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Chinese Medicine and the Seasons: How to Thrive in the Cold Weather

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

Each season brings its own unique characteristics and challenges, and understanding how to adapt our lifestyles accordingly can help us maintain optimal health and well-being. In this blog post, we will explore the principles of Chinese medicine in relation to the winter season, sleeping patterns, foods to eat, and other relevant behaviours.

Winter, cold weather brings illness

Winter: Embracing Stillness and Nourishment

In Chinese medicine, winter is associated with the water element and the organs of the kidneys and bladder. It is a time for rest, rejuvenation stillness, and conservation of energy. During winter, the days are shorter, and nights are longer, providing an opportunity for ample sleep. According to Chinese medicine principles, it is recommended to sleep early and wake up late during this season to align with the natural rhythms of nature. Adequate rest during winter helps nourish the kidneys, replenish energy reserves, and prepare the body for the upcoming seasons.

Cold Season Sleeping Patterns in Chinese Medicine:

During the cold season, Chinese Medicine recommends following the natural rhythm of the sun and embrace longer nights. Going to bed earlier and waking up later allows the body to replenish energy and supports overall well-being. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep to ensure optimal rest and rejuvenation.

Cold Season Foods to Eat:

In winter, it is important to consume foods that help warm and nourish the body, while also supporting the immune system, increasing circulation, and providing the body with the necessary nutrients. Here are some key foods to include in your winter diet:

1. Root vegetables: Winter is the perfect time to enjoy nutrient-dense root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, and beets. These vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, while also grounding and supporting the body.

2. Warm soups and stews: Soups and stews made with bone broth or vegetable broth are excellent choices during winter. They are easy to digest, provide warmth, and offer a variety of nutrients to support the body's needs.

3. Dark leafy greens: Despite the cold weather, it is still important to include leafy greens in your diet. Chinese medicine recommends consuming dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens to nourish the liver and support blood circulation.

4. Nourishing herbs and spices: Incorporating warming herbs and spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and garlic can help boost the immune system, improve digestion, and promote circulation.

Other Relevant Behaviours:

Apart from sleeping patterns and dietary choices, Chinese medicine suggests several other behaviours to support overall well-being during winter:

1. Gentle exercise: Engage in gentle exercises such as tai chi, qigong, or yoga to promote circulation, flexibility, and emotional balance.

2. Stay warm: Dress in layers to protect yourself from the cold and avoid exposing your body to extreme temperature changes. Keep your head, neck, and lower back warm as these areas are considered vulnerable according to Chinese medicine.

3. Hydration: Although winter may not make you feel as thirsty as during summer, it is crucial to stay hydrated. Drink warm water, herbal teas, and broths to support digestion and maintain optimal hydration levels.

4. Practicing mindfulness and meditation: Winter is a time for introspection and inner reflection. By incorporating mindfulness and meditation practices into daily routines, individuals can cultivate a sense of calmness, reduce stress, and enhance mental clarity.

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- Maciocia, G. (2015). The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists. Elsevier Health Sciences.

- Pitchford, P. (2002). Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. North Atlantic Books.

- Tierra, M. (2010). The Way of Chinese Herbs. Pocket Books.


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