

      All the best,


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