Jing: The Substance of Vitality

Jing – it’s what you’re made of.

CAUTION: Includes explicit topics related to reproductive health.

In Chinese physiology, there is a substance that each of us possesses called jing – it’s often translated into English as “essence” or “vitality”. Jing is said to be stored in the kidneys and is believed to decline with age. In fact, the definition of aging in Chinese medicine is the loss of jing. Brittle bones, thin skin, hair loss, and cognitive decline are all symptoms of jing deficiency. Your jing is your genetic integrity and it is inherited from your parents. In this sense, congenital birth defects are also considered a jing deficiency.  This substance is a very yin substance and is said to be related to the Water element through it’s association with the Kidney. This makes sense, as Water has a relationship to one’s ancestors and to the past. Adequate jing is necessary for healthy reproduction and for sexual function. It is also necessary for growth and development, particularly of the bones and bone marrow. Going through puberty is like receiving a shot of stored jing from our kidneys.

Overwork, overthinking, age, and chronic oxidative damage are all things that can detract from one’s jing. Kidney yin deficiency and Kidney yang deficiency, if both present and profound enough, can equate to jing deficiency. It is considered a precious substance and is given to you at birth in a finite amount, so it’s best not to waste it by “burning the candle at both ends”. Whenever you work beyond your means (i.e. spend all the qi you have to give in a day and continue working), you drain your jing. It is said that whenever you go to bed without using up all your qi for that day, some of that qi gets transformed into jing – like change in a piggy bank.

To get at the importance of having a healthy storage of jing, I often compare it to a similar concept from another traditional healing system – Ayurveda. In Ayurvedic medicine, there is a substance believed to be contained in the heart called ojas. Each individual is born with only eight drops of ojas – when those eight drops are used up, the person dies.

There are some gender differences when it comes to jing-metabolism.

It is said that 100 drops of Blood is worth 1 drop of jing. This is where it gets more interesting – it is also said that 30 drops of semen is worth 1 drop of jing.

There are a few different statements being made here. One is that, the more yin a substance, the closer it’s relationship with jing. Semen is more yin than blood. It is also making the important point that men are at a higher risk of developing jing deficiency through lifestyle than women are.

Granted, childbearing is a remarkably jing-intensive process. However if a woman is careful and has prepared her body before bearing a child (by nourishing her blood and jing), then her jing will not suffer and both her and the baby will be healthy. When a woman’s body is not prepared to give birth, the baby pulls on the mother’s essence and women often lose bone density or teeth as a result of bearing a child. The biggest challenge for women is the cyclical loss of blood, which can have quite a pernicious effect on a woman’s health if not regulated and kept in balance. However, for men, the frequent and unregulated loss of semen, from the Chinese medical perspective, can pose much greater health risks – theoretically shortening a man’s life.

It is believed that the only way to nourish jing in Chinese Medicine is through qigong. So do your qigong!

For more information on how jing works in men and what they can do to prevent the loss of essence, see this article. (CAUTION: Explicit topics.)

Be good to your body. Take care of the vitality you were given.

Three Treasures – Jing, Qi, & Shen

In Oriental Medicine (OM), the body is composed of three major parts – jing, qi, and shen. These are referred to as the Three Treasures (sanbao).

Jing is most often translated as essence or vitality. Jing is your genetic integrity and the ability of your cells to replicate. It is described as the blueprint your body uses to live and to grow, which you were given at birth from your parents – sounds a lot like DNA, right? I think the ancient Chinese were on to something.

Qi (sometimes written chi) is an increasingly common word in the English language. It is often translated into English as breath, but this does not encompass the entire concept implied by the word qi, as qi can also mean weather, mood, air, attitude, and other things. The translation agreed upon by most practitioners of OM is vital force or life force. As recently as the 20th century, the philosophy of vitalism, or the belief that there is an invisible energy that animates all life, was an accepted idea by medical professionals all over the world – an idea which has its roots in ancient natural philosophy. If you are looking for a similar concept, it is believed to be synonymous with the Vedic notion of prana. To learn more about qi, see this article.

Shen is translated as spirit. This entails both a person’s individual spirit and their access to the source spirit of the universe (call it what you will). We assess a person’s shen by the look in ones eyes. We believe that having a healthy shen is one of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy state of being and in a good prognosis in the case of illness. If one’s shen is strong, he or she has a much greater likelihood of faster healing and longer life. When the shen wanders, mental illness or depression can develop.

The strategies handed down in OM work to keep these Three Treasure optimized and in balance. We use herbs, acupuncture, moxibustion, magnets, and other therapies to supplement and harmonize these fundamental components of the human being.

To learn more about bodily substances and how they be brought back into balance, check out these articles:

Sun And Earth: On Grounding and Getting Tan

One thing that my clients often hear from me is that I want their “bare feet on the ground and bare body in the sun.” This article explains some simple reasons why.

I have come to find that many of us are Sun and Earth deficient. We simply don’t spend enough time in the Sun or on the ground.

Grounding

For the cost of taking your shoes off and standing outside, you have access to the most powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant “drug” on Earth – the Earth itself. Our planet is a repository for a practically infinite number of free electrons. The negative charge of the electron is why it feels so good to breathe the ocean air or the air during a thunderstorm. It is why we put salt lamps in our homes. It is why we enjoy long, hot showers. It plays a part in the healing power of stones like amethyst and tourmaline. The healing properties of these things come from negative ions (in this case, electrons) neutralizing the positive charge of the inflammation in our bodies. Oxidative damage from stress, toxicity, and aging is fundamentally the result of positive charge in our bodies without the negative charge to neutralize the free radicals that cause oxidative damage. The instant your feet touch the ground, the positive charge in your body is neutralized and your bodies electrical imbalance is brought into harmony with the charge of the Earth.

  • While your feet are on the ground, there is virtually no inflammation present in your body. [1]
  • Being grounded activates the parasympathetic nervous system, reduces cortisol, and synchronizes the left and right hemispheres of the brain. [2]
  • When you are grounded it thins the blood (by lowering the zeta potential) and allows the red blood cells to communicate more effectively and find resonance with one another rather than clumping together. This improves circulation tremendously. [1]
  • Your feet are designed to be maximally conductive to the Earth’s negative charge! (Especially given the very special acupuncture point on the bottom of the foot: Kidney 1 Yongquan – one of my favorite points)

The effects of grounding/Earthing on the body and the mind are numerous and profound. Taking time to get grounded is an integral part of my everyday life and it is essential to my longevity and wellbeing. Anyone who chooses to make it a part of their lifestyle will soon feel the same way.

Here’s a video of Dr. Mercola interviewing one of the leaders in Earthing research:


Getting Tan

Many of us avoid the Sun because we have been brought to believe it is bad for our health. Sunscreen use and shoes with plastic soles that insulate us from the Earth are ubiquitous. We have been taught that the Sun causes cancer and wrinkles the skin. This has been shown to be true, but there are confounding factors at play. I believe that the Sun only causes this kind of damage under three conditions: 1) when the body is toxic and overburdened by stress and oxidative damage. 2) when we aren’t used to the Sun and get it only in spurts rather than purposefully maintaining a tan. 3) when we aren’t grounded while in the Sun.

When you get in the Sun it recalibrates your body to its natural circadian rhythm! This normalizes your leptin response and regulates appetite (more strongly than any “appetite suppressant” out there). The light from the Sun is what tells your body what hormones to produce and when. Getting morning and afternoon Sun tells your body to make growth hormone and sex hormones. Midday Sun tells your body to work hard and focus on producing neurotrasmitters to get the job done.

Two of the most powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory chemicals in your body are made in the Sun: melatonin and Vitamin D. Melatonin has shown numerous anti-cancer and anti-aging benefits in studies. It is the “master of sleep” and amazingly it is produced in the eye and in the skin – during the day!

For more information on these topics, check out this article.

Vitamin D controls the expression of over 5% of the human genome and is implicated in cancer and many chronic conditions. Most don’t know that Vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin – it’s a hormone and is necessary for life! It is so powerful that it binds directly to DNA to control their expression. It’s not enough to take supplemental Vitamin D –  you must get it from the Sun if you really want enough! Your body even has special built in mechanisms to shut off Vitamin D production when you’ve had just the right amount.

How could the Sun be bad for you when we must have it to produce these important chemicals? I believe it is because the level of oxidative damage from other causes can outweigh our bodies ability to use the potential of the Sun. This is another reason why it’s important to increase your Sun exposure gradually but also to be grounded. You literally become a solar panel when you are in the Sun – you make electricity! The best way to safely balance this extra power (so you don’t fry your mitochondria) is to simply have your body touching the ground while you are in the Sun. I like to have my feet flat on the ground and “plug” my fingertips into the Earth.

A tan is a sign of good health. The more tan you are, the less likely you are to be damaged by the Sun and the more likely you are to utilize the Sun’s health-giving rays. When you have a tan (also known as a solar callous), you actually absorb more of the sunlight and use it for energy and for photochemical reactions (making Vitamin D, melatonin, etc.). A tan comes from the increased melanin your body puts out in order to make use of the sunlight. We now know that melanin is a superconductor and is being used in high-level electronics development. It is worth 400$ per gram. A gram of gold is only worth around 50$!

Being in the Sun also burns fat and benefits circulation. Your mitochondria thrive while operating off of sunlight. Being in the Sun is the equivalent of being in an infrared sauna (42% of the Sun’s rays are infrared), which promotes the detoxification of plastics along with many other benefits.

In my practice I encourage people to get back in touch with the Sun and the Earth. I am sure you will reap the benefits if you take this information to heart and proceed carefully. Go get your feet on the ground! Get some sunlight! Your body will thank you.