Winter Wonderland & Chinese Medicine

Winter is a time when things stay inside, hibernate, regroup, and get ready for the start of a new year and a new period of growth.  Chinese medicine describes the Winter in much the same way.  However, there are some fascinating things we can learn from this perspective.

We all know someone who catches the cold or flu during this season.  We’re used to hearing about viruses and bacteria.  Chinese medicine describes “catching” illness in a little different way.  During the winter, wear that scarf and turn up that collar.  There is a set of acupuncture points called “wind pool” or “wind gate” at the back of the neck and base of the skull that is particularly susceptible to what we call a “wind invasion.” In other words, the wind carries the cold and/or damp from the weather.  And if our defenses are down, we might “catch” the cold at these points.

The Winter is associated with the “Water” systems of Chinese medicine.  These include the functional aspects of both the Kidneys and the Bladder.  Makes sense, right?  Would you want water that needs to keep moving getting cold or frozen?  Of course not!  So, when it’s too cold outside, we need to avoid foods like ice-cream, cold or iced drinks and cold foods.  What’s better on a cold day than tea, a warm bowl of soup, or foods that warm our middle?  Eating seasonally is less mysterious than you would think.  We don’t eat watermelon and cooling fruits in the winter.  Those are Summer foods, eaten when we need to cool down.  Likewise, there are plenty of hearty, warming foods for the winter.  Onions and string beans are warming.  Spices, such as garlic and ginger are also warming.  Most animal proteins are warming.  While tofu is neutral, you can actually alter the temperature of certain foods by the cooking method you choose.  For example, Deep frying creates dampness, while flash-frying or cooking in a wok actually creates warmth without the dampness we’d be better off without.  What’s so bad about dampness?  Nothing in and of itself.  However, if your internal body environment is too damp, and if the outside environment is too damp, you’ll probably start getting some symptoms.  For example, sore knees and sore backs are common during the winter, especially if we’re not mindful of keeping a balance with our internal environment.   Remember, we said that the Chinese Medical view of Winter included the “Water” organs of the Kidney and the Bladder.  Well, it just so happens that the Kidney system governs the knees and the lower back.

So, get yourself in to your Acupuncturist for more information on how to stay well, in balance with the season, and with a strong immunity to ward off any bugs out there!  And Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones!