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REST, RESTORE, REVITALIZE: Winter and Chinese Medicine
By: Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM

The ancient Chinese believed that human beings should live in harmony with the natural cycles of their environment. The cold and darkness of winter urges us to slow down. This is the time of year to reflect on our health, replenish our energy and conserve our strength.

Winter is Yin in nature; it is inactive, cold, and damp.  Remain introspective, restful, and consolidate your Qi through the season and prepare for the outburst of new life and energy in the spring.

Element: Water
Nature: Yin
Organs: Kidney, Urinary Bladder, Adrenal Glands, Ears and Hair
Emotion: Fear and Depression
Flavor: Salty

Winter is ruled by the Water element, which is associated with the kidneys, bladder and adrenal glands. According to the philosophy of Chinese medicine, the kidneys are considered the source of all energy or “Qi” within the body.  They store all of the reserve Qi in the body so that it can be used in times of stress and change, or to heal, prevent illness, and age gracefully.

During the winter months it is important to nurture and nourish our kidney Qi.  It is the time where this energy can be most easily depleted. Our bodies are instinctively expressing the fundamental principles of winter – rest, reflection, conservation and storage.  

The Nei Ching, an ancient Chinese classic, advised people to go to sleep early and rise late, after the sun's rays have warmed the atmosphere a bit. This preserves your own Yang Qi for the task of warming in the face of cold.

Eating warm hearty soups, whole grains, and roasted nuts help to warm the body’s core and to keep us nourished.  Sleep early, rest well, stay warm, and expend a minimum quantity of energy.


Staying Healthy this Winter

Seasonal Changes Affect the Body's Environment.  With the wind, rain and snow comes the colds, flu and aches and pains – Here are a few tips to staying healthy this winter.

Wash your hands – Studies have shown that one of the main reasons that we catch colds and flu in the winter season is that we are indoors and in closer vicinity to others in cold weather.  Protect yourself by washing your hands regularly and try not to touch your face.

Sleep - The Nei Ching, an ancient Chinese classic, advised people to go to sleep early and rise late, after the sun's rays have warmed the atmosphere a bit. This preserves your own Yang Qi for the task of warming in the face of cold.

No Stress - Find a release valve for your stress. According to Chinese medicine, stress, frustration, and unresolved anger can play an important part in throwing the immune system off and allowing pathogens to affect the body. Find a way to relax and release stress on a daily basis. Such methods may include yoga, meditation, biofeedback, simple relaxation therapy, or whatever method you use to release the stress and pressures of modern life.

Acupuncture for Prevention - Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can prevent colds and flu by building up the immune system with just a few needles inserted into key points along the body's energy pathways. These points are known for strengthening the circulation of blood and energy and for consolidating the outer defense layers of the skin and muscle (Wei Qi) so that germs and viruses cannot enter through them.

Seasonal acupuncture treatments just four times a year also serve to tonify the inner organ systems and can correct minor annoyances before they become serious problems. The ultra- thin needles don't hurt and are inserted just under the skin. The practitioner may twist or "stimulate" them once or twice and they are removed within ten to twenty minutes.

Acupuncture to Get Better Faster - If you've already happened to catch that cold, acupuncture and herbal medicine can also help with the chills, sniffles, sore throat or fever in a safe, non-toxic way that doesn't bombard your body with harmful antibiotics.

Acupuncture does not interfere with Western medical treatment. On the contrary, it provides a welcome complement to it in most cases, and with its emphasis on treating the whole person, recovery time for illness is often shortened.

Herbal Medicine - There is a one thousand year old Chinese herbal formula that forms a handy complement to these immune-boosting treatments and it is elegantly entitled The Jade Windscreen Formula. It is made up of just three herbs: Radix Astragalus, Atractylodis Macrocephalae, and Radix Ledebouriellae. These three powerful herbs combine together to tonify the immune system, strengthen the digestive system (so that we can be sure to gain the nutrients from our food), and fortify the exterior of the body so that we can fight off wind-borne viruses and bacteria. This handy formula which comes in pill, capsule or liquid form can be taken for a few days each month to stave off colds or flu or when there's been a challenging work-load, or perhaps some loss of sleep.
Acupuncture and Oriental medicine is an art and a science that takes years to master. Look for an acupuncturist with experience in the treatment of colds and flu on