One of the things we love most about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is its profound depth and wisdom. Four years of intensive study in Acupuncture college was just a primer for a life-long journey into the intricacies of this ancient, elegant system of healing and health maintenance. That’s right… health maintenance!
Cultivating simple habits that harmonize our inner and outer being with the energetic influences of each season is one of TCM’s simple and practical tools that will help your body in its constant and miraculous effort to self-heal.
If you think of Summer as daytime (Yang) and Winter as nighttime (Yin) and you know that humans are diurnal (daytime) creatures, one thing becomes quite clear. Winter must be prime time for rest. Besides, our instincts tell us this!
There is a special form of “high octane” fuel so to speak that is available only at this time of year. It is the deep, dark, quiet, calm essence of Yin. There’s nothing else quite like it to restore the reservoir of energy at the deepest core of our physical being. Don’t miss this grand opportunity. Make sleep a priority!
This is not to say that it’s OK to become a complete couch potato. Mild daily exercise is crucial to prevent Chi (energy) from stagnating, as it is prone to do at this time of year. Stagnant Chi often leads to depression and physical aches and pains especially in Winter. Study after study has shown that exercise is one of the best “medicines” for depression and movement is essential for alleviating pain.
TCM Winter care includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, special exercises, and specific food recommendations.
The most common conditions we treat in Winter are:
Urinary Tract and Kidney Disorders
Edema or Swelling
Colds and Flu
According to traditional Chinese healing arts, food is a source of medicine. Specific recommendations are based on an evaluation of one’s personal constitution, but some general guidelines should be followed seasonally.
In winter it is wise to pay careful attention to the “thermal energies” of foods. Centuries of observation, documentation and common sense have given us insight into the nature of the kinds of foods that avail themselves to us during each season. What we may think of as warming foods – salsas, curries, cayenne, and other red peppers – are actually cooling because they “open the surface” allowing warmth to escape from the body… not a good idea in Winter!
Winter is the best time to bake foods or cook them into soups and stews. Think of heat as an ingredient that you add to foods by cooking them for longer periods. This extra heat warms the “middle burner” – the Chinese medical term for the digestive system. Many of us need this extra internal warming, especially during cold weather. Raw salads, cold drinks, and frozen desserts should be avoided or minimized in Winter, especially on cold, wet days.
Warming foods include oatmeal, roasted buckwheat, millet, shiitake mushrooms, most root vegetables, squashes, yams, and sweet potatoes.
Mushroom barley and root vegetable soup with lamb or beef and Dong Gui, a Chinese herb, builds blood and increases circulation. People with cold hands and feet, aching low backs aggravated by cold, wet weather, and women with menstrual pain will all benefit from this soup.
Please buy only organic and humanely raised meats!
Onion soup warms the “middle burner” (the Chinese medical term for digestive system).
Aduki and kidney beans warm and strengthen the “Kidney Chi”, the deep vital reserve energy associated with this season.
Miso soup with green onion, garlic, and fresh ginger root is a classic remedy to use when first catching a cold, so be sure to have these ingredients on hand!
During this brief time it is wise to sleep more and do less!!!
Happy, Healthy Holidays to all!
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