Traditional Chinese Medicine and Kidney Health

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a quite different perspective on the form, function, and health of the body, mind and spirit. Thousands of years old, TCM holds that a vital force of life, called Qi, surges through the body. Any imbalance to Qi can cause disease and illness. Imbalances are caused by an alteration in the opposite and complementary forces (called yin and yang) that constitute Qi. The ancient TCM practitioners also believed that human wellbeing is a reflection of the surrounding universe; we all are interconnected with nature and its forces, to which we are subject. To restore health, the forces/elements of Earth, Fire, Water, Wood and Metal must be brought into balance with the internal body organs and systems. TCM uses herbal remedies, acupuncture, movement such as Tai Chi, and many other modalities not common to Western medicine. TCM offers a unique way to look at the organ system, disease, and approaches to restoring vitality.

In TCM, the Kidney is the powerhouse of the body, supplying reserve energy to any organ running low on Qi. Its partner organ is the Bladder. The Kidney stores reserve energy called “prenatal Qi”, which is inherited from one’s parents. When another organ is low on energy, the Kidney sends it an extra Qi boost from this inheritance. Some of the health concerns that may arise from low Kidney energy include:

Ear problems, such as deafness, tinnitus, or ear infections are a signal from your body that the Kidney’s energy needs extra support.
Salty is the taste associated with kidney health. If you are craving salt, your kidney is signaling what it needs, so have a lightly-salted snack.
Fear, anxiety, phobia, panic attacks are ways that your body may be trying to tell you that Kidney energy is imbalanced.
Fertility and reproduction are also associated with the Kidney meridians.

TCM looks to restore balance through the energy channels in the body, called meridians. These can be optimized by stimulating the individual acupuncture points on the meridians using a variety of methods: needles, fingers, low-level lasers, tuning forks, etc. Specific types of exercise, dietary changes, and herbal remedies are also common interventions. Foods that can build strong kidney energy include seafood, bone broth, and beans. Since the Bladder meridian runs through the feet and this energy channel supports the Kidney meridian, moving the feet intentionally as in Tai Qi can invigorate this energy channel. Likewise, the ears are associated with the meridian channels for the Bladder and Kidney. Auriculotherapy (acupuncture points on the ears) can be stimulated to support the Bladder and Kidney meridians.

To better understand if TCM could be a viable treatment approach for the health of your kidneys or your general overall health, ask your doctor. This may be something they offer or they can refer you to a trained TCM physician.


Zhong, Y., et al., “Recent Advances in Traditional Chinese Medicine for Kidney Disease.” American Jl Kidney Disease (2015, May 23) 66:3, 513-522. DOI:

Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation “Bladder/Kidney Health.” Accessed 11 Sep 2020: “Traditional Chinese Medicine.” Accessed 11 Sep 2020:

American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Accessed 11 Sep 2020:

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