Looking young and beautiful is big business in the United States.  Every year, tens of billions of dollars are spent by US citizens on botox injections alone.  As more people in the US reach their 50’s, many of them especially women are looking for ways to look, feel and stay young.  They buy food and vitamin supplements and cosmetics and undergo cosmetic surgery, botox injections and exercises designed to make them look more attractive and desirable and temporarily avert the impending symptomatic onset of old age.

We associate aging with the decline or breakdown in health, since we feel that our bodies are not as responsive to exercises and activities as they were before.  The Chinese perspective, especially traditional Chinese medicine, on the other hand is entirely different.  For them aging is a normal transition of life rather than a breakdown.  The way you live and how you age when you reach your 40’s or 50’s are all the result of the way you lived before.  Many factors are involved which can or cannot be controlled that influences how you look and how you feel in the later years.  To better appreciate this way of thought, we should know what Essence means for the Chinese.  Essence is a part of the body.  It is a body substance that is responsible for a person’s maturation, development and growth.  It is also the basis where other substances in the body come from.  A person inherits his/her own unique essence upon conception.  This is called Congenital Essence and besides maturation and growth, it also is responsible for one’s constitution and genetic traits. The Congenital Essence slowly depletes itself as we age until the point where it is completely exhausted; when it is all used up, we die.  Congenital Essence cannot be renewed but it can be enhanced by another essence; Acquired Essence.

Acquired Essence is composed of the food we eat and the more nutrients we consume the better the acquired essence we have.  Every good thing we do for our body which translates to high energy level, strength and good health adds to our acquired essence. Any surplus of acquired essence is stored and kept in the Kidney, which is also where Congenital Essence is stored.

When we refer to the Kidney in the standpoint of TCM, it generally means a system of functioning, not the organ itself.  The Kidney generates fertility, maturation and growth in the body and also controls the growth of the bones and teeth.  It is also associated with hearing and the ear.  The slow consumption of Essence manifests itself in our aging and the signs that go with it (memory weakness, confusion, hearing loss, loss of teeth, brittle and weak bones and energy loss).

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