Winter is a season of recuperation and renewal. Compared to the other seasons, nature is much quieter. Plants are dormant and the shorter days restrict movement and activity. The winter rains replenish the reservoirs so there is sufficient water the rest of the year. Water is essential for life to continue, so this period of replenishment is crucial. Just as nature rests, it is also a time for us to be quieter and more reflective. The Nei Jing, an ancient text on Chinese medicine says:
The three months of winter are called the period of closing and storing. People should retire early at night and rise late in the morning, and they should wait for the rising of the sun. 'People should try to escape the cold and they should seek warmth. All this is in harmony with the atmosphere of winter and all this is the method for the protection of one's storing.
In previous times most peoples' lives were quieter and more restful. Especially for those living in cold rural settings, the rains and snow of winter would severely restrict activity. Today the season hardly makes any difference to the hectic pace of life. This natural resting and recuperating period is lost. The Nei Jing says that if we don't follow the laws of nature it will have a detrimental effect on our health.
Those who disobey the laws of winter will suffer an injury of the kidneys.
In Chinese medicine the kidney is described as being the storehouse of chi and vitality. If the reservoir of the kidney is depleted it can profoundly affect every aspect of a person's health, body mind and spirit. It really makes sense to take notice of this ancient wisdom of the Nei Jing and to plan to take things a little more easily in the winter months. Take some time off to rest, be quiet and reflective.
Some of the acupuncture points on the kidney meridian describe the nature of the kidney energy in acting as a storehouse for the body, mind and spirit. In fact, the last point on the kidney meridian is called Storehouse. This point, along with other points on the kidney meridian such as Bubbling Spring or Greater Mountain Spring, may be used if a patient is exhausted at a physical level. Spirit Storehouse, however, would be selected when someone is exhausted at the spirit level. In the same way that we might go to a reserve of food or money in hard times, this point can be used to invigorate and resuscitate someone's spirit that has been worn out.
If we follow the laws of nature and give ourselves time to recuperate, it will be easier for us to make the transition into spring. During spring all aspects of nature become more active. Plants start to grow and the days become warmer and longer. It's the natural time for the cycle of life to begin once again. If we haven't given ourselves a chance to rest, we begin this important part of the year without the reserves to carry on through the subsequent seasons. This lack of reserves can manifest in many different ways. Fatigue, anxiety, lower backache, and painful knees are a few of the symptoms associated with kidney chi depletion.
Foods For Winter
As each season changes, it makes sense to adapt what we eat and how we cook our food. Because the winter season is usually cold and damp, most of us need to eat foods that are warming. Vegetables, especially yams, squash, parsnips and carrots are nourishing and have a delicious flavor when baked. Casseroles are a good way to cook food in winter. Soups are also very warming and nourishing. A little ginger can be added to dishes to give extra flavor and make the food warmer. Salt is the taste that is traditionally associated with the water element.
This soup is very easy and quick to make. It is made from butternut squash, carrots, and parsnips, a dash of tamari and miso. Cut up two cups of butternut squash, parsnips and two cups of chopped carrots; cover with water and cook until tender. Put in a blender, add a teaspoon of miso, and some tamari. Blend together. That's it!
Colds and Flus
While we are through the darkest part of the winter, there are several months before spring. Because winter is usually a cold, damp, wet season, it is very easy to catch a cold or flu. Chinese herbs are very effective in dealing with these infections, so if you think you are coming down with an infection, do feel free to call our office or go to our website and read the article on Colds and Flu. If herbs are taken in the very early stages of a cold or flu, the symptoms can be completely eradicated. Even if the herbs are taken after the infection has had a chance to get established, they will usually significantly shorten the time of the illness.