By Neka Pasquale, Chinese medicine practitioner, accunpuncturist and nutritionist
Chinese medicine promotes living in harmony with the cycle of the seasons. The winter months are cold and rainy creating the perfect environment to go inward, reflect, and rest to consolidate your energy to be able to bloom and sparkle in the spring time
Winter is ruled by the water element, which is associated with the kidneys, bladder, and adrenal glands. In Chinese medicine the kidneys are the foundational source of all the energy of the body, controlling growth and development, reproduction, teeth, bones and hair. Kidneys also control the fluids of the body. If Kidney Essence is strong, hair will be healthy –thick and lustrous. If it is weak, hair will be thin and brittle and may turn gray at an early age. When the kidneys are weak we may experience exhaustion which can lead to issues like chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia as the fluids of the body nourish and lubricate the joints. When our bodies aren’t properly lubricated symptoms like joint stiffness, arthritis, and back pain can manifest.
Winter is the time to lower physical activity. To support being less active it’s a good idea to eat smaller meals incorporating warm soups, lightly steamed vegetables, and low fat foods into our diet. Avoiding cold raw foods during the winter will help keep the kidneys strong, as cold foods weaken the kidney energy. Hot fluids in winter keep mucus membranes and the bronchi hydrated and phlegm loosened.
Examples of smart meal and food choices for winter are:
- Soups and stews
- Yams and sweet potatoes
- Miso and seaweed
- Sesame, flax, and pumpkin seeds
- Whole grains
Winter kidney warming tea: Water, 2 cups filtered, fresh Ginger root, 2 slices ½ inch thick, cinnamon sticks, 1 stick per 2 cups of water, fresh mint, wash 8-10 leaves tear before adding to water, agave nectar, 1 teaspoon for sweetness or stevia for those sensitive to sugar
Boil water and pour into teapot or large mug
Add ginger, cinnamon sticks, and mint
Cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes
Add agave or stevia to sweeten
Fresh ginger supports digestion, warms the stomach, and is anti-inflammatory.
Cinnamon strengthens kidney yang energy, promotes circulation as it warms the body.
Mint is spicy and cool used for flavor and to balance the heat of the ginger and cinnamon. In Chinese medicine this is used to treat headache, colds, sore throat and red eyes.