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Yin Depletion – Oriental Concept Unknown To The West

Yin Depletion – Yin Depletion is a concept that is almost unheard of in the West yet, it is a very common energy imbalance.

In Western culture the concepts of positive and negative polarity lays hidden in our religion, sciences and technologies making them far less obvious than in the East. Although culturally their expression is entirely different, the simple utilitarian plus and minus of the West and the more mystical Yin and Yang of the East are identical in principle and equally as far reaching.

Although the world is shrinking and cultures are commingling, the very idea that plus and minus, in addition to being simple polarities could also be living energies and life principles is a little hard to grasp, let alone embody, for most Westerners. In the West we have actively advanced the applications of polarity from simple adding (+) and subtracting (-) into higher mathematics, science, chemistry and engineering. In the West, simple polarity has been transformed into various methodical and very powerful intellectual tools for the purpose of more accurately and objectively exploring and measuring the outer, material world and then using what has been learned to make sense of and control that world.

In the East, the exact same principles of polarity are used to penetrate into and measure existence in a more mystical way that ties the outer manifestation of life to it’s intrinsic and less obvious inner nature. The East has given names to the simple polarities to express their fundamental properties and how each relates to life. They express our minus and plus as Yin and Yang.

In the East these energies are the basis for natural philosophy, defining the character, purpose and properties of created things. The West having been plagued with cycles of ignorance and superstition needed a tool to pull itself and the world back into a rational mindset and found it in polarity. Both East and West recognize the fundamental importance of polarity yet, they see it and work with it entirely differently. Both perspectives are equally valid. Their merits manifest qualitatively and quantitatively in the East and West reflecting cultural biases.

da bu yin wan, abundant yin, mayway

How the East applies these polarity principles in matters of bodily functions is extremely beneficial in discussing specific health patterns. Using these simple principles it is possible and completely logical to see how imbalances created through intense mental and emotional life situations and habits can deplete or intensify not only the energy of life (Qi) but, also one or the other polar energies in the body resulting in very specific health benefits or symptoms of disturbance.

Yin Depletion or Empty Heat

In a nutshell; whereas the Yin energies are cooling and moisturizing, the Yang energies are warming and drying. These energies are inseparable. They exist simultaneously, beside and within each other. Equilibrium exists between them when both the Yin and Yang energies are more or less in balance. It is possible for one to rise in intensity above the normal level of the other and, it is also possible for one to weaken in relation to the other without the other being above it’s normal level of intensity as seen below.

da bu yin wan, abundant yin, mayway

As the Yin Qi/energy is cooling and moistening in nature, when Yin is weakened relative to the ever present and opposing Yang energy, symptoms from a lacking of both moisture and cooling capacity naturally manifest. Yet, in this case the heat energy is normal; it is the cooling and moisturizing energy of the Yin that would counter it that has been weakened or is depleted. The heat being felt is not due to there being an over abundance of heat or Yang energy. It is due to a lack of cooling capacity which is why it is sometimes also called “empty heat.” In this case, equilibrium is re-established not by lowering or dispersing the heat of the Yang. Instead, this depletion is removed by raising the Yin energy by nourishing it.

Manifestations of this “emptiness” of Yin have to do with a predominance of heat, due to a lacking of moisture and it’s cooling properties, resulting in a sensation of heat and dryness. Again, what is interesting here is that these symptoms are not the result of an over abundance of Yang but from a depletion of Yin. And, although the manifestation of heat is real it is not as intense as it would otherwise be if the heat itself were to be in excess.

The organs that are most likely to suffer due to the lack of cooling effect from Yin energy when it is depleted are the kidneys, liver, heart, lungs and stomach. It also makes sense that although the general effects of dryness and heat are systemic, the effects of Yin depletion will also manifest according to the domain and characteristics of the particular organs it affects.

The person suffering from Yin depletion will typically have a dry throat and tongue, a feeling of being too hot and being warm to the touch but without necessarily having a measurable fever. It is common to have a desire to sip cold liquids; some will go as far as to chew ice. Some will even seek comfort by walking into refrigerated areas.

Based on the principles of Yin and Yang, our anatomy can be catalogued not only by it’s separate parts but, it’s parts can also be further categorized as belonging to either the Yin or Yang principle. Externally, there are areas of the body that are designated as either Yin or Yang and when the prevalence of one polarity over another is present, that polarity will also manifest in those areas. In this case, the “replete” heat of Yin depletion will manifest in the Yin surfaces of the body. As a result of Yin depletion, a person will feel that heat on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet and the chest area. Along with that, when a depleted Yin pattern is present, excessive perspiration, night sweats, emaciation with a sunken chest are also common. In the presence of this heat the pulse will understandably also be rapid and the dryness associated with it will produce constipation, dry stools, retention of urine or dark urine.

The person experiencing Yin depletion is definitely aware that something is wrong with them but because they don’t feel “sick” in the normal sense, they cannot describe exactly what their problem is. Furthermore, because hot and cold as forms of life energies are not considered, should they be examined from the Western point of view, they will appear to have nothing wrong with them. Eventually symptoms that are recognizable as an ailment to the Western view will manifest but, as no one can address what they believe does not exist, there will be nothing in the West to precisely address this issue.

Herbalism is a lot more subtle than that. Recognizing that there is a specific energy depletion and understanding that all organs function on fundamental energies that they then transform to suit their own nature, distinct symptoms will manifest to indicate which organs are being affected. Each organ adds their own particular signature symptom to the already existing Yin-Depletive pattern.

da bu yin wan, abundant yin, may way

Since Yin energies are cooling and moisture related, it makes sense that the Kidneys, as the organs that primarily deal with water and are at the center of the management of those moist energies that they will be greatly affected by a deficiency in what they primarily work with. It is the Kidneys with the aid of the Lungs that manage all moisture in the entire body.

The next organ in line to work with moisture is the Liver. The Liver is the largest organ. The Liver must have moisture to dilute toxins otherwise they would do far more harm than they do. Among many other moisture related functions, by filtering the blood and by using moisture the Liver also keeps the blood’s viscosity consistent. If it cannot find the moisture it needs from what it is being fed, it will draw it from anywhere it can in the body which can create dryness in places where the body deems moisture to be less essential.

Should the Liver not have enough moisture, not only from a hydration standpoint but also from a Yin-energy standpoint it will work itself into Yin deficiency as will all other organs should the systemic Yin deficiency condition persist. From there the Heart, the main distributor of moisture and moisture energy through the blood will suffer deficiencies as will the Lungs and the areas above the diaphragm.

Being the primary digestive organ, the Stomach is the source of moisture for the body and it needs moisture to assist in its own primary digestive functions. But, should the body be in Yin deficiency the other organs will draw moisture from the stomach faster than it can produce it, the stomach is left dry resulting in excess heat and pain in that area. The state of the dryness of the stomach will also be reflected in the general area of the mouth.

What may seem an undefinable mystery to us in the West was identified long ago in the East using nothing more than the basic principles of polarity. As early as 1279-1368 during the Chinese Yuan Dynasty, Dr. Danxi Zhu who headed his own medical school recognized these depletive patterns. In his book entitled: Dan Xi Xin Fa III (The Teachings of Dr. Danxi Zhu’s Treatment Methodology, vol.3) he indicated that he believed that “Yin was almost always deplete and that yang was almost always replete.” Which is exactly what this article is about. From that statement of principle he developed an herbal formula for general Yin depletion with relative Yang repletion. Obviously the remedy worked very well; if it didn’t it would not still be in production to this day.

That formula is called; Da Bu Yin Wan (Major Yin Supplementation Pills). It’s function is to nourish the Kidney and Liver Yin. Please understand that Yin Depletion is not a recognized Western Medical condition. It is, however a conceptually sound and principle based description of a syndrome that affects millions or people around the world.


* 1989 Clinical Handbook or Chinese Prepared Medicines by Chun-Han Zhu. Paradigm Publications,Cambridge Massachusetts, USA.
* 1995 The Foundations of Chinese Medicine; A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists by, Giovanni Maciocia. Churchhill Livingstone, Longman Singapore Publishers, Singapore.


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2 thoughts on “Yin Depletion – Oriental Concept Unknown To The West

  1. Ruey Shan you

    The conceptual approach of YIN energy and YANG energy is wrong for above article.
    Yin and Yang in equilibrium , It does not means having the same strength( 1 ; 1 ).
    Yin and Yang will co-operative in equilibrium like: wood (3Yang combine with 8 Yin) .
    Water (1Yang combine with 6 Yin). Fire (2yin combine with 7 Yang),………

    1. Amadeus Post author

      Hi Ruey,

      My take on Yin and Yang is from the Western Point of view. I do very much agree with your perspective of Yin and Yang being an dynamic equilibrium rather than a static balance. In the West some express the exact same concept as the interplay of the Electric Fluid and Magnetic Fluid. This concept is the basis for the Western sciences which the world has more or less universally adopted. These concepts are identical even if the perspective is slightly different. These, in the West, are also the fundamental expressions of the Pure Fire Element and Pure Water Element. To us and also the literature from the East also indicate that the Five Element system of the East is more a very useful and accurate expression of natural processes than the actual Elements themselves. To get into a very detailed description of the concepts would likely take more than one volume as it is the basis for all that exists and is. Towards that end, an abbreviated explanation was felt to be sufficient for the majority that would read it here to give a conceptual understanding of it. For you, who are clearly well versed in the subject, the explanation here could indeed be elaborated upon to express the finer details these concepts contain both theoretically as well as practically.


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