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A Chinese Medicine Take on Winter

winter

Winter is now fully upon us! Have you ever wondered why you feel more sluggish and want to stay in bed all day during this time? 

Winter is the time where your body goes into a state of storage to prepare for the start of the next season (Spring – a season of growth and fresh starts). Winter is a season of rest and preservation, to meditate deeply and to store physical energy (in the form of a little extra weight – but not too much!). It is also a time where you should warm & strengthen the body to protect it against the cold. 

Coldness comes hand in hand with Winter and is often associated with lack of movement. This lack of movement creates stagnation in the body and eventually pain. There is a Chinese Medicine saying that goes “when there is no movement there is pain”. Let’s take a deeper look into what Chinese Medicine encourages during the month of Winter to preserve health. A classical Chinese Medicine textbook called The Huangdi Neijing (黄帝内经) states that Winter is a month of concealment, where water turns into ice and the frozen earth cracks. Further, sleep early and do not rise until the day breaks. It goes on to say that we should avoid the cold, seek warm places but do not sweat, and to nurture the reserves of the body. This book was written in approx. 206 BCE–220 CE – how amazing is that! 

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, each of the four seasons require a small adjustment to our lifestyle and our health. During winter, many animals are in hibernation. Humans do not hibernate and need other ways to face Winter. 

Top tips for this winter season: 

  • Get plenty of rest: Slow down and conserve energy to support your immune system. 
  • Acupuncture: During Winter, I see more people presenting with headaches and joint pains. To treat this type of pain, I will often use Acupuncture, Moxibustion, some form of topical heat application (herbal liniment), increase movement in the body through joint mobilization, and massage. A heat pack applied to the painful area and exercises such as Qi Gong or Tai Chi is highly recommended.  
  • Exercise: Although Winter is a time of rest, it is also important to stay active enough to keep the spine and joints warm. Some options I recommend are stretching, yoga, tai chi and qi gong. 
  • Diet: Decrease salty food and increase bitter food intake, as well as foods that are generally warm in temperature. This is because Winter is associated with the kidneys, which in turn is affected by salty flavours. Increase your intake of warm soups and stews and keep the meals regular. Porridge with added walnuts, goji berries and black sesame, congee or warm rice porridge are great breakfast options, adding fresh ginger in a chicken or clear broth soup is fantastic for dinner. 
  • Tea ideas: Cinnamon and dried ginger, oolong tea, black leaf, and pu erh tea. 
  • Lifestyle: Sleep early and wake up later, and do not expose the body to cold or wind. 

So, are you ready to preserve your health during Winter?

Brandon is an Acupuncturist at Health Space Hornsby and has special interest in pain, insomnia, headaches, and mental health. He employs a range of techniques and targets the root of the problem with every client. His approach is evidence-based to maintain high-quality outcomes. 

Brandon is available on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at Hornsby. Book at healthspaceclinics.com.au 

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