If you’re not sure which TCM we’re talking about—well, I don’t want to disappoint you, but we’re not talking Turner Classic Movies, or Time CompressionMultiplexing, or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We’re talking Traditional ChineseMedicine, my movie-buff, time-traveling, power-tool wielding friend!
Does TCM sound too alternative for you, though? Maybe you just need to listen to more French horn rock bands. Or maybe you just haven’t heard how much modern medicine started as ‘alternative’ medicine.
TCM maintains that a healthy body requires a delicate balance of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’—or yang and yin. If you want to be more modern and scientific about it—a body needs a proper balance of modern-named things like cholesterol, glucose, and insulin, just to name a few. Too much or too little of these things can lead to heart disease or diabetes.
So all those thousands of years ago, whoever started TCM was ahead of his time, and might still be ahead of his time. Some cures, modern medicine still can’t explain.
Until they do kill all the magic and deliver the scientific, chemical, processed common-cold-cure to your pharmacy, you should try the all-natural TCM. It just might hold the ancient Chinese secret which keeps you from turning into a snotty, sneezing, hacking piece of human tissue paper this winter.
Winter is the season of retreat and rest when the yin (night, cold) is now dominant and yang (day, hot) energy moves inward. Here’s how to manage the energy flow properly.
‘Warm’ foods—like cabbage, carrots, red beans, potatoes, cereals, walnuts, and chestnuts—help nourish the yang and drive out the excess cold energy.
One glass of good quality wine or a toot of whiskey each day after the evening meal can help get the qi flowing, too. Just a bit, though—wouldn’t want to get too hot….and bothered.
Battling the cold
Aspirin and typical sources of vitamin C are both considered to cool the body and slow digestion, so during winter, you should look for alternatives.
There are plenty of ‘warm’ painkilling alternatives to aspirin, especially certain liquid ones that you also shouldn’t drink in excess.
As for vitamin C, just eat ‘warmer’ sources such as pumpkin soup or ‘warm’ fruit compotes of lemon, coconut, ginger, cherries, or raspberries.
The organs of winter
In our lives, the health of our kidneys can be seen in our hair and experienced through our sense of hearing. Hair loss, premature graying or split ends all signal that your kidneys could do with a boost.
Bone marrow is linked with the kidneys as are problems with the knees, lower back, and teeth. Many ear problems can be linked to the kidneys and the health of our kidneys directly impacts on reproduction and sex drive. So taking care of your kidneys is really important!
Deficient kidney yin and blood
Winter is the season of regeneration and repair, so it is the perfect time to tone the yin. A general yin deficiency, which is akin to not enough fluids in the body to balance the yang activity or bodily functions, shows up as a reddish tongue, often with a line or crack down the center.
Other symptoms of general yin deficiency include hypoglycemia, diabetes, a tendency to thinness, dryness, insomnia, irritability, worry, excess thoughts and night sweats.
In winter, foods that build up your yin to nourish and strengthen the blood include pumpkin, beetroot, pork, rice, longan, lotus root, kidney beans, coconut milk, and chestnuts.
So, what to eat in winter?
In winter we need to eat foods to create warmth, support the kidney yin and yang, and encourage the energy down and in. We also need to eat foods that benefit the heart and Shen (spirit), guarding against the winter doldrums. Finally, let’s not forget the winter specialties, congee (porridge) and liqueurs.
Eat warming food in winter (probably exactly what you feel like!). That means lots of soups and stews, or make sure to use nourishing ingredients to use include anchovies, bay leaves, chestnuts, chicken, coriander, fennel, leek, mussels, mutton, nutmeg, pine nuts, rosemary, spring onions, sweet potatoes, and walnuts.
The way you prepare food can also help to reduce the ‘cooling’ effect of certain ingredients – stewing and slow cooking are particularly effective for this. A good example of this is frying tofu, which warms up this ‘cold’ food and makes it suitable for heating in winter.
Special winter foods
Adzuki beans – remove damp and ease swelling – 赤小豆
Celery – calms the liver and treats high blood pressure － 芹菜
Chestnut – strengthens kidneys, lower back, and knees － 栗子
Fennel – eases flatulence and removes clotting during menstruation － 小茴香
Kidney – strengthens kidneys and helps with lower back pain and sexual problems－ 肾脏
Leek – warms the body and counteracts diarrhea － 大葱
Liver – nourishes blood and treats Liver deficiency － 肝脏
Pine nuts – build the yin of the heart and lungs － 松子
Sesame seeds – moisten the intestines and treats arthritis － 芝麻
Spinach – acts as a sedative and eases burping and acid reflux － 菠菜