The Five Vital Concepts in Traditional Chinese Medicine: Jing

Posted by Kim
July 27, 2021

Jing is the Chinese expression for the essential fluid of our physical body. It is the most refined “essence of Qi”: the material basis for the body, the fluid essence that contains the life force.

Jing is a powerful substance that forms the essence of who and what we are. It is the primal energy of our life. Jing energy is the deep foundational energy reserves of the body and it is this energy that determines one’s ultimate vitality and the quantity and quality of one’s lifespan. 

Jing energy is precious and has long been recognised as a “treasure” that needs to be nourished, protected and preserved.

“In heaven, Jing is the milky way. It is the light of the sun, moon, and the stars. It is the rain and dew, sleet and hail, snow and frost. On earth, it is water, streams, rivers, oceans, springs, wells, ponds, and marshes. In people, it is Jing, the root of essence and life. The body of blood and flesh”. Ancestor Lu (“Immortal” Taoist).

What is Jing Energy?

In Taoist tradition, there is said to be “Three Treasures” that effectively constitute the health of one’s life.

These treasures are known as Jing, Chi, and Shen. They are generally translated in English as – Essence (Jing), Vitality (Qi), and Spirit (Shen) and they correspond and nurture three basic levels of life – the reproductive, the metabolic and the spiritual.

What is Jing energy? In Chinese tonic herbalism, Jing is the first treasure and is known as the “superior ultimate”treasure.

The “Three Treasures” are states of energy in our body. In Western Science, we know that matter exists in three different forms – as a solid, a liquid, or a gas. In the body, Jing is the most solid substantial energy, Qi is the more kinetic, flowing, and fluid energy and Shen is the more refined or ethereal energy in the body.

Jing energy is our material body, cellular density, energy stores, our reproductive potential, our DNA and our seed. Qi is the flowing force, or the electric currents, that drive our metabolism of food into energy, and the use of that energy. Shen is our spirit and the realm of the heart. It is the connection to our higher selves, and to our spirituality, however, we define that for ourselves.

It is important that we understand these underlying health principles and to cultivate, balance and expand the Three Treasures to harmonise all aspects of one’s being. 

In order to achieve this, we must first build up our foundational energy reserves of Jing.

The Jing Way Of Life

Imagine Jing energy is like your “savings account” of long-term energy. It is our generator or our battery of stored energy. It is the vitality that we utilise to bring forth new life and to ensure good health in our older years. When we experience loss of this Jing treasure we feel devitalised and can show signs of premature ageing.

The Kidneys are our battery pack, and the great reservoir of Jing energy is rooted in the Kidneys and is connected with longevity, vitality, sexual energy and our creative powers. 

Confronting Lethargy and improving energy levels leads to a long healthy life. One must accumulate an abundance of Jing to recharge the Kidneys and to avoid its reckless dissipation. Jing governs the strength of our structural frame, hair, nails, our healing powers, our sexual functions and reproductive potential, our youthfulness and ability to handle stress, adversity, overwork, illness and the many other challenges that we face in our lives.

Often in our youth, we believe that we are invincible. We lead lifestyles that tend to compromise our health and leak our Jing energy.

We abuse our bodies through reckless behaviours and activities that do not serve us, we study and work all day, party all night, drink and consume nutritionally depleted foods, we engage in excessive sexual activity, avoid sleep and burn the candle at both ends.

In our youthful naivety we mistakenly believe we have an endless supply of energy and through the disconnection of our own body and mind, we fail to realise how we are rapidly depleting our precious reserves of Jing energy, our life-force. 

We may be able to spring back from such careless behaviours while we’re “young” but over time many of us find out that if we continue to live a lifestyle that does not promote good health for our body that it begins to wear down and burn out.

We begin to feel run down, we compromise our immunity, our battery pack drains and starts to run low, our body feels weak, we exhaust our adrenals, and our creative power and vitality begins to fade. This is when dis-ease and illness often creep in. 

A Jing deficiency can manifest as back pain, knee pain, signs of premature ageing – grey hair, wearing of the teeth and joints, weight gain, poor eyesight, and loss of memory. These signs can tell us that we are burning the candle at both ends.

There is a saying in Chinese medicine – “it is OK to become tired but never to become exhausted.”

We must cultivate and protect long-term health for true vitality. We must learn to live a more balanced lifestyle. If we choose to live a healthy vibrant lifestyle and cultivate our Jing essence we will most likely develop less propensity to succumb to ill health.

When a person has an abundance of Jing energy, they will be strong, robust, resilient and have a positive outlook and attitude toward life. They will be able to handle tough labour and stressful situations without becoming drained.

Pre-Natal + Post-Natal Jing Energy

Jing energy is regarded from two perspectives: Pre-Natal Jing and Post-Natal Jing.

Pre-natal Jing is our core ancestral life-force. It is the highly concentrated energy inherited from generations past and the combined powers of our parent’s life force.

Post-natal Jing is the active energy we use after birth, the results of the nurturing we receive while growing. 

Pre-natal Jing is formed during conception and is the energy that nourishes us during pregnancy when we’re a foetus. It determines our basic constitution, our strength and vitality. Its quantity is limited and is considered extremely difficult to develop.

This fixed quantity of Pre-natal Jing is determined at birth. 

Some people are born with more than others, and these people have a stronger constitution. They entered the world strong and healthy with minimal complications and without early health issues. Then there are others who faced a lot of ill health and disease from an early age. These people are depleted in Pre-natal Jing and most likely inherited weakened states of health from their parents, grandparents and the generations before them.

It’s important that we nurture our own health and prevent our leakage of Jing so that our children are born with a strong constitution. We do not want to pass on weak genetics or an undermined state of health. 

Pre-natal Jing is rare and precious and the only way to preserve it is to conserve its energy through a balanced lifestyle so it can be used more slowly and efficiently. It is not something that can be extended or added to through a healthy diet of food and exercise. 

Therefore, it is extremely important that we become aware of what we can do to preserve and strengthen our essence.

After birth, the child becomes disconnected from its mother’s direct umbilical cord nourishment and begins to eat, drink and breathe independently by its own power and accumulate Post-natal Jing. This is when our lungs, spleen and stomach begin functioning to extract and refine the Qi (energy) from the air we breathe and the food and drink we intake. 

We can rebuild and strengthen our Post-natal Jing by consuming the Jing tonics, eating a healthy diet, and living a balanced lifestyle of moderate exercise and sex, meditation, avoiding stress and knowing our limits, not pushing ourselves to extremes.

The purpose of consuming Jing tonic herbs is to maintain healthy levels of post-natal Jing. When post-natal Jing is maintained at healthy levels it allows the pre-natal Jing to be used more slowly and efficiently which essentially slows down the ageing process.

How to Restore Jing Energy

The ancient Chinese Taoist herbalists recognised that Jing is a precious treasure that needs to be preserved. They actively searched for plant and animal-based substances that aided in the preservation of Jing. 

The Jing tonics have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to help restore life force energy for over 5000 years. They are revered for their qualities of promoting longevity, virility, fertility, strengthening the reproductive functions, and improving the sexual energy in both men and women.

They are renowned for their beautifying effects, calming agents, their ability to strengthen the skeletal framework, the lower back, the legs, the knees and the ankles, and all the joints in the body. They provide deep energy and store additional vitality for future use.

There are two primary branches of Jing tonic herbs, which correspond to the forces of Yin and Yang.

Both principles of the Yin and Yang Jing tonic herbs tend to penetrate deeply into our life force and support the root of our vitality and longevity. When our Yin and Yang Jing energy is strong we can flourish as a person and embody our true self. We can be full of energy, creative, high in spirit and strong-minded.

Yin Jing Energy Herbs

Yin is defined as the cyclic rhythm of nature in which energy is being accumulated, assimilated and stored for later use.

Those herbs that replenish spent energy are referred to as the Yin Jing tonic herbs. These highly nutritious herbs help us recuperate and nurture the fundamental reserves of the body, mind, and spirit.

The Yin Jing tonic herbs have a nourishing, moistening, cooling and anti-inflammatory nature. They accumulate and store Jing in the Kidneys. They build up vitality, revitalise youth, enhance fertility and help to increase the sexual fluids.

Yin Jing tonic herbs work to strengthen the lower back, the legs, the ankles and the knees and all the joints in the body. They promote healthy nails, return hair to its natural colour, fortify mind clarity and acuity, brighten the eyes, support healthy hormone balance, and counteract stress.

The Yin Jing tonics are famed for their longevity and rejuvenating qualities – He Shou Wu, Rehmannia, Goji berry, Schizandra berry, are just a few of the renowned long-term regenerating herbs.

Yang Jing Energy Herbs

Yang is defined as the cyclic rhythm of nature in which energy is being expended in order to create a manifest action.

Yang is associated with action, expansion and movement. These more energising herbs provide immediate deep energy and work to supplement and protect the Yin Jing.

The Yang Jing tonic herbs have an activating, drying, warm or hot nature. These herbs quickly build strength, enhance endurance, sexual vitality, structural support and bone density and one’s ability to complete feats of great exertion.

The Yang stimulates our fire functions of the Kidney which improves digestion and elimination. The kidney Yang is what keeps the body warm and it generates action and movement in the body.

This Yang energy gives us the power and drive to feel motivated, inspired, to be creative and to manifest our thoughts and desires and attract the things that we want in our lives.

The Yang Jing tonics are famous for their invigorating qualities and they are often used to build sexual energy, creative power, willpower and athletic power. Consuming Yang Jing herbs like – Cistanche, Morinda, Epimedium, Deer Antler, and Cordyceps mushroom is like turning back the clock and regaining your youth. 

Find Your Balance

With the rise of harmful chemicals in our environment and the degradation of nutrients in our food and soil, it is becoming increasingly important to supplement our diet with foods that nourish and preserve our Jing energy.

It is important that we protect and guard this primal energy and as we age we need to be more conservative in our use of energy and the way we choose to use our energy. Cultivating a balanced lifestyle and consuming Jing tonic herbs is one of the best tools we can utilise to preserve our precious reserves of Jing energy.

Jing energy accumulates over time and with consistent use of the Jing tonics one can expect to feel a marked difference in their body, mind and spirit. 

Adding Jing tonic herbs into your every day life is an easy and convenient way to deeply nourishing and highly nutritious tonic herbs into one’s life.

Add them into your daily smoothie, blended with your favourite tea, in your favourite dessert recipe or mixed straight into nut milk or water.

Essence is that which is bestowed by Nature. It is rooted in the beginningless, espied in the absolute, and becomes fragmented in the temporal. — Ancestor Lu, Qingwei sanpin jing (circa 6th century A.D.)

Jing is the Chinese expression for the essential fluid of our physical body. It is the most refined “essence of Qi”: the material basis for the body, the fluid essence that contains the life force.

Along with Qi, the life force, and Shen, the spirit, Jing, the essence, is considered one of the “three treasures” in traditional Chinese medicine. These “three treasures” are the substances that nurture the organ systems and keep the mind, body, and spirit in balance.

Jing is stored in the kidneys and defines our basic constitution. It is intimately connected to the growth and maturation of each individual. Jing is differentiated into prenatal Jing, which we are born with, and postnatal Jing, which we acquire during life. Jing is consumed continuously in life.

While the gradual depletion of Jing is natural, ancient Chinese medical texts state that a number of causes of kidney weakness can result in injury to Jing. These include illness, traumatic injury, substance abuse, fear and fearing without release, overindulgence in sexual activity, frustration over not being able to fulfill one’s wishes, over-tiredness from traveling in conditions of severe heat, consumption of too much salt, and physical injury to the internal organs.

Injured Jing can cause premature aging, premature graying, and reproductive and developmental disorders. It can effect the health of your bones and teeth (important for replenishing the Jing). A lack of Qi will cause death.

Jing is an important component to health and longevity in traditional Chinese medicine. While we are born with a finite amount of prenatal Jing, postnatal or acquired Jing can be refined through internal martial art disciplines such as tai chi, Qi gong, and meditation, and replenished through diet, nutrition, and essence-building herbs.

Eucommia Bark (Du Zhong, Cortex Eucommiae)

Eucommia Bark is a popular herb used for building Kidney essence. This herb is the trunk bark of Eucommia ulcommia ulmoides Oliv., a deciduous tree of the family Eucommiaceae.  The bark is stripped off between April and June. After scraping off the cork, the bark pieces are piled up to be sealed until purple brown, then dried in the sun.  The bark is cut into segments or stir-baked with salt for use.

It is often included in herbal formulas for the treatment of symptoms associated with kidney weakness, including weak, stiff, and painful lower back and knees, chronic nephritis, and frequent urination. It is also used for prevention of miscarriage, bleeding, or a weak and painful back during pregnancy, and to strengthen bones and tendons.

To explore the key concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine further, click on the below links…

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About Kimberley

Kimberley, Acupuncturist and Clinic Director at Life + Lemons, is a registered TCM (Traditional Chinese Medical) Acupuncturist, passionate about helping women reclaim their feminine edge. After graduating with a First Class Honors in York, she has undertaken specialist training in the area of pain management, natural conception, IVF support, menopause + pelvic pain (endometriosis/dysmenorrhea).


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