The kidneys’ function of regulating water metabolism in traditional Chinese medicine practice closely parallels their function in Western medicine, but their influence is much more far-reaching. They are the storage place for vital essence (jing), a substance responsible for growth, development, reproduction, and fertility. The kidneys are the source of prenatal qi, which is inherited from the parents and interpreted as a person’s innate constitution and relates to the DNA of the body. Therefore, this organ system is also referred to as the “anti-aging” channel.
The health and strength of the kidneys is the major determining factor in a person’s long-term vitality and longevity. Symptoms of imbalance in the kidneys include low back pain, infertility, impotence or excessive sexual desire, urinary problems, tinnitus or deafness, edema, or asthma. To build the general strength of the kidney’s, a healthy diet and lifestyle, along with exercise and breathing practices, such as meditation and qi gong, are the primary ways to keep vital. In fact, a person with a weak constitution and a healthy lifestyle is better off than a person with a strong constitution and an unhealthy lifestyle. A person may go for years without any illness and then suddenly succumbs to cancer or heart disease. The person with weaker system, on the other hand, is unable to get away with an unhealthy lifestyle because he or she gets immediate feedback in the form of illness or fatigue from their system and from the kidney’s in particular.