Yin Deficiency

Home > Patterns of disharmony > Yin Deficiency

Pattern factsheet

Chinese name: 阴虚

Pinyin name: Yīn Xū

Associated TCM concepts: Yin Deficiency / Empty


Common symptoms: Thirst Insomnia Weakness Dry mouth Dizziness and thirteen other symptoms

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Red

In the case of Yin Deficiency, the body is lacking in its cooling, moistening and nurturing aspects. This leads to Heat and Dryness accompanied by weakness and lack of strength and resistance. The Heat of the Yang gets more obvious because Yin is lacking and it cannot control Yang. Fire gets out of hand because water cannot control it.

"Empty Heat", or "false Heat" are the name for these Heat symptoms, because they are not a true Yang Excess conditions. The result is signs of Heat, but without the Yang strength. For example, fever might appear, but it only happens in the afternoon. The feeling of Heat only occurs in the palms, soles and chest region. The patients may talk fast, but cannot maintain it. The Heat waves come and go, with an obvious underlying weakness and Deficiency. Signs of Yin Deficiency, such as Night sweats, dry throat and insomnia, become more apparent during night because the Yin is the most active at the time.  

Yin Deficiency has some general symptoms, but the symptoms varies based on the Organs involved, such as the Kidneys, Heart, Liver and Lungs. Since the Kidneys are the root of Yin and Yang in the body, anything that impairs the Kidneys can consume their Yin, leading the rest of body Yin to become Deficient as well. When Kidney Yin Deficiency happens, low grade sore throats, dizziness, night sweating or poor memory might occur. When the Heart Yin is Deficient, insomnia and mental agitation or restlessness can appear. Liver Yin Deficiency causes irritability and headaches. Lung Yin Deficiency leads to dry cough and malar flush.

Yin can become Deficient due to overworking, lack of sleep, over-exercising, overindulgence in sex, long-term chronic diseases, internal injury due to the seven emotions, and the over-eating of dry and hot-natured foods. Excessive Yang can also deplete Yin. Yin can often be restored by resting and thanks to Yin-tonic herbs. 

Diagnosing Yin Deficiency

'Yin' as a body pattern in Chinese Medicine is one of the so-called "Eight Principles". Learn more about Yin in Chinese Medicine

Diagnosing a pattern in Chinese Medicine is no easy feat and should be left to professional practitioners.

In particular one has to know how to differentiate between different types of pulses and tongue coatings, shapes and colors. Here patients with Yin Deficiency will tend to exhibit rapid (Shu) or empty (Xu) pulses as well as a red tongue with thin white coating.

Practitioners also learn to read from a long list of seemingly unrelated symptoms. Here patients with Yin Deficiency might experience symptoms like night sweats, dry mouth, dry throat and insomnia (full list here above).

Herbal formulas used to treat Yin Deficiency

Liu Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system).

Formula summary

Liu Wei Di Huang Wan is a 6-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di huang) as a principal ingredient. Invented in 1119 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that nourish Yin and tonify.

Besides Yin Deficiency, Liu Wei Di Huang Wan is also used to treat Blood Deficiency or Liver Yang Rising.

Read more about Liu Wei Di Huang Wan

Most important herbs used to treat Yin Deficiency