Sex and the Kidney

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, sexual health is largely managed by the Kidney organ system.

Keep in mind, of course, that as with all organ systems of TCM, when we speak of the “Kidney” we are not talking about the actual, Western kidneys.  TCM must be understood as its own paradigm, and students must try to refrain from drawing too many parallels with Western medicine, as it only serves to confuse and frustrate, rather than educate and enlighten.

That being said, In TCM the Kidneys are in charge of essence, an important yin energy.  We are born with a set amount of essence, which, unlike Qi, can never be replenished.   When we age, our essence is slowly depleted, causing our hair to turn grey and fall out, our face to show signs of aging and our teeth to loosen and fall.  If that didn’t sound like fun already, there is also an increase in sexual dysfunction as energy levels and libido lower.  Therefore, sexual dysfunction, which is everything from low libido to impotence, usually indicates a problem with Kidney energy.

Unfortunately, while Kidney essence garners sexual and reproductive health, it is also depleted by engaging in sexual intercourse.  According to the book Behind the Jade Screen by Dr. Hong Zen Zhu, we can never replenish essence but there are ways in which we can conserve it, especially when it comes to sexually practices:

An exercise call Qi Gong can be used before sex to help regulate Qi.  This exercise works by guiding Kidney Qi (or Kidney energy) to the sex organs to make them strong and therefore, preventing impotence from excessive loss of essence.   This Qi Gong exercise involves mental concentration.  It should be learned under the training of a professional Qi Gong instructor.  Keep in mind that Qi Gong’s benefits extend greatly beyond sexual health and is an excellent way of preserving essence and encouraging the flow of Qi.

To prevent a loss of fluid and bodily dryness, and to prepare for intercourse, both males and females can guide their fluids by sending yin energy down to the organs.  This can be done by swallowing saliva and contracting the anus.  This benefit has to do with sending moisture in the right direction, which prevents the loss of moisture and important yin energy.

It is important for partners to stay mindfully in tune with their own bodies and gauge when each of their spiritual and physical energies is ready for sexual intercourse.  Practicing proper timing not only keeps one aware of their body, it also helps to value the act of sexual intercourse and it’s potential to tax the body through essence depletion.  It also helps and strengthens the sexual relationship with his or her partner. (In other words, according to the Chinese, if you’re not feelin’ it, don’t just do it because there’s nothing good on TV!)

According to TCM it is important not to rush sex (sorry to all you “quickie” fans out there!).  In order to store or save Qi, people should try to release energy slowly by moving slowly and guiding Qi down to the lower part of the body during sex.  It’s also important to practice peaceful movement during the act.  Overly aggressive sexual activity (as well as excess anger) can result in energy stagnation.

There is another Qi Gong technique for men who are experiencing a loss of Qi and have a partner with adequate Qi.  The exercise is called “Taking out the Qi“.  In this exercise the man withdraws before ejaculation in order to try to “steal” some Qi from his partner.  Again, it is important to consult a Qi Gong instructor before attempting these techniques.

After sex it is important to recover.  Both partners need peaceful relaxation to give the physical Qi and life essence a chance to recuperate.  Resting and relaxing after intercourse also gives the spiritual energy a chance to gather its forces.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are various ideas about how often an individual can “safely” engage in sex without damaging his or her essence and thereby contributing to premature aging and sexual dysfunction.  Dr. Sun Si Miao, a physician and Taoist of the Tang Dynasty who lived from 580 to 682 (101 years), gives the following guidelines for a healthy amount of sexual activity.  It is important to contrast these guidelines with what we are taught to expect is “normal” from our own North American culture.  I think you will find that a healthy balance lies in the middle of your own experience and the TCM recommendations given over 2500 years ago.

Teens:  Contrary to what the media pressures us to believe in today’s society, in Ancient China it was thought that teenagers didn’t have enough strong, mature energy to engage in sexual activity yet.

20’s: It is healthy to have sexual intercourse once every 4 days.  Engaging in sex more frequently at this age runs the risk of prematurely depleting Kidney essence.

30’s: Once every 8 days

40’s: Once every 16 days

50’s: Once every 20 days

60’s: Once a month, if the individual is fairly healthy.  If the individual had a history of health disorders or generalized weakness, then only occasional sexual activities was recommended.

70’s: Whether healthy or not, sex would use up too much energy therefore sex is not recommended at all.

For those who (and I imagine there are many of you!) feel that these guidelines are extremely conservative, don’t fear!  One can improve sexual function by following some of the above tips and receiving regular acupuncture treatments, which treat the Kidney meridian.  There are also some simple, at-home exercises that can be done to maintain Kidney essence, good sexual energy and general health.  Here is one:

The Gushing spring K-1 massage:

This is a massage of the first point on the Kidney acupuncture channel, which can be found on the sole of the foot, one third of the way from the toes to the heel.

In order to perform this massage, sit on a cushion and use left hand to hold the toes of the left foot.  Then use the heel of the right hand to massage the point briskly, in a circular motion 100 times.  You should feel a pleasant warmth at this point.

The purpose of this exercise is to push the Kidney energy along this meridian to help improve the connection between the Heart and the Kidney.  It helps in the treatment of Kidney problems such as low sexual energy, frequent urination and impotence, and Heart problems like spiritual disorders, insomnia and anxiety.  It is beneficial to soak your feet in warm water for 5-7 minutes before the exercise, then perform the massage and go directly to bed.

Hey, it’s cheaper and less painful than a Botox injection!

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5 thoughts on “Sex and the Kidney

  1. As a student in the same program and year as yourself, I’m concerned about this blog post. According to what we have been taught, referenced from Machiocia’s “Diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine”, much of this post is incorrect.
    Sex is not contraindicated in people in their 70’s. In fact, sexual activity improves the flow of Qi, is good physical exercise, and can be good for both emotional and psychological health in an aging population. Secondly, women’s Kidney Essence is not depleted by sexual intercourse, but is depleted by number of pregnancies. Thirdly, the number of times for a male to have sex (especially in his 20’s!) is two times per day… not once every four days. Excessive sexual activity in men leading to the depletion of Kidney Essence is a result of hypersexuality over a long period of time. Sexual function is natural and shouldn’t be repressed – it should be celebrated!
    Regardless of your TCM understanding, I did enjoy your take on how to prepare for Qi-stimulating sex, and your recommendations for relaxation after the fun.

  2. Hi, Anonymous, thanks for posting!
    You’re right about the fact that the guidelines for preserving essence in TCM are indeed different in Macioccia. The recommendations I include in this post are referenced from the book “Behind the Jade Screen” by Dr. Hong Zen Zhu, which offers a different perspective on preserving essence and how it relates to sexual health and frequency of sexual activity.

    Which one is right? We are taught to use Macioccia in our school, therefore it seems to be the leading authority on our knowledge of TCM as naturopaths, but as you and I both know, our professor Dr. Kassam sometimes takes issue with the content. The truth is there are many different takes on TCM theory and how it pertains to health and lifestyle in our modern age, depending on the experience of the practitioner, translations, the dynasty it was taken from the theory it is based on. The point of the post is to provide another perspective on how essence can be depleted by sexual activity and to include suggestions on how to limit the depletion of essence.

    Thanks for your input and yes, you’re right, sexual function is natural and should be celebrated, for people of all ages! I apologize if the post seemed to suggest otherwise. As mentioned in the post the guidelines are conservative and obviously one doesn’t suffer detrimental effects simply because they engaged in sexual intercourse more frequently than the levels indicated! As you pointed out, in Macioccia, the guidelines indicate that frequency of twice that of “Behind the Jade Screen” are ideal and, of course, the real answer will depend on the individual, the level of vitality, lifestyle practices and how much essence they had to begin with, among other things.

    Again, thanks for the comment.

  3. Ya ur information was helpful and have a question, U were mentioning about having salaiva during intercourse , hmm can you throw light on it.

    Thanks

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