Staying Healthy This Winter With Chinese Medicine

Winter can be a hard season, with short gray days, long nights and bad weather but it is also a time of persistence and clarity and a time for storage, contemplation & assessment. However, there are natural excesses to each climate and season and these can weak our defenses, like wind and cold in the winter. Illnesses tend to be more prevalent during this season. In early winter the temperature is starting to drop and we are attacked by the common cold. By mid-winter it is very cold and windy and the indoor heating is on full blast. This dry climate, mixed with the battle of rampant colds, gives way to further illnesses of flu and bronchitis.

The lungs are the roof of all the internal organs and keep in touch with the outer world through our breath. Thus they are the most vulnerable against external pathogens. The lungs must stay calm moist and cool and can be damaged and weakened by smoke, particle matter, fumes, grief and wind-cold or wind-dry. Internal pathogens also affect the lungs, showing up as a dry cough after a cold or excess phlegm causing asthma. The lungs are like a sponge, they must not be too dry or too wet and neither too hot nor too cold – balance is key here.

One of the great natural Chinese medicine remedies during winter is hot tea with added ginger. Use licorice or honey to sweeten the tea if needed. Other good spices for tea include fennel, cinnamon and clove. Pears are naturally protective and restorative for the lungs. Conveniently, there is an abundance of them in the autumn. They are naturally moistening and cooling. It is very important to get fluids into when you are sick and water is taken much easier when it has some flavor so mix in a little pear juice to help drink it down. Or try them cooked and mashed with a little cinnamon and honey.

Chicken broth is excellent for tonification of qi, blood and the internal organs. The organs and essential substances of the body are strengthened which increases resistance to disease and boosts immunity. Add some Chinese herbs like Astragalus / Huang Qi or White Ginseng / Ren Shen to further enhance the effect of the soup.

And finally, to anticipate an over-indulgence of food during the holiday season and avoid weight gain, fast for one day between the end of November and Christmas, and again between Christmas and New Year's. And do not forget, how we eat is as important as what we eat – try not to gobble your food but relish and enjoy and appreciate it.