The Winter Season, A Chinese Medicine Perspective

Originally Posted on January 12, 2010.

How can we adjust our psychic and body rhythm to suit the season? What happens within us is mirrored by the natural world around us. During the frost of winter, plants submerge their lifeblood into their roots, animals thicken their hides, and ponds harden into ice. This is a time of apparent quiescence and stasis, yet beneath the surface is the hidden activity of gestation and germination that will bring forth renewal in spring.

The Kidney is the organ system that shares the power of Winter. Just as the bear survives upon accumulated reserves, the Kidney harbors our Essence that feeds and renews our life force. It is the Kidney that supports the reproductive organs governing sexuality, as well as engendering the structural elements of the body that regulate growth and regeneration. This is dependent upon an adequate store of Essence, which gives rise to the marrow, which produces the brain, spinal cord, bones, teeth, blood, and hair. Whereas Kidney Yin controls the juicy Essence, Kidney Yang kindles metabolic process. All the other organs depend upon the Kidney for moistening and regeneration (Yin), and for animation and warmth (Yang).

The Kidney is vulnerable to damage by exposure to physical cold–cold weather or air conditioning and by the ingestion of iced or refrigerated foods and beverages. Kidney Yin is subject to damage by chemical agents, such as antibiotics, food additives, air pollutants, and recreational drugs. Inadequate intake of water and too much bitter, salty, or spicy foods may also be harmful. Likewise, too little sleep, excessive exercise, sexual activity, or work undermines the Kidney.

Black beans or aduki beans cooked with marrow-filled bones, along with roasted peanuts, garlic, ginger, walnuts, and butter are warming and nourishing foods for winter. This is the time to rest, accumulate reserves, and take stock, reflecting upon how our lives match what we envision for ourselves as we attempt to close the gap between what we imagine and what we see.

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