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This New Year, Keep Your Mind and Body Relaxed with Traditional Chinese Medicine

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As the old year slowly closes, the coming New Year is an ideal time to set new objectives, become more introspective, and nourish one’s entire mind and body, based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The philosophy in which TCM is rooted on espouses the idea that people should live in harmony with nature and so this means that during winter, we should slow down, keep ourselves well-rested and warm, and deeply nourish ourselves in order to revitalize for the incoming year. As nature hibernates and slows down during winter, the process of regeneration and new growth in the springtime has already internally started.


Based on the tenets of TCM, winter is related to the element of water and affects the health of the teeth, bone marrow and bones, adrenal glands, bladder, and kidneys. The kidneys, in TCM, are the main wellspring of heat, energy, vitality, and vital essence. From this wellspring, energy is drawn when the body requires healing or during times of anxiety and stress. In the frigid cold of winter, maintaining the health of the adrenal glands and the kidneys is critically important. This is done with good hydration, appropriate supplementation and diet, and through energetic programs such as Tai Chi and yoga that keep you well-nourished and your core warm.


The time for retrospection is ideally done during the winter season. This is an excellent opportunity for exploring profound issues, and a time for meditation and reflection. If we are to do this properly, we need to slow down. The fact is, we are often so busy that there’s no time for us to be aware how neurotic our deeds and thoughts really are. We might be shocked at knowing how full and fast we actually live our lives when we start to slow down through relaxation, meditation, or by simply taking some time off. Winter can give us a wonderful opportunity for deep introspection and internal insight only if we can take the time to truly slow down and relax. These processes can naturally give rise to “stuff” that has been stuck below the surface of our banal activities; patterns, thoughts, or issues we may have been holding off due to our ongoing busy lives. One allows these issues to occur, unravel, and slip away as the mind calms down through proper breathing practices and simple meditation techniques. Permitting these processes to unfold during winter time can produce a much better outcome than the peeling process that we undergo during springtime and fall cleanse. The final outcome can be the same although different patterns, emotions, and organ systems this time may be involved. This kind of heart/mind therapy is a key part of real integrative health and winter is the most ideal time to experience the holistic benefits of meditation.

Nourishing and Warming Foods

People tend to exercise less during the winter season. They also have an increased desire for calorie-packed comfort foods and remain sedentary during this time of the year. However, in winter, in order to avoid unwanted weight gain, it’s important to carefully choose the kind and amount of food you eat. It is also important, in TCM, to not eat a lot of raw foods during winter because they tend to cool the body, and our digestive “fire,” which is the capacity to digest food efficiently, can be depleted. The best foods to eat during winter are warming foods that have been cooked at lower temperature and cooked longer with less water. These foods can include root vegetables, stews and soups, seaweeds, whole grains, black sesame seeds, walnuts, black beans, kidney beans, and lots of dark leafy greens. They help conserve energy, keep you warm, nourish the body, raise the emotions, and strengthen the kidneys.


During the winter, nutrients and botanicals that boost immune health are ideal complements for surviving the flu and cold season. These can include vitamin D3, zinc, vitamin C, and high quality medicinal mushrooms which possess powerful immune modulating qualities. Other potent supplements for immune health include a Tibetan Herbal Formula with more than 30 years of medical research and Modified Citrus Pectin. Magnolia bark extract (Purified Honokiol), which can raise the mood support. For optimal nourishment, a comprehensive digestive formula that can support nutrient absorption and digestive strength is highly advised. TCM practitioners also recommend tonifying root herbs during winter due to their strengthening, grounding, and warming properties.


Winter, in TCM, is damp, cold, and inactive, which lead to feelings of depression and fear that tend to be strong during this season. A lot of people are diagnosed with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), a Western medicine condition. This specific type of anxiety/ depression problem happens during the darker months mainly because of lack of sunshine exposure. SAD affects women more than men and it leads to fatigue, weight gain from overeating, irritability, lack of energy, and poor mood. To enhance blood flow and circulation, practitioners recommend Vitamin D3 supplementation as well as taking brisk walks (in the sunshine, if possible) and opening your curtains during daytime to allow any sunlight to come in. Meditating during winter can help calm the heart and mind which can be extremely valuable during this time of year.

Healing Practices

As the cold weather challenges the immune system during winter, people are more prone to the flu and colds. In TCM, the primary modes of treatment for these are moxibustion, acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, dietary therapy, and Qi gong. Moxibustion is a process where a moxa herb is burnt around selected acupuncture points. All of these modalities are extremely helpful during winter, as they tend to remove energy stagnation caused by the cold weather and a lack of activity. TCM healers may also recommend lots of resting during winter. This helps in restoring vital energy and replenishing the kidneys. Early sleeping and rising from bed after the rise of the sun can help preserve your vitality and warmth.

Innate connection to nature is reflected in Traditional Chinese Medicine with each season providing chances for growth, healing, and transformation. Winter gives us an opportunity for nourishment and deeper introspection. This helps our seeds and intentions to internally grow before blossoming in the springtime. Hence, during these profound months of stillness, give yourself time to meditate, rest, slow down, and stay nourished, hydrated, and warm.

Danielle DeVivio is a licensed acupuncturist in Saratoga Springs, NY and the founder of Phoenix Rising Acupuncture & Herbal Clinic.

Written by Valerie

January 24th, 2017 at 4:46 am

Posted in Acupuncture