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Practices and Recipes to Nourish Vital Energy (AKA QI)

To be able to do anything in life requires energy, AKA "Qi". This blog and dives deeper into the nature of this vibrant energy within us which has both a subtle and more aroused form, also understood as sexual energy, and how to cultivate it for your health.

All of life is sexual is the power of life. The universe begin with a big bang. Our life began from this energy. This energy exists within us every moment of the day and runs through every cell. When plentiful, it lets us live vibrantly and creatively with enthusiasm. This energy is ever-present both as subtle Qi and also as what can also be seen as the more powerful, aroused "orgasmic" force. This later more powerful form was also understood by Daoists to have the capacity for augmenting our health with practices of qigong. But when this vital Qi is depleted we feel exhausted and this impact both our general health, our enthusiasm, and our ability to feel more explicit sexual energy (Dunas, Passion Play).

Our vital energy originates from our genetic endowment (Jing) as well as how we supplement or detract from this font of energy through lifestyle, food, and breath (which is the focus of Qigong). Our society focuses almost entirely on food as our source of energy, but in fact, we can only live a few minutes without air---and in my clinical experience, many people barely breathe. In states of high and habitual stress, many people breath shallowly and are deprived of this form of essential oxygen-qi.

So if we want to live as vibrant, healthy aroused for life, in our physical, emotional and spiritual essence, we must begin by taking care of this precious resource (also see my blog on "Feeling Depleted?")

The Daoist suggest these ways to augment and preserve our foundational Qi:

  • Respiration (Qigong)

  • Meditation

  • Prayer

  • Food and fluids (not alcoholic or highly caffeinated ones😉 )

  • Healthy lifestyle (right amount of sleep, activity vs rest, work, calm, and sex)

The Link between Vital QI and Health Nourishing Cycle per Chinese Medical Theory

There is a nourishing cycle in our bodies whereby energy moves from one organ system to another from the kidneys to the liver, then to the heart and to the spleen, and finally to the lungs. As Dunas puts it:

Subtle and aroused vital energy QI from your enlivened kidneys pacifies the liver, allowing for feelings of kindness and warmth. A healthy liver keeps the body limber, facilitates the movement of chi throughout the body and ensures the experience and expression of appropriate emotions. The heart is energized, aiding the circulation of blood through the system and inspiring joy, love and a brightened outlook. With nourishment from the heart, the spleen helps you derive maximum value from the food you ingest and process correctly the mental and emotional information you take in. With support from the spleen, the lungs distribute fluids efficiently throughout the body. Residual sadness diminishes in favor of perseverance and a sturdier bond with your beloved as you move the relationship forward. And the circle completes itself as strong lungs nourish the kidneys and strengthen your sexuality.

Our work is to cultivate our vital Kidney Qi (aka sexual energy) and preserve the prenatal Jing Qi we were born with which naturally diminishes with age. Our vital sexual energy is the power of life and it powers every thing. These are the three areas of concern for augmenting our vital, sexual QI:

  1. Make it plentiful through the practices above. If this vital Qi is deficient it can lead to stagnation, infertility and other reproductive problems, lack of desire and stamina. In some cases, deficiency can also lead to excessive desire as the body urges a woman or man to draw energy from a sex partner.

  2. Move the energy to where it is needed: sexual energy can become stagnant through lack of movment. Qigong and exercise are two ways of keeping energy in our body moving. A Chinese saying is that a well-used hinge doesn't rust. Subtle and aroused vital/sexual energy that does not move stagnates and can lead to various health problems, ineffective digestion, concretions, as well as either sexual apathy or even compulsion. Some of our addictions is actually the body's attempt to call attention to the need to move energy.

  3. Cultivating high quality Qi: Chinese medicine understand that there are impediments impacting the quality of qi to perform its functions---it can become damp and sticky, or cold and unable to move. Vatinal dryness is a sign that the yin factor of moistiness is lacking. Pelvic pain, lack of ability to feel aroused or become pregnant can be an indication of cold qi in the pelvic region.

Tips and Recipes for Supporting the Kidneys per Chinese Medical Theory

We are a very Yang, excessively doing sort of a culture. In Chinese medicine, balance in health, mind and spirit is a balance between the Yin and Yang factors. So cultivating more yin, quiet energy, is generally beneficial for us. and these tips are generally applicable. In the north, it is also It is the most Yin time of the year and naturally, a time for more quiet, sleep, reflection and generally conserving energy. Think hibernation.

  • Check-in with yourself about your energy levels especially around 5pm. Let go of those things that are draining. Start taking notice of what depletes you and what energizes you and feels wholesome in terms of your exercise, foods, work, stress, sex. Notice how you feel during, immediately after and the next day after various activities. These are your cues as to what serves YOU. Note that what that is for you may not be what it is for me!

  • Get sleep! And in the winter, take advantage of the longer nights and let yourself sleep longer. Asleep by 10pm or even earlier.

  • Avoid getting cold! Cold can damage the kidneys and our Yin resource so keep covered, wear a scarf, gloves, make a "rice sock" you can zap for a minute to warm your belly and low back and your feet when you get into bed. Watch out for over consumption of "cold and raw" salads, fruit and drinks with ice. Some of these "cold" foods in the heat of the summer is ok...but cold and raw foods are hard to process and douse the "fire" in the belly that helps us digest and transform food in to vital energy.

  • Drink 1-2 glasses of warm water before breakfast .....right after you brush your teeth is a natural moment. Soups, miso, congee or soupy porridges help rehydrate you in the morning .

  • Listen to people to understand not to gain advantage over another. Listening both a yin factor and a correspondence of the Kidney function in Chinese medicine.

Check in on How Much you are Giving out

Many of us tend to give and do for others without bound and then become exhausted. Felice Dunas in her book Passion Play, provides some helpful questions for us to ask ourselves to help us conserve our "yin" energies:

• What am I giving in various situations and what am I receiving?

• Am I giving more than I’m getting?

• Am I receiving what I want and need?

• Are my desires fair and reasonable?

• If I’m not getting exactly what I want and need, am I doing what I can to transform the situation?

• Am I letting others know my needs and wants, and do they understand me?

• Am I taking in sufficient information and using it to determine if my needs will be met?

• Do I feel needy?

• Am I allowing others to support and help me? You may also want to evaluate your most recent love affair, asking yourself the same questions

Foods that Support Kidney Qi and our Vital Energy

These are foods that help tonify our kidney function which is the primary organ of winter

  • Bone broth chicken and/or beef is Chinese medicine for everything!

  • Have soup for breakfast or as an appetizer: Try miso + green onions + tofu

  • Tangerines help the lung and spleen . Try making Chen Pi, tangerine peel tea to soothe a cough: HINT: tangerine peels dry very quickly, clean the tangerines before you eat and let the peel dry for a day or two and store..

  • Minimize sugar and processed foods these produce damp and phlegm which are also chef culprits at play in COVID

  • Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, tzatziki, sourdough, pickled olives

  • Dark leafy greens that are lightly cooked with oil to detox

  • Eggs are great for the kidney

  • Dark mushrooms

  • Seeds, walnuts, dates, goji berries, and black and adzuki beans

  • Roasted root veggies

Morning Oatmeal Recipe to Support Spleen, Lungs and Kidney per Chinese Medicine

The point about breakfast is that you must rehydrate after a long night of sleep without fluids. Toast, and muffins and many of our Western breakfasts don't help us rehydrate well. Leftover soup is an amazing breakfast, or miso, or soupy porridges. The Chinese version is a soupy rice porridge with various coniments on top. Here is my morning oatmeal:

  • Prepare oatmeal (or millet or other ancient grains or rice) with a 10 or so goji berries and pieces of dried tangerine (see above). Goji berries support blood and tangerine the lungs. Oatmeal supports the Spleen

  • Crumble on a few walnuts which support the kidneys and chop in a date (chinese red dates are better as they are less in sugar if you can get them. But I just use Medjool dates as that is what I can get). Dates supplement the blood and body fluids

  • Cinnamon, cardamom, and fresh ginger which are warming and good in winter and if you have a condition of internal cold. You can eliminate these if you tend to "run" hot, have a red tongue and flushed face.

  • Grind on a bit of black pepper which also supports the lung

  • Some natural unsweetened cacao nibs

  • A non-dairy milk

Miso Soup or Bone Broth for Breakfast or Evening Tonic

Miso is a fermented product and fits perfectly with winter and supports digestion. There is increasing Western evidence about the import of fermented foods in the diet and potential evidence that individuals eating more of these foods are doing better with Covid.

You can buy fresh Miso almost everywhere now and it is easy to add a teaspoon to 3/4 cup of water with a few Wakame seaweed flakes and a bit of green onion and tofu.

French Onion Soup

This French onion soup recipe supports the Kidneys and the Lungs. It also helps resolve damp, phlegm and QI and blood stagnation all of which are understood by Chinese practitioners to often be underlying conditions for individuals with serious COVID. Onions promote kidney yang and is warming. If you happen to always be internally hot, you might skip this recipe (or private message me).

Because we are all so busy, this is a SIMPLE vegan recipe from Recipes for Self-Healing, Daverick Leggett. This recipe uses miso but I personally use beef bone broth as it is the quintessential Chinese medicine prescription for almost everything and for sure bone health.


  • 6 onions sliced into thin strips

  • Heat 2 Tbls olive oil and add onion plus

    • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

    • 1 tsp dried thyme

    • 2 bayleaves

    • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary

Stir occasionally, cooking slowly for 30-40 minutes without burning the onions but continually scraping up the carmelized bits and integrating it with the cooking onions until all is a golden color which bring out the sweetness in the onions.


  • Add 4-5 c water plus 2 tablespoons of tamari, bring to boil then simmer for 5 minutes

  • Scoop out a bit of soup into a cup and dilute into it 2 tablespoons of dark miso. Return to the pot.

Traditionally, this is served with croutons and gruyere. Chinese food theory isn't wild about cheese....but life is about moderation!! I personally, toast slices of baguette in some olive oil then put on a bit of gruyere and melt it under the broiler.

Best to you in health and well-being

Jan Bull, L.Ac

Qigong at 8:30am EST Monday and Wednesdays: 1/2 hour free Live Facebook sessions for general health at

Friday Private Women's Qigong for breast, ovary, womb and emotional health by request to join at

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