dispelling woo presents
Low energy. No sex drive. Naps for days.
What is Yang?
Is it something I have in my body, like a chemical or a hormone?
In short, no. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory is relational: Yin and Yang are defined based on one another. That being said, TCM holds that Yang is Energy (and also male, light, movement upward) whereas Yin is Form (and also female, dark, movement inward).
Here's a car analogy for ya: a deficiency in Yang means a it's more of a low fuel kinda thing, whereas a motor problem, being structural, would be a Yin condition. But you know what low quality fuel can do to the form it animates, right? So even Yin problems can have their origins in Yang.
It's important that the fuel is quality and that the structure is sound, which is why it's essential to keep both our Yin and our Yang as healthy as possible.
The fact that Yang doesn't physically exist in the body doesn't mean that it doesn't translate into certain behaviors, hormones, and actions. Take the steroidal hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (better known as DHEA). It's naturally occurring and is a precursor to testosterone and estrogen. What results from a lack of DHEA isn't so unlike symptoms of Yang deficiency: fatigue, low libido, urinary disorders, poor circulation, more propensity to bone breaks. DHEA has a positive correlation with bone density in the body (for all you sticklers out there: though they are a substances, bones, the brain, and marrow all fall under the domain of Yang in Chinese medicine) and is inversely related to the stress hormone, cortisol.
In health, DHEA naturally declines starting in your 30s (aging, it's a thing). Yang too begins to decline as we age: exposure to the elements, stress, and poor lifestyle choices all excelerate the decline of Yang. Exercising and dealing with stress well can help to reserve your stores of DHEA (and keep your bone density up, too). But sometimes, because of stress, an average 30 year old can have less DHEA than an active 85 year old. The same is true of Yang, though we don't have the same diagnostic tools for Yang as we do for hormones that circulate in the blood.
When your DHEA is low or when you are experiencing Yang Deficiency, you may feel fatigued, have a lower sex drive, and experience depressive symptoms. It's like the spark of life isn't there, because as the energetic backbone of your body and life, when it lacks, you feel lacking. DHEA is a really important hormone for the body and it can actually be neuroprotective: DHEA supplementation may help to treat diseases of the nervous system because it protects the hippocampus, just as getting acupuncture treatments for degenerative diseases can actually help to reverse the course of the disease.
Just as we have naturally occurring neurochemicals that circulate in the body, we also utilize botanicals that occur naturally in the world. Since we're talking yang deficiency here, I want to talk a little bit about a common western herb used for energy: maca. MORE COMING SOON!
DHEA and maca are just a couple of examples of substances in the body or common herbal tonics that correlate to TCM theory. If you're reading this because you're experiencing some of these symptoms, know that you don't have to suffer and that real help is out there for you.