Chinese Medicine, Herbalism
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Yin Tonics – Nourish the Fluids

Here is the long time in coming follow-up to a post I did a while back about Kidney Yang tonics. I realized in I need to resolve the ‘wintery’ topics and start thinking about ‘spring’ topics. From browsing some of my favorite herb blogs, I have fully realized how behind Northern Minnesota is, seasonally speaking. We are late bloomers! The grass just started to turn green last week, along with tiny dandelion whorls and a few budding trees. Luckily, I was able to harvest some Cottonwood buds last week after a storm broke a good sized branch to the ground. Umm, those resinous buds pack a powerfully good scent!

Ok, back to Yin… Yin, like Yang, is stored in the Kidneys. Yin is the watery foundation for the entire body; it moistens, nourishes and lubricates all the organs and tissues in the body. Yin and Yang may originate from the Kidneys, but of course are found all over the body and organ systems. We can talk about Yin in a general sense, or we can specify Stomach Yin or Deficient Liver Yin for example.

Yin concerns the fluids of the body: blood, lymph, muscles and connective tissues, reproductive and urinary fluids, and the fluids that lubricate the mucus membranes, skin and joints. It is normal for some Yin to diminish as we age. Basically, aging is when the Yin dries up; it is responsible for greying of the hair, lower libido, and dry, wrinkled skin. Vegetable foods and passive exercises like yoga preserve the Yin essence because they build rather than diminish our energy reserves. Herbs that nourish Yin build compassion, tolerance, patience. In my mind I have two ways of remembering Yin: I think of cigarettes as being the antithesis of Yin, and of amniotic fluid as being incredibly Yin.

When Yin is deficient, not only is the cooling, moistening qualities of Yin lacking, but Yang may overcompensate and become excessive with its warming and circulating energy. Remember that Yang is like the “pilot light for our energy system”, so if this energy is unchecked by Yin, what should be a little “pilot light” may turn into an inflammatory condition, and out energy system my go into autoimmune overdrive.

What do you think the symptoms of Stomach Yin deficiency would be? You guessed it: lack of stomach fluids. There may be other symptoms that overlap with Spleen Yin deficiency, like bloating and hunger with no desire to eat. Lung Yin deficiency manifests as a dry throat and cough without mucus, a great example of a lack of nourishing fluids.

Michael Tierra says that Kidney Yin tonics nourish the parasympathetic nervous system. Yin tonics support the cooling aspect of the adrenals. Kidney Yin Deficiency tends towards the following symptoms: Dry mouth at night, night sweats, dry throat with thirst, dizziness, tinnitus lack of libido and impotence, heat in palms, soles and chest, aches in the bones, constipation, dark, scanty urination, tendency towards being thin, dry and shriveled, malar flush, red tongue with no coat and a weak, tight and deep (thready) pulse.

Rehmannia is great for night sweats, thirst, back pains of kidney deficiency and to promote the healing of bones and flesh. We mention “wasting” or “wasting diseases”, tuberculosis is a good example, but any disease that effects you for a long time and steals your energy could be considered wasting, like scarlet fever or pneumonia. Rehmannia is enriches the blood, which makes it very replenishing and regulating to the menses. Add a bit of cinnamon or cardamon to make it more suitable for cold types, or use the prepared (rather than fresh or dried) version.

Lycii is sweet and nourishing. It is both a yin and blood tonic, which makes it handy in reproductive dryness. It is well known for strengthening and maintaining vision. Again used for yin deficiency (good for low back pain, weak knees and legs, impotence, tinnitus, poor eye sight) and wasting diseases, since it replenishes Chi. This delicious sweet and almost salty dried fruit is one of my favorite snacks.

Chrysanthemum, ligustrum, saw palmetto are other great nourishing herbs.

Filed under: Chinese Medicine, Herbalism


Tea-drinking, nature-loving acupuncturist, East Asian Medicine practitioner, herbalism and birth doula living in the Pacific Northwest.


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