Beat the Cold Winter Days
Do you feel cold to the bone? Do the gusty winter winds send chills down your spine? Do you love winter or hate it?
There is no need to suffer from the cold during Winter. There are great techniques and Chinese herbs that can make Winter a more pleasant experience by expelling the cold in your body, and warming it using herbs and moxibustion.
The seasons according to Chinese Medicine corresponds to the five elements (fire, earth, metal water & wood) and the cycle of birth and death. Winter is the water element and symbolically the phase of death. It is the time of hibernation, of bundling up, staying warm. The body contracts, the pulse goes deeper into the body and the muscles stiffen. Winter is the time to nourish the body before the birth of a new cycle starting in spring. It is the time for stews and soups, living in tune with the seasons of nature by warming the body.
The water element corresponds to kidney and bladder energetic systems. This is not the physiological bladder & kidney systems in allopathic medicine, but the energetic systems of Chinese Medicine. The kidney energy is responsible for growth and reproduction, the bone marrow, head hair and hearing. Without a strong base we cannot grow in the spring. So Winter is the time to look in and reflect, to nourish and change, to rebuild the base ready for a new cycle of life.
How do we look after our bodies during winter
There are 5 flavours of foods – sweet, salty, sour, bitter and pungent. Each flavour corresponds to a season and the season for winter is salty. Salty foods are softening and moistening. The nature of Salty is cool, it softens the hard stiff muscles, tendons and joints we may experience during winter. It is also grounding. Too much salt can slow circulation, increase water retention in the body which can cause all sorts of health issues. The key is moderation. In winter it is also beneficial to eat bitter foods which are cooling so we do not get a build-up of heat during winter from staying warm.
Salty foods to include in your diet may include fish, pork, seaweeds, salted meats and fish, eggs, beans. Dark coloured foods are considered winter foods, so foods such as eggplant, blueberries, soy sauce, shiitake mushrooms, wild rice and walnuts.
Warming spices are also great addition to the diet during winter. Cinnamon can be added to the morning porridge, drinks and soups and stews. Fats are also an ingredient not to overlook as it keeps our body warm.
Foods to nourish the Kidneys
Salty foods – seaweed, seafoods such as ocean fish, oysters, mussels and squid, miso, pork, millet and walnuts
Warming foods include anchovies, chestnuts, sweet potatoes, cinnamon, lamb, onions, garlic and ginger
Not only do we consider what foods to eat, the method of cooking is also a factor. During winter it is wise to eat soups and stews to warm the body. Longer cooking times and the warmth of the food means the body is using its energy to warm the body instead of using the energy to digest cold foods and warm the digestive tract if cold foods are being consumed. Follow nature, be in tune with it, not against it. Bone marrow soups, hearty vegetables, slow cooked meals are all great for the winter months.
Moxa is wool from the underside of the leaves of the mugwort plant. By burning moxa, the smoke and warmth that radiates have therapeutic properties. It is used extensively in China for all sorts of ailments and diseases; and for prevention of disease and longevity.
Cold in the body causes pain. The contraction of the muscles and tendons because of cold create blockage. Blockage creates pain. Moxabustion during winter is a great way to warm the body, ease pain and boost the immune system using specific acupuncture points depending on your constitution and health concerns, from arthritis to recurrent colds and flus. There are different methods of using moxa, the most common being the moxa stick that is given as a home therapy and used as directed by a Chinese medicine practitioner.
If you have an aversion to cold it is the time to use the winter months to consume warming herbs. If you are feeling cold in your bones, knees and lower back ask about the herbs to make winter a more pleasant experience.
Bone Broth recipe
Bones from Beef, chicken lamb and fish can be used. Roasting the bones can create a stronger flavour. Bones left over from cooking can also be used. Put into a large cooking pot and cover with water and a splash of vinegar or lemon juice. The vinegar will help extract the nutrients from the bone and marrow.
Add garlic, ginger, onions or leeks. Vegetables such as carrots, celery, potatoes can be added. Cooking times vary depending on the type of bones and the size of them. It you get the large beef bones have the butcher cut them into smaller pieces to reduce the cooking times. Bring the water to boil and then simmer. For Chicken bones cook between 6-12 hours and for beef 12 – 24 hours. Add hot water as necessary during the cooking process.
Chinese Herbs for soups
Chinese herbs can also be added to bone broth to increase the nourishment. From the Chinese grocer there are bags of herbs for soups already prepared for certain conditions. Or select from the list below:
yi yi ren– a diuretic, good for swelling, aches and pains
dang gui– helps build the blood
dang shen – aids digestion and activates metabolism
huang qi – boosts the immune system
gou qi zi – nourishes the eyes
shan yao – strengthens body after suffering from longer term illness, promotes muscle growth. It has been shown to help with diabetes.
qian shi – strengthens kidneys and enhances sperm production
yu zhu – great for dry skin experienced during winter.
These herbs can be found at Chinese Grocers, or at Mei Hua Chinese Medicine Clinic in the herbal dispensary.