by Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.
Cold weather can be challenging for the body, particularly to the Kidney system which is a storage center for your Ming Men Fire or Gate of Vitality that warms and stimulates all metabolic functions. The Kidneys in Chinese Medicine are also associated with the Winter season and are therefore most vulnerable at this time of year.
The Kidneys also store our most precious commodity, called Jing, which is the Yin that acts like insulation in a home to help contain our internal warmth. Jing is often referred to as Essential Qi or constitutional energy, as it corresponds to the deepest aspect of our physiology which we associate with our DNA. It is therefore crucial to protect your Kidneys to support your body's regeneration and renewal processes in order to maintain youthfulness.
The Kidneys relate to the Water Element in Chinese Five ElementTheory. In a previous article, we explored the Five Element Water type personalities and how the Kidney energy supports our drive to live and the willpower to fulfill our goals and dreams. Here we explore the distinctions and challenges within the two basic Water archetypes and the use of essential oils to help each type of person restore balance.
The two types of Kidney Water archetypes are on opposite ends of the spectrum energetically. The Yang Water type person is generally warm, robust and vital while the Yin Water type is generally cold, weak and sluggish.
The Yang Water Type Person
In Chinese Medicine the Kidneys rule the bones, so a person who is a the Yang Water type will constitutionally have strong bones and a sturdy structure. These qualities make the Yang Water type person very hardy constitutionally and resilient to disease.
The Yang Water personality type's sturdy structure will often be matched with a graveling voice that's deep and strong. I've seen clinically, when a kidney type person gets ill, their voice will distinctively get deeper and rougher. This is even a diagnostic parameter in Chinese Medicine for assessing that a person has a Kidney imbalance.
To match their vigorous nature, the Yang Water person will often have robust ideals and goals. When out of balance, the Yang Water person tends to have a lot of excess types pathologies and is inclined to have an exaggerated view of reality.
The Yang Water person is more physical than mental and cut out for hard physical work rather than sitting behind a desk. Yang Water types want to experience life physically and love the challenge and adrenaline rush of adventure. In extreme cases, these Kidney Yang types are risk takers and daredevils.
Their nature of doing things in excess makes the Yang Water type person prone to diseases related to excess. In Chinese Medicine, this can manifest as Damp Heat with symptoms of excessive mucous and swellings such as edema, or in a more advanced state Phlegm Heat, which is related to the formation of tumors and pathological growths in the body. Because of this tendency, Yang Water types usually need detoxification to reduce the heavy toxic load they tend to accumulate that shows up in the form of many metabolic disorders including gout, diabetes, hypertension, and benign or malignant swellings, especially in the urogenital organs.
Essential Oils for the Yang Water Type Person
Wood based essential oils including Cedarwood and Sandalwood support detoxification because the Yang Water type tends to eat and drink excessively, and can be a bit abusive with his or her personal habits. Juniper essential oil, though not a wood oil, can also be used to detoxify the kidneys but should be used with caution as it can be too vigorous in action for a person with Kidney weakness.
Cedarwood Essential Oil is used to cool and strengthen the Kidney system and support detoxification of the body, especially in the urogenital system. Damp heat factors tend to settle into the lower body causing problems in the urogenital systems, such as prostate inflammation and swelling for men and bladder, vaginal or ovarian conditions for women.
- Through its clearance of toxic by-products, Cedarwood is also useful for bone and joint inflammation in the form of arthritis. According to Chinese Medicine, the Kidney system directly supports the bone structure and joint health.The joints are toxic depositories and act essentially like holding tanks to keep pathogenic factors from affecting other more vital systems including the internal organs. As the health of the kidneys improve therefore so will pathologies related to the joints.
- With its potent ability to boost Kidney Qi energy and considering the Kidney system correlates to the adrenal glands and the lower back region, Cedarwood essential oil is useful to reduce lethargy and fatigue, and strengthen a weak, achey back.
- Cedarwood is a tonic for the kidney organs themselves and an effective diuretic. These benefits are very helpful in the treatment of hypertension and gout.
- In addition, as the Kidney system relates to the reproductive system in Chinese Medicine, Cedarwood can tone the hormonal glands to help with menstrual irregularity and pre-menstrual type syndromes involving cramping and mood swings.
Sandalwood Essential Oil is a well known essential oil for its spiritual attributes and in Chinese Medicine we say it helps calm a person’s Shen, or spirit. Symptoms related to a Shen disturbance are anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia and restlessness.
- Sandalwood also treats all of these symptoms by cooling heat in the heart for symptoms like anxiety and insomnia, especially when related to a deficiency of Yin fluids in the Kidneys.
- Sandalwood is especially effective as an antiseptic and diuretic to cleanse the urogenital system and can be helpful in the treatment of cystitis, prostatitis, vaginal infections and even ovarian cysts and hemorrhoids due to the accumulation of damp heat in the pelvic region.
Juniper Berry Essential Oil is an oil to use with caution as it can be toxic for a person with weak kidneys. Juniper oil can however be very useful for a person who has serious arthritic pain due to Wind Damp Cold factors as it has a very warming quality to break up toxicity in the joints. It's also an important oil for Cold in the Blood causing amenorrhea or the type of painful menses that feels better with a warm heating pad placed over the area.
- More specifically in its application for Yang Water types, Juniper Essential Oil as a diuretic is also useful for diabetes and gout as it acts as a detoxifying agent and helps clear uric acid out of the blood. In general, Juniper is an important essential oil for most circulatory problems including hypertension, varicose veins and edema.
The Yin Water Type Person
The Yin Water person is more aligned with the typical pattern of Kidney weakness in Chinese Medicine as this type of person tends to be timid and fearful.
A Yin Water type will lack the warmth and vigor of Yang energy. They are constitutionally on the delicate side with poor stamina and circulation, and prone to injury with weakness in the bones and joints.
The Yin Water type is much less physical but more intellectually oriented than the Yang Water person and will persevere toward goals with patience. In general, this person is more mental and spiritually oriented than physical and is considered the philosopher of the Five Elements. If this type gets too stuck within, he or she may become a hermit, which is an archetype for the Yin Water type.
Yin Water types enjoy meditation over socialization. These individuals need their adrenals to be stimulated for motivation and to come out of themselves. Active exercise is important to invigorate the Qi in these sedentary individuals. In extreme cases, this type of person can become a reclusive hoarder.
Because the warming Yang energy in a Yin Water type is weak, he or she tends to have a soft voice rather than a robust voice like their Yang Water counterparts.
Yin Water types have a weak metabolism. They tend to feel cold inside and are sensitive to cold in their environment. Their delicate immune system creates low resistance to diseases so the Yin Water person is more prone to get sick easily.
Because their Yang Qi is not strong the Yin Water type's sexual vigor may also be lacking. If this issue concerns you personally, then becoming more physically active is a good start to help warm your Yang Qi. Martial Arts and, in particular, the restorative practice of Qi Gong is designed for this purpose.
Kidney Yin Water Types tend to be pessimistic and can easily have weight problems due to a sluggish metabolism. With a weakness in water metabolism, this person is also prone to fluid stagnation and issues of edema which can show up under the eyes and in the lower legs, particularly in the knees and ankles.
Since the lower back and knees relate to the Kidney system in Chinese Medicine, the weak constitution of the Yin Water type person will give him or her a greater tendency to have problems related to these areas, such as soreness and weakness in the lumbar area and knees.
Essential Oils for the Yin Water Type Person
The primary essential oils to consider for the Yin Water type person are warming and stimulating oils such as Rosemary, Basil and Fennel.
Rosemary Essential Oil is a very important oils to stimulate the immune system and improve circulation. It's a key oil to open the diaphragm and invigorate the heart circulation specifically. Through these mechanisms the sensitivity to cold and the feeling of cold internally can be reduced or resolved.
- Rosemary is also useful for improving problems with digestion and elimination, including bloating and constipation.
- Rosemary is considered an adrenal stimulant for problems related to chronic fatigue and low metabolism.
- The Kidney system correlates to the brain in Chinese Medicine, so Rosemary will help stimulate a person mentally to reduce brain fatigue and brain fog.
Basil Essential Oil is a key essential oil to help strengthen a person’s Kidney Yang energy and in this way bring warmth and stimulation to a person’s overall metabolism.
- Basil essential oil is also an important oil for a general lack of vitality, weakness in the lumbar region, and low sex drive or impotence.
- Basil essential oil is an adrenal stimulant for fatigue and supports a person who may feel a lack of confidence or low self-esteem.
Fennel Essential Oil is a unique essential oil in that is has estrogenic properties to help regulate menstrual problems and treat problems related to menopause.
- Fennel is also a diuretic and helps decrease an excessive appetite, so it's useful for weight loss. Fennel can also help stimulate a weak appetite, so be mindful that the effect is dosage dependent. The higher the dosage, the more Fennel oil reduces the appetite. However, used excessively Fennel may stimulate Liver Wind which means it can cause nervousness and anxiety.
- Fennel can also strengthen the Kidney’s Life Gate Fire thereby improving low energy, weakness in the lower lumbar, impotence or low libido, weak willpower and an apathetic disposition which the Yin Water type person is inclined to experience.
Ideally and for best results, it's important to support an organ system prior to the season to which it corresponds. However, it's important during every season and essentially every day to nurture our Kidney energy to bring balance and optimize its function. The critical issue with the colder weather during Winter is that it becomes especially important to maintain the body's warmth to protect the Kidney Yang Qi. Elderly people have a decline in this energy and that's why they are especially challenged physically at this time of year.
Essential oils are profound sources of plant based biochemicals that resonate directly with the human body's Jing Essence or constitutional energy. When used properly, the six essential oils discussed here can have profound effects to bring balance to the Yin and Yang Water type person and the physical and emotional syndromes he or she often suffer. I suggest you try them for yourself. For complicated health conditions, it is advisable to consult a professional aromatherapist to target your specific needs in a safe and effective manner.
Please note: the recommendations in this article are provided as suggestions and guidance and are not meant to cure the illnesses and imbalances described. Please consult your healthcare practitioner or schedule with us to get specific guidelines, formulations and treatments for your specific needs.
Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. is the Founder & Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic run by he and his wife, Setareh Moafi, L.Ac. that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine. Salvador is a leading U.S. practitioner of Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare form of non-insertion Acupuncture using Gold & Silver needles. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.