The Kidney is the Controller of the Waterways. In coordination with the Bladder Official, it makes up the water element. The kidneys serve as the gatekeeper controlling the distribution of the fluids, filtering impurities. The Kidneys are all about purity of fluids mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Neil Gumenick writes of the Kidneys, “In Western medical terms, a major function of the Kidneys is to filter the blood. Every day, a person's kidneys process about 200 liters of blood to sift out about two liters of waste and excess water. The wastes and extra water become urine, which flows to the Bladder, which stores it until it is released through urination. The Kidney controls the body's fluid balance, regulates electrolytes, maintains the acid-base balance, and regulates blood pressure by maintaining the salt and water balance.” Drug use specifically affects the Liver and the Kidneys as they are the filtering mechanisms of the body. Steroids particularly influence the Kidneys.
Fluids within and secretions of our body need fluidity. Fluids at the wrong temperatures can cause problems within the closed physiological system of the body. The Kidney helps us to maintain the purity, quality of fluids. This is directly linked to the quality and function of the reproductive organs which remind us of the potency and power associated with the Kidney Official. Premature aging is considered to be a problem connected to the kidneys. Most developmental processes, life cycles, stages of development are associated with the Kidneys such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Life cycle disruption can manifest as early menopause or very early onset of Parkinson's or Alzheimer’s. Sexual maturity and sex drive are also connected to the Kidney Official. In women, menstruation is linked to the cycles of the moon. The shape of the Kidneys is often referred to as moon-like. In nature, the moon controls the tides.
The kidneys are where our deep reserves of energy are stored. They are especially known as the storehouses for Jing (vital essence). This is also referred to as our ancestral energy, passed from generation to generation. Jing determines our longevity. This is where our second wind comes from. However, we must remember that the source of Jing is finite and using too much sorely depletes our reserves. In TCM, Jing is one of the three treasures, the other two are Shen - spirit and Qi - energy. Imagery of a candle is often used to describe the relationship of the Three Treasures. The Jing is likened to the wax and the wick, the Shen to the radiant light and the Qi to the metabolic process. We cannot replenish the wax or wick once we run out. Congenital processes are connected to both the Jing and the Kidney Official. Aging occurs as Jing is depleted. The mother’s Jing is used in pregnancy to help the development of the fetus and some is lost during the birth process. Excessing ejaculation weakens Jing. Someone with severely depleted Jing may be listless, empty, resigning, despairing; their vital essence is depleted and the will to survive is diminished.
There is an important relationship between the Lungs and the Kidneys. Heavenly Qi is brought into the body through respiration. Respiration is primarily controlled by the Lungs, however the kidneys grasp the qi that is inhaled through the lungs to help regulate respiration. Inhaled Qi must flow down and be grasped by kidneys for smooth respiratory movements to occur. Since normal respiration depends on mutual regulation by the kidneys and lungs. In order for the Kidneys to be able to grasp the Qi, they must have an abundance of stored essence and their grasping function must be intact. When a kidney deficiency develops and there is a failure to grasp the Qi, the Qi does not flow down to the kidney and leads to symptoms such as difficulty inhaling with longer exhalation times, shortness of breath, wheezing, spontaneous perspiration, and fatigue.
The Kidneys are all about generation of power. They are the power generators of will, direction and discrimination to use that power well. Physical strength is also associated with the Kidneys in balance. The meridian flows around the ankle bone which can be metaphorically representative of a locomotive or a waterwheel. The Kidney meridian is the longest of the Yin meridians, just as the Bladder is the longest of the Yang meridians, signifying the importance of bringing water throughout the body, to all the officials and organs/functions. The Kidney meridian is the most yin of all the meridians, the darkest, most feminine, most internal. The Kidney meridian is the closest to the genitals, which is significant. The deep pathway of the Kidney meridian touches both the Kidneys and the Bladder, touches CV3, 4, the little toe, CV17, the diaphragm and ming men. The kidney meridian hosts the Kidney Spirit Points, KI22-27, which can be used in treatment with any CF. They are used to nourish, refresh and resurrect the spirit, which is stored in the heart. There is an alchemical connection between fire and water, which is evidenced here as well as in KI1 and KI2, Bubbling Spring and Blazing Valley. Furthermore, all of the yin meridian water element points are command points at the elbows and knees. The kidney is also associated with several of the Extraordinary Vessels which are like “seas and oceans… and have enormous powers over and effects on the body, mind and spirit as a whole,” says Worsley. Furthermore, “Touching the [Kidney] meridian and this Official here is to contact the deepest reserves in the person, an this should make us both grateful and wary once we know the power of the spirit we are contacting.”
The Kidneys offer a sense of cleverness. The we think about the element of water, it always finds its way to the lowest point and moves itself around obstacles. This cleverness helps humans find their resourcefulness to accomplish things. The kidneys give us ingenuity in will power, will to live and will to accomplish. However, an imbalance can lead to over cleverness which can present as the mindset of completing something no matter what the risk.
Courage is a correspondence of the Kidneys, the knowing and strength to persevere through winter toward spring. The courage to be within oneself in the darkness of winter in environment and emotion. Will power and motivation are also associated with the Kidney. The Back Shu point of the Kidney is BL47, Ambition Room. The kidney reminds us of the reflective qualities of water, thinking inward and looking inward. KI6, Illuminated Sea guides us to that spirit.
When Kidney failure sets in, people die quickly. When the Kidney is out of balance, there can be an incapacitating fear when basic body functions shut down and we lose control of the limbs. The energy of fear is downward, which causes loss of control of bowel and bladder. Lack of fluidity makes the body, mind and spirit brittle. Manifestation of rigidity/stiffness in the mind, body and spirit is also possible. The need for reassurance can be a quality associated with the Kidney.
There is a connection with hearing and the Kidneys, due to the fluid balance within the semicircular canals of the ear and the otoliths within. When the kidneys are strong, the ears are open and sounds are heard with great clarity. Head hair is correlated to the Kidneys. Bones are linked to the water element. Bone problems such as fractures, osteoporosis, loose teeth are associated with the Kidneys. There is a connection between the spinal cord and the brain, housed within the spinal column and skull and a link between bone marrow and the brain with the Kidneys. The brain is referred to as the Sea of Marrow. There is a specific connection to long term memory.
Further imbalances in the Kidney Official can be seen as inability to hold urine, frequent urination or unitary retention, just as with the Bladder. The impurities which gather can cause infections in the Bladder and the Kidneys or diseases of the pathways such as thrush and cystitis. Stones can collect when excess salts crystalize. Edema and water retention are common problems, just as dryness of the skin and body tissues. Deficiency of water can lead to bound stools. Deficiency of the Kidney can cause anal fistulas and hemorrhoids.
Differentiating the roles of the Kidney and Bladder can be though of through the lenses of each official. The Kidney Lens shows the Filter of the Waterways. The Bladder Lens shows the Containment and Intelligence of Storage. Worsley emphasizes that, “While the Bladder disposes of the impurities and acts as a reservoir, it is the Kidney which is responsible for the cleaning action which separates out the impurities and which dispatches the water to every corner of the person.” However, their connection is undeniable, urinary problems, swellings and impure flow may occur with either, it is important to distinguish which of the two officials is more distressed. The Kidney CF may be unable to filer, where the Bladder CF is un-contained or cannot contain. Water is elusive, in that we can’t hold onto it. There is a quality of the water element that teaches us the quiet receptivity which really lets us listen.
The correspondences of the Water Element and hence the Bladder and Kidney official are:
Classical Five Element Acupuncture, Volume 3 by JR Worsley
Personal Class Notes ITEA 2019
The Kidney Official by Neil Gumenick
The Alchemy of the Extraordinary by Peter Shea