In the winter, the body slows down as the days grow colder. Build strength and counteract the effects of cold by adding foods that support the kidney and warm the body. By consciously supporting the body as the seasons change, we can make the winter a more enjoyable season.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine the seasons are thought to have a repetitive effect on human growth and well-being. As summer (when yang is at its fullest) makes its transformation into fall and winter (when yin is at its fullest), our bodies and minds undergo gradual adjustments.
Winter is ruled by the water element, which is associated with the kidneys. In Chinese Medicine, the kidneys are considered to hold the Yuan Qi or ‘Original Qi’, and are the foundation of all Yin and Yang energies within the body. During the winter months, it is important to care for our kidney Qi as it is easily depleted. For this reason, our bodies instinctively turn to rest, reflection, conservation, and storage during the winter months.
Yin, in general, is the force associated with cold, interior, moisture, density, stillness, downward movement, and substance. Yin represents the body’s substance, including blood and body fluids that nourish and moisten the organs and tissues. If there is too much yin in the body, a person will come down with illnesses involving weakness, slowness, or coldness.
A depletion of yin, or Yin deficiency, is a decline of cooling properties and moisture in the body. This can manifest with a low-grade fever, dry throat, and night sweats. Yin deficiency most commonly impacts the kidneys, lungs, liver, and stomach. Each individual organ shows specific signs and symptoms, but all are consistently ‘heat’ signs – sweating, constipation, dry cough, dizziness, dry eyes and thirst to name a few. The external manifestation of yin deficiency is dry skin, hair, and nails.
To strengthen the body during the winter months, make conscious choices about the food you eat. Good winter foods to add in moderation include garlic, ginger, lamb, beef, Chinese yam, sesame, chestnuts, mushrooms, leeks, and nuts. Since the kidneys are related to the Water element, remember to stay properly hydrated during the winter months.
At this time of year it can be easier to tax the Kidney’s and create an imbalance in the system. Over indulgence of food and drink, a swollen list of chores, shopping to finish, and parties to attend/host all lend to this imbalance. It is important to get the rest you require for this season, and to eat for it as well. Plan ahead to include activities that not only nourish your body (and kidneys!), but your mind; acupuncture, yoga, or a spa day can make the difference between ‘getting through’ the winter and having a fantastic one.
Boost the Qi Tea – For Strengthening the Kidneys and Lungs
· 1 x 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into cubes
· 5 shelled walnuts
· 2 teaspoons ground ginseng root (ren shen) or 2 ginseng tea bags
· 2 ½ cups water
· Combine ginger, walnuts, ginseng, and water in a medium sized pot and bring to a boil
· Lower heat and simmer, partially covered for 10 mins
· Strain herbs out and add honey