Happy healthy New Year to you! I hope your holidays were both relaxing and rejuvenating. Welcome to the second in a series of newsletters centered around health insights, tips and on staying on an optimal path of health & wellness, from a Chinese Medicine perspective.
Winter is the element of Water.
This certainly rings very true for Vancouverites and Canadians as Winter is the season of rain or snow, depending where you live. However, some may wonder (as I did on a recent trip to Asia), how tropical environments experience the element of Water, or if they have Winter. In fact, they do have Winter, because they have a Water season – their rainy season. Thus, everywhere the world experience the Water element.
Water represents the Qi energy at its most essential and consolidated state, like seeds of a plant. Water can appear to be dormant, but is full of power. It is considered a phase of growth and fertility. Thus Water is the life force in its most primal condition, before it is channelled and put to use. Water is related to the organ of the Kidneys, and its paired organ, the Urinary Bladder. From a physiological perspective in both Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), one of the functions of the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder, is regulation of fluids. In this season, water, moisture, dampness, etc, is predominant and necessary in the cycle of life. We need proper nourishment of Water to have a balanced homeostatic environment in our body, much like a garden needs just the right amount of water. This does not mean drinking a lot of water is essential, for like in a garden, too much water just runs right through! It’s always about the right balance.
In TCM, the Kidneys store the Essence, or the genetic foundation of an individual. It is responsible for growth, reproduction, development, marrow, spinal cord and brain tissue. Essence is responsible for our constitutional strength and immunity. It is from Essence that the Kidneys produce Original Qi. Qi, in a general way of saying, is the vital energy of our body. The Original Qi is a catalyst for all bodily activity, and all subsequent varieties of Qi formation, and is one reason why the Kidneys are called the root of Yin and Yang. Since the natural abundant Water energy of Winter has an affinity to the Kidney energy system, Winter is thus an optimal time to renourish the Essence, which is related to the Yin (body fluid, moisture, saliva, spittle, sweat, water) part of our body, and it is also an optimal time to strengthen the Kidneys, which is the root of our body, and thus strengthen our core immunity.
The Kidneys are also in charge of the hair on our head, the sense organ of the ears, and is the “commander” of our lower back. As we age, and our Essence gets depleted, and we see this depletion in our body with signs such as hair loss, greying of the hair, hearing loss and low back aches, pains or weakness. With Essence being a substance, it relates to Yin functioning, and relies on fluid balance. If one has fluid deficiencies (Yin deficiency in TCM), Winter is an optimal time to seek treatment, since at this time there is an abundance of the energy of Water, Yin, and renourishing, rather than the season of Summer Fire, which dries up the Yin. If your problems go a way in the Winter, this is a possible sign that you need the energy of this time ‘ Water ‘ Yin ‘ Kidney energy system (includes the meridians, paired organ, tissues, emotions, etc). Often these individuals are on the dry or hot end of the spectrum, with such signs as abnormal sweating (at night for example), thirsty, dry mouth, hot body, etc. Foods that nourish the moisture (Yin) of our body are good to help this, at this time of year. For example, pears, apples, honey, tofu, soybean. On the opposite end of the scale, one may find Winter and Water worsens their condition. In this case, the energy of Water, moisture, dampness, is overabundant, or our body is either too weak to process it, or lacks enough Yang energy (warmth, activity, movement, generation, hot, energy) to counteract and balance the cold Yin. These people feel cold often or easily, might have swelling problems, and may feel heavy. For this, it is helpful to have warming foods and spices to warm up our body. Like having a warm cup of chicken soup coming in from the cold – chicken in TCM has an action of warming, and thus the natural affinity to have chicken soup when cold makes sense. Other warming foods are pork, garlic, onions, and cinnamon.
Water from a psychological and emotional perspective is linked to the emotion of fear and the psyche of The Will. On the one hand, people with fears or phobias, or lack of will, may have an imbalanced Kidney energy system. An over abundance of fear, can weaken the Kidney energy system by over agitating the system, and eventually leads to weaknesses in the system. Or the reverse happens, and a weak Kidney energy system leads to a person being more fearful, and loss of the Will. In Western Medicine, the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the Kidneys, are of central importance in initiating physiological reactions in response to fear and stress, by initiating the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Furthermore, fear, or also stress over time, continually triggers the immune-suppressing responses of the SNS, which then suppresses the normal functioning of the body’s’ organs and systems. On the other end of the spectrum, instead of a weakness, one may be instead a workaholic, and have an excessive Will or excessive fear of failure. Many times these individuals suffer from nervous burnout.
If you enjoy using aromatherapy at home, for the Water energy, use essential oils such as Geranium to calm, and Juniper berry, Cedarwood or Thyme to stimulate. However, be sure to use good quality, 100% natural oils, as the synthetic, chemical and adulterated oils can cause reactions, and there are many essential oils out on the market that are of poor quality. If you are unsure of the quality of your essential oil, please send me and email or give me a call, and I would be happy to advise you.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this brief insight on the season of Winter, element of Water, and the Kidney energy system. If there is any particular topic you would like me to address and answer, please feel free to email me, and I will make sure to cover it at some point in one of the newsletters.
Health and happiness to you in 2007,