The winter season is here! Depending on where “here” is, this realization is slowly dawning on you. (I’m in Wisconsin, so all you southern Californians, Texans, Floridians, and Arizonians, please humor me.)
During the first few days of cold, you probably said to yourself “It’s not that bad.” But as the reality sets in that this is just the beginning, and that there are several months more to endure, you may start to panic. This can be both emotionally and physically trying. However, there is no need to fret! Winter is obviously part of a natural cycle, so why would we be here if we were not capable of thriving through this particular season?
Fortunately, the wisdom of nature is here to help us in this endeavor. Chinese medicine is a system rooted in nature and in the cycles of life and of the seasons. It has time-tested advice on which kinds of nutrition, herbs, and activities one should partake of to maximize their health during any particular season. Here are a few tips specific to winter.
The three tips to thrive
Slow down and rest more
The nature of living things in the winter is to draw inwards. Animals hibernate and trees give up their leaves and draw their energy towards their core. Winter is the time when the maple tree initiates the alchemical process of turning starch into the sugar that will become delicious maple syrup. Be like the maple tree! Winter is an opportune time to draw your energy inwards; focus on deep, slow, rhythmic breathing; go to sleep a little earlier; and meditate. If you follow the tips here, you’ll be able to find a balance and have plenty of energy to enjoy an awesome snowboarding or skiing season as well!
Eat the appropriate nourishing foods for the season
The foods you eat during winter can be vitally important to maintaining the level of strength and energy you need to thrive amid the stressors that come with this season. In Chinese Medicine, root vegetables, squash, greens, mushrooms, and apples are all good choices for winter foods. In this system, winter is associated with the kidneys, which hold our most fundamental and basic energies, so, foods that nourish the kidneys are also commonly used. Foods such as black beans, kidney beans, black sesame seeds, as well as bone broths with beef, buffalo, lamb, or chicken can be very nourishing and beneficial at this time.
Take the proper herbs to stay healthy and strong
Generally speaking, everyone has a unique constitution and body type, so it is difficult to prescribe any particular Chinese herb or herbal formula for everyone to take during the winter season. However, it is suitable for most people to consume greater amounts of warming herbs like ginger and garlic. Medicinal mushrooms, astragalus, and other qi (energy) tonifying herbs may also be taken in order to boost the immunity to aid in warding off the common cold. A good example of a common formula taken for this reason is the Jade Windscreen Decoction. Western herbs like Echinacea are also great to have on hand and, although not for everyone, Korean Ginseng root tea may be the warming boost that is needed to help one cope with the cold weather. Traditionally, Chinese doctors take stock of their patient’s body type and constitution to create a custom blend of up to 40 Chinese herbs called “Gao fang.” This personalized formula is taken by the person to help strengthen them for the winter season. It is taken from December 22, for 6 consecutive weeks. This is probably the most comprehensive approach from an herbal standpoint, but many of the aforementioned herbs may be just as effective.
There you have it! Some simple things to implement this winter to keep you going strong! Winter is a beautiful season. Enjoy!
About the author:
Isaac S Haynes, PhD, MATCM, LAc. is a nationally certified acupuncturist and a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He holds a Doctorate in acupuncture and Tui na from Zhejiang Chinese Medical University and has a practice in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information, please visit: www.madisonacupuncture.net. You can also connect with Isaac on facebook and google+.