Believe it or not, according to the Chinese solar calendar, we’ve just passed into winter, and with that, we’ve also entered into the time of the year where the water element is the strongest. In Five Element theory, every element has with it an associated emotion, taste, special type of energy, and organ. The water element has a close relationship with the Kidneys, which in Chinese medicine are the seat of long life and fertility, so let’s dive in (pun intended) and get to know this precious organ and its meridian.

The Kidney Channel

The Kidney Channel begins on the sole of the foot at a point poetically named Gushing Spring, or ‘Yong Quan’ in Chinese. From there, it travels up the inside of the calf and thigh, up through the genitals and uterus, through several other organs before finally ending on the bottom of the tongue, although its points terminate just below the collarbone.

Effectively, the kidneys are considered to be to source of all life in Chinese medicine. The Qi of every other organ system in the body depends on flourishing Kidney energy to function properly. Indeed, the Kidneys are considered the source of original Yin and Yang of the body,

In the classical Chinese medicine texts, the Kidneys are also said to dominate reproduction, producing the vital substances needed to conceive and carry a healthy pregnancy, no matter how someone might be pursuing it. While we see and treat many different factors and conditions that can impact fertility, the Kidneys are involved in every aspect.  We always work to build up Kidney energy in fertility. Kidney energy is also required to properly hold and store things, so in those heartbreaking cases of pregnancy loss, we are also building up Kidney Qi.

Healthy Kidney Qi is also associated with long life, intelligence, and good hearing. It is also said that the Kidneys “open” into the ears, and in Chinese culture, having large ears is associated with having good Kidney Qi (yes, I look at this on everyone, both in the clinic and out).

How can I help my Kidney energy?

As a general rule in Chinese medicine and Five Element Theory, paying special attention to the season’s dominant element and organ system helps to ensure good health in the season to come. Here are a few ways to nurture your kidney energy all winter long:

  • Get plenty of sleep- Go to bed early and let yourself rise later in the winter months. Your body naturally wants to do this.
  • Eat and drink warm- I know, I know. We’re always banging on about this, but introducing warmth from without helps to stoke the fires within.
  • Add nuts and seeds into your diet- Just as Kidney Qi is the seed for all other Qi in the body, nuts and seeds are considered beneficial to Kidney energy in Chinese medicine, as well as a source of healthy fats that are good for your brain.
  • Give yourself rest and downtime- Kidney energy rebuilds with quiet and low energy activity. Mixing this into your routine will help your physical and mental health.
  • Keep your lower back and feet warm- The lower back houses the Kidneys, this time of year more than ever, make sure this part of your body is warm. As the Kidney Meridian passes through our reproductive organs, keeping the feet covered where this channel originates ensures that it stays warm and no cold enters into the body.


While I used to hate winter, I’ve grown to love it. To me it represents a time to truly slow down, get quiet and nourish all of our vital substances that can be so depleted in our hectic lives. If you’d like us to be part of your care during this water season, we’d love to help fill you up again.