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In Traditional Chinese Medicine the ear is related to the kidneys.....

Integrating the Traditional Chinese Understanding of the Kidneys into Western Herbalism

Integrating the Traditional Chinese Understanding of the Kidneys into Western Herbalism
by Michael Tierra L.Ac., O.M.D.

The article was too long to paste here, but I only got the bottom section about the ear, hair and
endocrine system, etc.


The Nei Ching says, Kidney chi goes up to the ears and when the kidneys are harmonious, the ears
can perceive the five tones." Since the kidneys are involved with the regulation of the autonomic
nervous system, their capacity to differentiate between pitch, intensity and loudness is optimized.
Similarly, since good kidney chi provides a general condition of sensory alertness, they provide
the power to perceive not only sound but light, feeling, flavor and so forth.

In terms of the TCM kidney we do not look so much to the physiological structure of the ear
(although, the fact that the ear has a superficial morphological resemblance to the kidneys is
considered to have relevance). Of more importance is the complex physiological process whereby our nervous
system responds to auditory stimulation and in turn transmits that information to the hearing
centers of the brain.

TCM and the Mechanism of Hearing

The relationship of the TCM kidneys to hearing specifically involve two important physiological
processes. One is the neurological response described above which is particularly complex and
sensitive in terms of the transmission of sound wave vibrations. Impairment of the cochlea or auditory
nerve has a functional relationship not only locally but also to the general strength of the
sympathetic nervous system. Nerve deafness can be the ultimate result of a diminishing of nerve force
and the ultimate degeneration of conducting nerves in the ear. Of course, there can be direct injury
to the nerves from congenital defect, an accident or exposure to loud noises. This results in
nerve deafness.

In TCM, nerve deafness, as with all neurological degeneration, is considered an type of yin
deficiency. An appropriate yin tonic such as Rehmannia Six is prescribed possibly with some variation to
suit the condition of the patient.

The second aspect of hearing that has a functional relationship to the kidneys is the ossicular
system in the middle ear which involves three very small bones called `hammer'(malleus),
`anvil'(incus) and `stirrup' (stapes). Their names describe their shapes. Sound waves entering the external
auditory canal ultimately strike against the tympanic membrane or eardrum, setting it in vibration.
These vibrations cause the malleus or hammer, whose head attaches to the membrane to resound. This
in turn moves the `anvil' which is attached to the stapes.

Since the kidneys and the endocrine system, especially the parathyroids, are integral to the
metabolism of calcium, any imbalance in calcium metabolism which influences the bones are likely to
have an effect on the three delicate bones which are involved in the mechanism of hearing. These can
become partially or completely destroyed or ankylosed ("frozen" in place by fibrosis or
calcification) and result in conduction deafness.

In TCM this type of deafness is caused by stagnation and blockage and can be appropriately treated
internally with herbs that stimulate circulation, promote proper digestion so as to avoid
lymphatic congestion, promote diuresis, relieve `wind' or spasms.

Nerve deafness and conduction deafness can be differentiated because in conduction deafness, the
subject is still able to hear, although weakly, by sensing vibrations directly through the skull
bones. In contrast, nerve deafness is more total since it is presumed to be caused by damage to the
cochlea or the nervous system rather than the ossicular system.

The Tuning Fork Test to determine between nerve and Conduction Deafness. The two forms of deafness
are differentiated by means of the tuning fork test. A weakly vibrating tuning fork is placed in
front of the ear, gradually it is moved away until the subject can no longer hear it. Then the butt
of the vibrating fork is placed directly against the mastoid process. If bone conduction is better
than air conduction, the sound of the tuning fork will again be heard and bone conduction hearing
is better that air conduction. Deafness, therefore, is caused by conduction deafness. If after
placing the fork directly against the skull, it is still not heard, then it is nerve deafness.
Diseases of the ears

Nerve Deafness. This term includes damage to the cochlea (inner ear which transmits sound
vibrations to the brain), the auditory nerve, or to the central nervous system circuits from the ear. This
is usually tested either by air or bone conduction (the transmission of sound vibrations through
the bones of the skull). Because of the tendency toward sclerosis and weakening of neurological
response, some type of deafness, especially to high frequencies, usually occurs as a process of

Other patterns of deafness frequently occur as follows:

1. deafness for low frequency sounds caused by excessive and prolonged exposure to very loud
sounds (rock band and jet airplane engine), and 2. deafness to all frequencies caused by drug
sensitivity of the organ of corti (in the inner ear), especially sensitivity to some antibiotics such as
streptomycin, kanamycin and chloramphenicol.

From this we see how both sound and drug stress has a profound damaging effect not only on
the hearing because they are such refined receptors but most likely on kidney chi generally. To
make such a diagnosis, we would have to evaluate whether other symptoms of kidney imbalance are
present such as urinary problems, joint and lower back pains.

2. Tinnitus. Here one may experience a subjective ringing, tinkling buzzing or other sounds in
the ear. Frequently this occurs as a result of impaction of ear wax or inflammation of the eardrum
or the middle ear. Another cause is Meniere's syndrome (named after Prosper Meniere, French
physician 1799-1862). This is a disease with progressive symptoms of deafness, ringing in the ears,
dizziness, and a sensation of fullness or pressure in the ears. The cause is not generally known but
it seems that acute symptoms tend to worsen under stress and rest most effective. Autopsy has
revealed edema in the membraneous labyrinth so that it is always a good idea to eliminate salt from the
diet as it can aggravate conditions of edema and fluid retention.

This is a condition for which TCM has effective herbal treatments. For treatment to be
effective we must differentiate between the various syndromes.

1. If tinnitus is caused by excess dampness and wind we should use herbs that are diuretic,
antispasmodic, carminative, to prevent fluid accumulation as a result of weak digestion.

Decoction of Pinellia, White Atractylodes and Gastrodia (Ban xia bai zhu tian ma tang)

1. Pinellia tuber (ban xia) 6-9gms this herb resolves dampness in the gastrointestinal tract
2. Gastrodia tuber (tian ma) 3-6gms this is one of the most powerful antispasmodics
3. Atractylodes alba (bai zhu) 6-9gms this herb is used as a tonic carminative to aid digestion
and eliminate GI tract fluid stagnation
4. Poria cocos (FuLing) 6-9gms this herb is diuretic
5. Citrus reticulata peel (chen pi) 3-6gms this herb is drying and carminative
6. licorice root (gan cao) 3-6gms this herb is used to harmonize the ingredients and strengthen
the digestion
7. fresh ginger (sheng jiang) 3-6gms this herb is circulating, carminative
8. Jujube dates (da zao) 3-5 pc. this is a tonic and added to harmonize the ingredients

The action of this formula is:

1. to resolve phlegm and indogenous wind (to eliminate, dry, and prevent the accumulation of
edema and to relieve internal tension and spasm)
2. To strengthen the spleen and dispel dampness (to aid digestion and assimilation, preventing
lymphatic congestion and to have diuretic action)

Besides its use for Meniere's disease, it is also good for symptoms of vertigo, profuse phlegm,
full and heavy feeling in the chest.

Tongue: white and greasy (signifying damp stagnation)

Pulse: soft and slippery (signifying the same with digestive weakness)

The next formula is specifically for deafness caused by nerve damage (kidney yin deficiency). It
is based on the Rehmannia 6 formula which is the basic formula for kidney yin deficiency mentioned

Pills for the deaf (Er long Zuo Ci wan)

1. Anemone altaica (Jiu Jie Chang Pu) 6-9 grams the rhizome is used, it is a warming aromatic,
stimulant, helping digestion and eliminating dampness
2. Magnetite or feric oxide (Ci shi) 1-3 grams it has a cold energy but enters the kidney and
liver organ meridians, it has a yin effect of calming and relaxing while at the same time because
it is a mineral, it anchors the yang or destructive rising energy
3. Schizandra berries (wu wei zi) 6-9 grams it has a yin tonic effect, helping to restrain the
floating yang, calms the spirit and prevents leakage of energy

The remaining ingredients consist of Rehmannia 6 combination:
4. Prepared rehmannia (shu dihuang) 20-25 grams tonifies kidney essence and yin
5. Cornus berries (shan zhu yu) 10-15 grams
6. Dioscorea batatas (shan yao) 10-15 grams
7. Alisma root (ze xie) 9-12 grams
8. Moutan peony (p. suffructicosa)(mu dan pi) 6-9 grams 9. Poria cocos (fu ling) 9-12 grams

The actions of this formula are:

1. to nourish kidney yin and,
2. to open the hearing.

It is specifically indicated for an individual with hearing problems caused by kidney deficiency
with associated tinnitus, deafness and vertigo.

Tongue: red

Pulse: thready and rapid

It can be used for deafness, Meniere's syndrome and diabetes.

From the above, we see that TCM considers neurological degeneration (as reflected in nerve
deafness) as a condition of yin deficiency, and involves nerve deafness which would also be considered a
condition of kidney yin deficiency. A chronic remedy such as Rehmannia Six is appropriate not only
to improve the presenting condition of deafness, but to possibly prevent further degeneration of
other vital functions. For many conditions, this may be the greatest benefit for its use.

We also recognize that dampness or lymphatic stagnation caused by poor digestion and assimilation
can cause localized edema in the inner ear that can be the cause of tinnitus. If we were to
prescribe the yin tonic, Rehmannia Six formula for this conformation it may aggravate the condition
because rehmannia is a moist herb. To give a stimulating, drying and dampness dispelling formula is a
correct approach but would be contraindicated for the condition of yin deficiency.

Now let's consider some Western herbal treatments for the ear:

The late Doctor Christopher had a formula which he gave both for hearing loss, vertigo and brain
damage. It was called B and B Tincture and consisted of a combination of black and blue cohosh,
vervaine, scullcap and lobelia (all are antispasmodics and nerve tonics), together with garlic
macerated in olive oil (the garlic oil has penetrating and regenerating properties).

Each night 4 to 6 drops of both the B and B tincture and the garlic oil are inserted in each ear,
plugging them afterwards with cotton and leaving on overnight. This is done six days a week for 4
to 6 months or as needed. On the seventh day the ears are flushed out with equal parts warm apple
cider vinegar and warm water.

This particular combination has proven to be effective not only for various conditions of hearing
impairment but because of its penetrating action, for the treatment of brain damage as well. It is
corroborated with the similar use of various medicated oils in Ayurvedic medicine. This can easily
be combined with the internal treatments prescribed by TCM and will only hasten recovery, if it is
at all possible.

B and B Tincture combines nerve tonic herbs such as skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Black
cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), Blue cohosh (Caulophylum thalictroides) and Vervaine (Verbena hastata)
which besides their nerve tonic properties combine various waste discharging benefits as well. The
garlic has a penetrating and stimulating action, helping to remove obstructions, in a base of
olive oil, there is some softening and regenerative yin tonification as well. Altogether, the
combination of herbs used externally, and the addition of internal herbal formuls makes for a superior
herbal protocol for hearing difficulties.


Kidney chi is internal but it is manifested externally in the hair. Kidney chi being the root must
rise to the top of the head, when it is strong and abundant the hair will be abundant, radiant and
lustrous. When kidney chi declines, the hair looses its pigmentation, withers and falls off. This
is an inevitable process of aging.

Hair pigmentation. Hair receives its color from different amounts of melanin pigments in the outer
layer (cortex) of the hair. Melanin is also responsible for skin pigmentation and both skin and
hair is effected by exposure to sunlight.

As with other functions governed by TCM kidneys, the formation of melanin is regulated by the
endocrine system, especially the adrenals. It is believed that the formation of melanin is regulated
by aldosterone which is the most active mineralocorticoid hormone secreted by the adrenal cortex.
This hormone is in itself stimulated by ACTH (adrenocorticaltropic hormone) from the pituitary.
With a balanced and uniform secretion of cortisol from the adrenals, melanocyte stimulating hormone
(MSH) is secreted which regulates hair and skin coloring.

Individuals with a deficiency of kidney yin and essence or a lack of adrenalcortical hormones,
will tend towards loss of hair pigmentation or greying. As a result of this, there is a definite
relationship between the effects of a sudden shock or stress on the adrenal glands that can deplete
one's adrenalcortical reserves as shock absorbers, so to speak, and result ultimately in either hair
loss or greying.

At the base of each hair follicle is a loop of capillaries enclosed in a connective tissue
covering called the hair papilla. Atop each papilla there are clusters of epithelial cells that reproduce
and eventually form the hair shaft. In addition, to this there are small bundles of enervated
muscles which under sudden stress such as cold or fright, causes the hair to stand on end. While the
coloring is regulated by adrenalcortical hormones, the proper nerve strength which ennervates the
arrector pili muscles attached to the base of the hair follicle, and is, I believe, responsible at
least in part, for helping to hold the hair in place, is regulated by the sympathetic nervous

From this we see that hair is essentially nourished by blood and held in place and maintained by
the sympathetic nervous system. A lack of proper nutrition will effect both hair coloring and
growth while congestion and nervous exhaustion will diminish the body's ability to conduct nutrients to
the area as well as maintain retaining power.

The best results for treating alopecia or hair loss is to encourage hair growth with herbs that
stimulate the scalp and hair bed. Alcoholic extracts, tinctures and oils are made using herbs such
as echinacea root, rosemary, nettles, birch leaves, burdock root, and seed together with a small
amount of essential oils such as oils of, rosemary, lavender and calamus. This mixture is rubbed
vigorously into the scalp. If possible, one can follow this occasionally with a light tapping over
the affected areas of the scalp with a Chinese dermal hammer.

Treatment should be applied regularly and daily for anywhere from a few weeks to months according
to the severity of the condition. Many who have been consistent in their attempts, have stimulated
new hair growth. This has been well documented by many cases both in Western and Asian countries
including China.

The TCM internal treatment for hair loss is tonifying for either or both kidney yin or yang.
Again, the approach is directed to strengthen the autonomic nervous system. Evidently a similar
approach in the West is followed with the use of B Vitamins and mineral supplements, especially Zinc.

Two herbs in particular are used in TCM for helping to restore hair and skin pigmentation. These
are Polygonum multiflorum (ho shou wu) and Rehmannia glutinosa (shu dihuang). Both are classified
as blood tonics which nourish liver and kidney essence.
He Shou Wou (Polygonum multiflorum)

The use of He shou wuo for the hair emanates from an ancient story of a famous Chinese military
officer who was condemned to death by confinement in a remote cell with no food or drink. He was
able to survive by consuming the leaves and roots of a common vinelike weed (polygonum multiflorum).
After one year his keepers went back to dispose of the remains of the condemned military officer,
that found him fully rejuvenated with his lustrous black hair color fully restored. Since that
time, the herb that General He Shou Wou consumed while incarcerated for a year has been named in his

He shou wou, commercially misnamed in recent times, fo ti tieng, contains lecithin,
anthraquinones, chrysophanic acid, emodin, rhein, and chrysophanic acid anthrone. Normally He shou wou has been
cured by cooking it with black beans. It is bitter, sweet, astringent and slightly warm.

It is used as a tonic for the liver and kidney and also to nourish the blood, benefit the essence,
and kidney and liver yin. It is therefore used for deficient yin and blood conformations including
dizziness, blurred vision, prematurely gray hair, weak lower back and knees, soreness in the
extremities and insomnia. All of these are basic signs and indications for adrenal depletion included
under the signs of kidney yin deficiency. As it contains some anthraquinones it also possesses some
demulcent and detoxifying properties making it useful for lubricating the intestines and promoting
bowel movement especially in anemic individuals.

One of the most remarkable effects of He shou wou is its effects on lipid metabolism. It is
believed that the lecithin in He shou wou is responsible for preventing the accumulation of cholesterol
in the liver and the retention of lipids in the blood stream and finally the penetration of lipids
into the arterial endothelium, hence reducing arteriosclerosis. (14)

The lecithin, besides being good for the hair, is found in He shou wou as a main component of
nerve tissue, particularly of the brain and spinal cord. It is also an important raw material for the
membranes of erythrocytes and other cells, promoting their growth and development. (15)

One of the most commonly available and effective forms of He shou wou is in a Chinese patented
formula called "Shou Wou Chih". It is a liquid extract containing Shou wou along with Dang gui,
Ligusticum, Polygonatum, Rehmannia root and other herbs that aid circulation and digestion. It is used
as a liver tonic, tonifying, warming and invigorating the blood, nourishing the liver and kidneys,
benefiting the eyes and tendons, strengthening the bones and tendons of the back, relieving joint
pains and depletion caused by sexual excess, childbirth, or illness. Shou Wou Chih is suitable to
take daily for a long period of time (3 months or more). The daily dose is 2-3 tablespoons, 3 x

Another good remedy for restoring hair color is Black sesame seeds. Chinese medicine finds that
herbs and foods that are black colored are usually particularly good for the TCM kidneys. Black
sesame is rich in certain oils and is taken regularly, about one tablespoon daily, to prevent greying
and help restore normal hair color. Black sesame seeds can be dry roasted and ground with a little
salt to make a delicious condiment that can be sprinkled on rice and other foods. I have also
combined about a third portion of ground he shou wou with the black sesame gomasio to increase its
benefits. A delicious sweet version can be made by mixing the ground black sesame with honey or dry
powdered pure sugar cane juice extract.

As with the discussion of other aspects of the TCM Kidneys and indeed herbal medicine generally,
attempting to diagnose and treat a specific symptom such as premature hair loss or greying, leads
one to use herbs and formulas that are indicated for the whole person. By treating hair symptoms,
one eventually also finds that their energy and well being improves, joint pains disappear and
perhaps is beneficial even, to one's sex life. In this way one herb or formula can treat 100's of
symptoms while at the same time by applying TCM diagnostic criteria we can arrive at the correct
approach that will achieve the best results for a specific symptomology.


Another important function of the TCM Kidneys is their ability to grasp the chi of the lungs and
pull it downward. Failure to do this results in a kind of adrenal exhaustive asthma where the lung
energy does not properly descend.

What is the relationship of the kidneys to the lungs? The two end products of carbohydrate
metabolism is metabolic water and carbon dioxide gas. While the main function of the kidneys is to
eliminate excessive water from the blood, carbon dioxide gas is eliminated through the lungs.

The filtration of water through the glomeruli of the kidneys is dependent upon high oxygen
arterial blood. If the arterial blood contains abnormal impurities from an improper diet rich in
denatured, and refined foods, the kidneys require more oxygen to force elimination; this extra oxygen is
supplied by the adrenal glands.

As Dr. Henry Bieler explains," Nature wisely placed these glands near the kidneys, so that their
internal secretion (adrenoxidase) can supply oxygen faster, in order to overcome any strain on the
process taking place in the globule of the kidney."(16)

Adrenal stimulants such as ma huang, cayenne pepper even coffee can stimulate the adrenals to
secrete adrenoxidase to supply oxygen faster to compensate for any deficiency in the process occuring
in the glomeruli of the kidneys. By so doing the adrenals especially in a yin deficient individual
are overly taxed to facilitate the elimination of toxins through the kidneys. This may possibly
shorten the individual's life by tending to deplete the adrenal's reserves.

In asthma, the adrenal potential is much below normal and because of this kidney detoxifying
function is greatly impaired. It is the lungs which try to help the weak kidneys by secreting some of
the toxins through their mucous membranes. The lungs are not able to function very well as
accessory kidneys and the result is inflammation and irritation of the lungs which lead to a degeneration
and atrophy of the bronchiole tubes.

Herbal formulas which are useful for kidney deficient asthma include Rehmannia Six or Rehmannia
Eight formulas previously described. When there is yin deficiency with dryness one can use Rehmannia
Six with the addition of asparagus cochinchinensis (tian men dong), Ophiopogon japonica (mai men
dong) and Scrophularia ningpoensis (xuan shen).

Asthma caused by asthenia or weakness of the kidney is treated with Rehmannia Eight (jin gui shen
qi wan) together with schizandra chinensis (wu wei zi). An animal that is taken to treat kidney
yang deficient asthma is gecko lizard. The male and female lizards are usually taken together with
the head and feet removed, since these seem to have some toxic principle. Three to six grams are
taken as a powder or nine to fifteen grams in decoction. This can be taken alone or together with
Rehmannia eight for better effect.


In the past, Western herbalism has been noticeably lacking in treating endocrine disorders. This
is primarily because endocrine disorders occurred more as a syndrome of different symptoms and
Western herbalism has tended to orient itself around more clearly defined pathological conditions. If
there was a problem with a hypersympathetic nervous system, Western herbalists have tended use
sedatives, nervines and perhaps anti-inflammatories. There has been little understanding of a
condition of asthenic wasting. An herb such as marshmallow (althea officinalis) occurs more for its
soothing demulcent properties rather than its ability to nourish the parasympathetic nervous system
helping it to secrete adrenalcortical hormones such as cortisol.

Only recently have Western scientists and herbalists come to recognize the effects of certain
herbs, most noticeably a strong sympathetic nervous stimulant such as Ma Huang and for the stimulation
of adrenalcortical hormones, licorice and Siberian ginseng. As a result many of these herbs are
appearing in Western herbal formulas for the adrenals and endocrine systems.

Other substances that are used with good effect are protomorphogens or glandular extracts. These
include specific glands from animal sources such as adrenal, thyroid, pituitary, thymus, ovarian,
etc. These may be prescribed alone or together with appropriate herbs, vitamins, minerals, etc. In
addition, a number of vitamin and mineral supplements are used to nourish and stimulate the
endocrine system. These include vitamin C, all the B vitamins, Zinc, calcium and magnesium.

Throughout the nineteenth century consumption or tuberculosis was not uncommon. This condition is
definitely one that would be classified as yin deficiency in TCM. It was treated with various yin
tonic foods and medicines that often helped to stabilize and sometimes even cure the condition at
least for awhile. Because of an epidemic occurring in China, the Chinese went to great lengths to
import wild American ginseng (panax ginseng) from Eastern North America because of its yin tonic

Two common substances used for T.B. where tannin leached acorns from the oak tree which served as
a powerful nutritive yin tonic; in Russia, there were many cases of the use of large quantities of
eggs taken on a daily basis over a period of months by Russian folk healers as described in a
little book called "Russian Folk Medicine" by Paul M. Kourennoff and George St George.

The use of cayenne pepper and ma huang both serve as stimulants of the sympathetic nervous system.
As such they help to raise metabolism and thus help the lungs by stimulating the removal of
congestion and toxins from the system. This approach has worked very well for those who have a genuine
excess and are only recently changing from a rich diet of red meat, dairy and refined sugar and
flour. The same approach, however, given to individuals with sympathetic overload or a depletion of
the parasympathetic system (kidney yin) is further weakening and debilitating.

All these approaches have demonstrated considerable beneficial clinical effects. It is in TCM,
however, that the conditions associated with kidney yin or yang deficiency is so pivotal to the
entire system. There is much that can be learned from TCM that can be integrated into a more effective
clinical model. Even more important, we can appreciate that all the principles of TCM theory are
in perfect agreement with the most recent discoveries and understandings of modern scientific

The kidneys correlates with the lower warmer and the bladder

The triple warmer in Chinese medicine is not an actual organ but a functional process whereby all
the organs of the upper, middle and lower cavities of the body interact with each other. It is
therefore the process which becomes the triple warmer. Considering the in the Nei Ching, "the triple
warmer is the official in charge of irrigation and it controls the water passages," there must be
a direct relationship between the function of the triple warmer and the kidneys. That relationship
has to do with the regulation of fluid within the tissues and organs of the body.

In the upper warmer, fluid is described in the Nei ching "opening outwards, spreading the 5 tastes
of the food essences, pervading the skin, filling the body and moistening the skin and it is like
a mist." The middle warmer is situated in the stomach and "receives the chi, expels the wastes,
steams the body fluids, transforms the refined essences of food and connects upwards with the
lungs." The lower warmer is described as a drainage ditch because of its function of separating essences
of food into the pure and impure.

It seems that the description of the triple warmer becomes a "summarization of the functions of
all the yang organs (including the lungs and spleen) in their work of receiving, digesting,
transforming, absorbing, nourishing and excreting. The triple warmer is like the great canal that was
built in China in ancient times to connect the vast distant territories. So also is it warmed and
motivated by the TCM function of the kidneys especially as it relates to the processing of fluids. The
bladder is the yang aspect of the kidneys, making it relevant to the Gate of Vitality from which
it derives its energy. The function of the bladder is to store and excrete urine. If kidney yang is
weak, there will be frequent but weak passage of urine.

The Kidneys govern water

Within the kidneys themselves, as with all physiological processes, yin and yang qualities are
manifested. The kidneys contribute to the function of eliminating acid waste products and helping to
maintain proper PH throughout the body by their ability to reabsorb sodium, calcium and other
mineral salts into the plasma. The lungs also contribute to this process by eliminating carbon dioxide
which is the waste byproduct of glucose and lactic acid metabolism. Acid waste in the body are
yang toxins because they cause inflammation and congestion. Sodium, chloride, potassium and other
mineral ions which help to maintain homeostasis are yin. Since yin and yang are relative to each
other, sodium is yang because it causes fluid retention while potassium would be yin.

Extracellular fluid in the form of blood and lymph occupies the interstitial spaces between the
cells. It must maintain a proper amount of sodium chloride and bicarbonate with some potassium and
calcium. Intercellular fluid on the other hand must maintain a predominance of potassium with a
smaller amount of sodium. Let us posit that the extracellular fluid is yin while the intercellular
fluid is yang.

Similarly, salt is a yin substance while potassium is a yang substance. The balance and
interaction of these two through the cell walls is in the form of an electrical charge that helps in
carrying food, fluid and waste into and out of the cells.

Chinese medical theory maintains that the flavor of the kidneys is salty. By this the Chinese
understood the specialized relationship the kidneys have with directly maintaining and regulating PH
and by the reabsorption of sodium and calcium into the plasma. As with the regulation of yin and
yang throughout the body, this function of the kidneys is also regulated by hormones of the adrenal
cortex and of the posterior pituitary.

The kidneys are paired reddish-brown organs situated one on each side of the vertebral column and
on the posterior wall of the abdominal cavity. The adrenal glands are situated on the superior
portion of each kidney. Being approximately 11 cm. long, they extend down from the level of the
twelfth thoracic to the third lumbar vertebra. The right kidney sits slightly lower than the left
because of the presence of the liver.

The kidney proper is composed of a cortex or outer layer; the medulla which is located deep to the
cortex and consists of up to 18 triangular renal pyramids. The renal pelvis is the papilla of each
pyramid projecting into a funnel-shaped minor calyx. The major calyces unite to form the renal
pelvis which is the expanded upper end of the ureter. The urine passes as droplets from tiny pores in
the papillae into the renal pelvis and finally the ureter, which carries it to the urinary

The nephron is the functional unit of the kidney where urine is produced. The two kidneys together
contain about 2 1/2 million nephrons. The entire function of the kidney can be understood by the
function of a single nephron.

The nephron is composed of 1. a glomerulus of tiny capillary blood vessels, and 2. a long tubule
in which the filtered fluid is converted into urine on its way to the pelvis of the kidney. Blood
enters the glomerulus through the afferent arteriole and leaves through the efferent arteriole.
Pressure of blood in the glomerulus causes fluid to filter into Bowman's capsule. Bowman's capsule is
named after a 19th century British physician and is a visceral layer close to the glomerulus. It
functions as a filter in the formation of urine.

It is within the nephrons that the major functions of the urinary system is performed. The other
parts of the system serve primarily as passageways and storage areas. Nephrons carry out three
important processes:

1. 1. They regulate blood concentration the volume by removing selected amounts of water and
2. 2. They help regulate PH
3. 3. The remove toxic waste from the blood.

In the process of performing these activities, the nephrons filter unwanted materials from the
blood and return desirable ones required by the body. The discarded material or urine together with
the entire volume of blood in the body is filtered approximately 60 times a day.

Urine is formed by a process of glomerular filtration caused by forcing fluids and dissolved
substances through a membrane by pressure. In a healthy person, urine consists of all materials
normally found in the blood except for the solid elements and most proteins which are too large to pass
through the membrane.

Tubular reabsorption is the amount of filtrate that flows out of the renal corpuscles of both
kidneys and is reabsorbed by the blood, which is about 99%. Thus, only about 1% actually leaves the
body which is about 1 liter a day. If filtration is too slow, there is a reabsorption of chloride
ions to increase the flow of blood which in turn balances the rate of filtration, helping to
regulate the process.

Tubular secretion eliminates certain waste materials from the blood and helps to control PH.
Through a complex process, tubular secretion releases hydrogen and ammonium ions which help to raise
the blood PH which has been lowered through the digestive process (even though most diets provide
primarily acidic foods). Ammonium and hydrogen ion secretion normalizes urine to a PH of about 6. As
a result, urine Ph is lowered while blood PH is raised to normal.

Antidiuretic hormone (ADH) , called vasopressin, controls the rate at which water is lost from the
body by controlling the permeability of the water collecting ducts. Without ADH water is expelled
into the urine, with ADH it is reabsorbed back into the blood.

A normal adult excretes between 1 to 2 quarts of urine daily. Blood pressure is regulated by the
secretion of renin from the juxtaglomerular apparatus which increases reabsorption. By so doing,
blood volume and consequently blood pressure increases and urine decreases. By raising blood
pressure, the kidneys are ensured enough oxygen (O2) and the normal volume of urine remains constant.

The amount of water that is consumed effects blood concentration. A small amount of water results
in a lower concentration in the blood with the consequent release of ADH. The effect of ADH is to
decrease the volume of urine, thus conserving water reserves.

Exposure to high temperatures stimulates the rate of perspiration or water loss. This also
stimulates the release of ADH with an increase in water reapsorption in the blood and a decrease of
urine. A lowering of temperature causes a dilation of the abdominal vessels with an increase of blood
to the glomeruli, with a consequent increase of pressure and the expulsion of urine.

Diuretics are chemicals that increase urine flow. Some act on tubular flow in the kidneys while
others such as coffee, tea and alcoholic beverages affect ADH by inhibiting its release. It is
important that the rate of sodium loss in the urine also be increased with the loss of water.

Weiss points out that "it is useful to make a distinction between diuretics in the narrower sense,
which are used to treat diseases of the urinary system, and diuretics in the wider sense, perhaps
better referred to as anti-dyscratic drugs with diuretic properties, their actual indications
being metabolic diseases, rheumatism and gout." (Weiss, pg. 234)

Weiss then goes on to define the difference between diuretics in the narrower sense which include
diuretics containing volatile oils and those where the diuretic property is due to their saponin
Diuretics containing volatile oils

It is well understood that in general a warm or hot infusion of herbs with volatile oils will have
a diaphoretic effect and a cool infusion will exert a diuretic effect. The following herbs are
used in either of these ways:

* Parsley (petroselinum sativum)
* Celery fruits (apium graveolens)
* Wild carrot (Daucus carota)
* Lovage (Levisticum off.)
* Cinnamon bark (cinnamomum cassia)
* fresh Ginger (Zingiberis off.)
* Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
* Oregano
* Burdock (arctium lappa)
* Buchu (Barosma betulina)
* Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
* Water Plantain (Alisma plantago)
* Watercress (Nasturtium off.)
* Gravel root (Eupatorium purpureum)

Diuretics containing saponins and sterols

* spiny restharrow (ononis spinosa)
* Horsetail (equisetum arvense)
* Dandelion (Taraxacum off.)
* Dianthus superbus
* Rehmannia glutinosa
* Goldenrod (solidago virgaurea) (directly increases renal function)
* Ceanothus thyrsiflorus (California lilac)
* Azuki beans (Phaseolus calcaratus) which are diuretic because they tend to
* filter sodium.
* Corn silk (Zea mays)
* Guiacum off.
* Hydrangea arborescens

A diuretic subcategory are herbs that have urinary antiseptic properties and would include

* Pipsissewa (Chimaphila spp.) also very useful for frequent urination.
* Uva ursi (Arctostapholos uva ursi)
* Plantain (Plantago spp.)
* Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Many herbal diuretics exert their action by directly effecting electrolyte balance of minerals.
Thus, those that are high in potassium tend to have a cooler energy and include dandelion (taraxacum
Off.), the various mushrooms including Poria cocos, couchgrass (Agropynum repens), probably
Atractylodes alba, Some diuretics such as Dianthus superbus promote diuretic action by stimulating more
the secretion of potassium rather than sodium. Certain herbs of a demulcent or mucilaginous
character such as marshmallow root (Althea off.), Slippery elm (Ulmus Fulva), Knotweed, (Polygonum
aviculare), talcum, and Rehmannia glutinosa inhibit the osmotic reabsorption of fluid by the tubules.
The single most important diuretic that inhibits antidiuretic hormone is water. When large amounts
of water are ingested, ADH is no longer secreted from the supraoptico-posterior pituitary system.
As a result large amounts of urine are discharged.

In addition to the above, emotions can influence the volume of urine. Nervousness and stress can
increase blood pressure which in turn will increase glomerular filtration.
Urine Characteristics

1. Color is normally yellow or amber colored. Being a breakdown product of hemoglobin, urine is
colored by urobilinogen and is more hypertonic than plasma and more acid. It consists of urea, urin
acid, creatinine, ammonia, and hydrogen and potassium ions.

2. Turbidity of fresh urine is usually transparent. Slight turbidity is a result of mucin secreted
by the lining of the urinary tract. If it is too dilute (specific gravity is low) there is not the
proper balance of fluid filtered through the tubule. Goldenrod herb and root (Solidago virgurea)
is one of the best to correct excessive albuminaria as well as oliguria

3. Odor of fresh urine can vary. Asparagus will give a characteristic smell. Of more importance,
however, is a sweetish smell which can indicate the spilling of blood sugar into the urine,
indicating diabetes. Normal urine has little odor.

4. PH of normal urine is slightly acidic, ranging from 4.6 to 8.0. Variations are closely related
to the diet. High protein increases acidity while vegetables and fruit increase alkalinity.
Fasting, exercise and high altitude will also vary the PH. Standing urine forms ammonium carbonate which
is strongly alkaline.

5. Specific gravity is the ration of weight of solids to the weight of equal volume of distilled
water. Water has a specific gravity of 1000. The specific gravity of urine can vary from 1.001 to
1.035 in healthy people. This indicates health since there is a better overall filtering capacity.
Above normal readings can indicate that the person has blood cells, casts or bacteria in the urine
which is an indication of disease.

1. An increase in Albumin can indicate high blood pressure, metals in the body, bacterial
toxins, disease of the glomeruli.
2. An increase of Glucose indicates high sugar from the diet and emotional stress. The
utilization of glucose and some amino acids by the cells is dependent upon a process called "sodium
co-transport" whereby the osmotic diffusion of sodium into the cells carries with it glucose and amino
acids. Since the kidneys are responsible for regulating sodium levels, there is obviously an
indirect relationship between kidney function and the absorption of nutrients. Since the kidneys are so
directly involved with the regulation of sodium, we see the origin of adding a pinch of salt when
taking a kidney yin or yang tonic. We can also see that if the kidneys are filtering too much
salt, there can be symptoms of overall malnourishment.
3. An increase of Erythrocytes can be cause by hematuria, inflammation of the urinary organs,
kidney stones, tumors, trauma and kidney disease. In TCM, this category is in the categorized as
disease caused by heat and we look to the use of anti-inflammatory herbs such as echinacea,
barberry, gentian as well as astringent diuretics such as pippsesewa, uva ursi and goldenrod.
4. An increase of Leukocytes indicates infection of the urinary organs. This betrays the
presence of pus and could come from other areas of the body as well. Again, this is a condition of heat
and requires the use of anti-inflammatory herbs such as echinacea, chaparral, golden seal as
described above. If there is a urinary infection then uva ursi, pippsesewa and horsetail would be very
5. In small amounts the presence of Ketone bodies is normal. In larger amounts it can indicate
diabetes, starvation generally or overrall too little carbohydrates in the body. Ketones can
create a mild feeling of euphoria which is the high frequently associated with fasting. When
carbohydrates are not used, almost all the energy must come from the metabolism of fats. This can be taken
from the fatty reserves of the body resulting in tremendous amounts of fatty acids being
metabolized by the liver. This is often more than the cells can oxidize resulting in the accumulation high
concentrations of acetoacetic acid and the other ketones in the blood.
6. Bilirubin is a byproduct of the hemolysis of red blood cells and hemoglobin. The average
lifespan of red blood cells is 120 days after which they become too fragile to exist. Their cell
membranes rupture and the released hemoglobin is phagocytized by reticuloendothelial cells throughout
the body. Eventually these are converted bilirubin. Within hours, these are absorbed by the
hepatic cells where it is combined with other substances and partially excreted as bile where it is
excreted through the gall bladder into the small intestine where it stimulates peristalsis and is
converted by bacterial action into a more soluble substance called absorbed through the intestinal
mucosa into the blood and most of this is in turn re-excreted by the liver back into the gut. About
5% is excreted by the kidneys into the urine. After exposure to air in the urine, the urobilinogen
becomes oxidized to urobilin, or in the feces it becomes altered and oxidized to form stercobilin.
Herbs that treat a congestion or excess of bilirubin are classified in TCM as "Herbs that clear
Damp Heat." These include Oregon Grape (Mahonia), Barberry, Golden Seal, Gentian Yellow dock root
(Rumex crispus) and Phellodendron amurense. They are important in the treatment of most genital
urinary inflammations as well as herpes simplex and are so used with great effectiveness in both
Chinese and Western herbalism.
7. Casts are tiny masses of hardened material made from white blood cells, red blood cells,
epithelium that contains cells from the tubulars, fatty or granula cells. They indicate a kind of
cellular dysfunction and are effectively treated and removed with a combination of herbs that
eliminate "damp heat" and diuretics. These include cleavers (Galium aparine), Gentianae scabrae, Sophorae
flavescentis, Phellodendron ammurense, hydrastis canadensis.
8. Renal calculi are crystal salts found in the urine that can solidify into renal calculi or
kidney stones. Some of the conditions which lead to their formation include a decrease in water
intake, increase in mineral salts and an abnormally alkaline or acidic urine. Many diuretic herbs
have anti-lithic properties but three of the most important are as follows:
1. Gravel root (Eupatorium purpureum) combines both chi tonic as well as diuretic
properties. As such, it is my opinion that it is somewhat similar in properties to the Chinese
Atractylodes alba (Bai Zhu) which is also diuretic, carminative and tonic. Gravel root, as its name implies,
is a most effective remedy for urinary calculi and gravel, having the ability to loosen, dissolve
and void gravelly sediment in the urinary tract. Gravel root is a diuretic nervine which means
that it is able to treat frequent, ineffective or nighttime urination due to weakness of the pelvic
nerves. Since it has the ability to increase the elimination of solids in the urine, it is
effective in cases of rheumatism and gout. Typically, as with all remedies in this class, they should be
combined with a demulcent diuretic such as Marshmallow root (Althea off.) or talcum.
2. Hydrangea arborescens is another anti-lithic remedy often combined with gravel root
for the elimination of stones. It is also good for urinary tract infections as well as infections
and enlargement of the prostate gland.
3. Lysimachia christinae (Jin qian cao) is the main herb used in several Chinese patented
formulas for the relief of both gallstones as well as urinary stones. One patented formula is
called Specific Drug Passwan or "specially effective discharge stone pill." It is not at all uncommon
that herbs that dissolve stones of the urinary tract are also effective for the gallbladder. As
such I have had many calls of appreciation from patients around the country who have used my
Planetary formula, Stone Free (it does not contain lysimachia). This herb is a diuretic in the category
of "clearing damp heat". As such, it is also useful for jaundice, hepatitis, abscess and
9. Various Microbes are also found in urine and are a way of determining other problems in the
body. Two that often cause problems are candida albicans and trichomonas vaginalis. These are in
the category of damp heat and require diuretic herbs from this category as well as other metabolic
adjustments in diet. Herbs that are used for these conditions include barberry root (Berberis
vulgaris.) or Oregon grape root (Mahonia aquifolium), Gentinae scabrae and Sophorae flavescentis to
name a few. Of course, these are most effective when prepared in a balanced formulation according to
the constitution and symptoms of the patient.


* Chinese Materia Medica by Bensky and Gamble, Publ. by Eastland Press
* Formulas and Strategies by Bensky and Barolet, publ. by Eastland press
* Medical Physiology by Guyton, publ. by Saunders
* Pharmacology and Applicaions of Chinese Materia Medica by Chang and But, vols. 1 and 2 publ.
by World Scientific
* Textbook of Anatomy and Physiology by Anthony and Thibodeau, publ. by Mosby
* Handbook of Chinese Herbs and Formulas, vol 1 and 2 by Yeung, self published.
* The Wild Rose Scientific Herbal by Terry Willard, publ. by Wild Rose
* College of Natural Healing.
* Herbal Medicine by Rudolf Weiss, publ. by Beaconsfield, England
* Food Is Your Best Medicine by Dr. Henry Bieler M.D., Random House.
* Food Is Your Best Medicine by Dr. Henry Bieler M.D., Random House.

For more information, please see the web site and online forums in herbal medicine, magnet
therapy, acupuncture and the EastWest School of Herbology website:
Michael Tierra
Box 712
Santa Cruz, Ca. 95060
1 800-717-5010
ubject: Integrating the Traditional Chinese Understanding of the Kidneys into Western Herbalism

Every diagnosis is a misdiagnosis!

Posts: 7,990
Reply with quote  #2 

Hi Leah, (((( Smiles ))))


Wow.. This is great stuff. I have to read it later.. I went to an acupuncture provider ..


She is a director/ Professor Of Acupuncture


Academy Of Chineses Culture and Health Sciences


Former SFSU Acupuncture Professor


And she was good.. So was her mother.. I really believed she helped my ears get stronger and my body too.


And she seemed to understand my dilemma as well.


It was nice to find someone who understood and listened to me and really tryed to help me..


And I believe.. With the stuff she made for me.. She did.. I'm glad I saw her..  She was well worth it.. 


There is something to acupuncture and Chineses Medicine...



Take Care


Posts: 789
Reply with quote  #3 
WOW!!, now if I had a full-time job I would be going around to these alternative professionals!

Every diagnosis is a misdiagnosis!
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