Scientific concept of Kidney function in Chinese medicine

The divergence between traditional Chinese medical scholars and doctors of Western medicine in their views of the organs of the human body arises from the difference in their research methods.

Traditional Chinese medicine holds that the internal organs of the human body have each its specific functions, but each does not work entirely on its own and is by no means independent of other organs. The mutual coordination between the internal organs and the brain, the bone marrow, etc. ---their integration and unity ---is the basis of maintaining the normal life activities of the human body. The influence of external environments and spiritual factors on the human body is also reflected chiefly by changing the state of coordination between these organs. The incidence, development, and recidivism of diseases are intimately related with the functional states of these organs.


Western medicine considers the lung to be a respiratory organ, the kidney an organ of the urinary system, the liver an organ for production and secretion of the bile, and the spleen an organ concerned with immunity. However, traditional Chinese medicine deems the lung not just an organ used for respiration but closely connected with the water metabolism of the whole body. It conceives of the kidney not simply as a urinary system but as an organ needed for reproduction, for the growth and development of the human body, and even for the breathing of air. These variances are due chiefly to differences in the research methods employed and the resulting divergences in theories formulated through generalization.

The kidney is the Prenatal Root Source of the Human Body,The word kidney in traditional Chinese medicine differs greatly in concept from that of the kidney as a visceral structure in modern medicine. The meaning of the word kidney in traditional Chinese medicine transcends by far in scope that of the kidney as a visceral structure in modern medicine. In traditional Chinese medicine the kidney is given the title of "prenatal root source of the human body". The so-called root source denotes the foundation of life. In the classic of Internal Medicine the kidney is defined as "the organ enabling work to be done, from which skill is derived". The implied meaning of "enabling work to be done" is the level of strength for tackling jobs. In other words, it is the physical strength of a human being. The implied meaning of what is termed "skill" is the degree of ingenuity of a person. It is no other than the person's intelligence. What all the above boils down to is that a person's physical strength and intelligence are rooted in the kidneys of the person's body. To be more concrete, the kidney has a multitude of functions; it is related with life directly and indirectly in many respects.
According to scholars of traditional Chinese medicine,the kidneys are responsible for storing the essence of life and transforming corpuscular material. The five internal organs (heart, liver, spleen, lungs, and also the kidneys) all depend on the kidneys for congenial warmth. Adequacy of the essence of life in the kidneys and the glow of vitality of the kidneys are the basic guarantee of a person's long life, perennial youthful looks and unfading appearance. If the warming power of the kidneys is not adequate for providing congenial warmth to the whole figure, then the body feels chilly, the limbs feel cold and the complexion is pallid. If there is not enough essence of life in the kidneys to nourish the whole body, then hair, both fine and gross, falls off, teeth shake, and the complexion withers early. If there is a deficiency of essential body fluids in the kidneys, an internal heat induced by that deficiency flares up inside the body and the cheeks are seen to become abnormally red because of the hectic fever. If the deficiency-induced heat dies down, then a water-induced cold becomes rampant inside and the complexion is seen to be darkish. An ample supply of the essence of life in the kidneys is the cause of hair being lustrous, while a deficiency of vital energy in the kidneys entails albescence of hair, both fine and gross, and its shedding.

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