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Staying Healthy in Winter with TCM

“Winter is the season for hibernation… It’s time to keep warm, to store and conserve energy. Avoid indulgence or strenuous exercise.Go to bed early, when the sun sets, and wake up late, only when the daylight peeks out over the horizon. If your mind and heart are troubled, hold the situation close, and keep from […]

01·15·2010

Staying Healthy in Winter with TCM

“Winter is the season for hibernation… It’s time to keep warm, to store and conserve energy. Avoid indulgence or strenuous exercise.Go to bed early, when the sun sets, and wake up late, only when the daylight peeks out over the horizon. If your mind and heart are troubled, hold the situation close, and keep from […]

01·15·2010

“Winter is the season for hibernation… It’s time to keep warm, to store and conserve energy. Avoid indulgence or strenuous exercise.Go to bed early, when the sun sets, and wake up late, only when the daylight peeks out over the horizon. If your mind and heart are troubled, hold the situation close, and keep from taking too quick of an action. This is the way of the Dao.”

《黄帝内经》, Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine

How do I keep healthy during the coldest season of the year?

Stay warm, and make sure you get enough sleep. The Yellow Emperor wrote the bible of TCM somewhere between two and three thousand years ago, and explicitly warns: “Be well rested in winter.” Refrain from over-stimulating your mind, or over-spending your body. Don’t run a triathlon, or open a new business, or date ive different people. Really, I’d recommend you wait for spring for all of these undertakings.

What do I eat?

Anyone who knows me knows I love eating. Especially when the cold arrives. Winter is the right time for large gatherings and family-style meals. You should focus on eating locally-grown, seasonal foods, and, because of the cold weather, warm herbs and seasoning. Avoid cold salads, raw food (sorry, sushi fanatics!), cold beer, or anything too spicy.

Specifically, try and stick to:

Vegetables: Anything seasonal will work perfectly, but carrots, zucchinis, squash, pumpkins, leeks, and turnips are great.

Meat: Any meat will go down well this season, although beef and lamb will keep you warmer.

Seasoning and Herbs: Garlic, shallots, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper.

Cooking Method: Braising, brewing, stir-frying and stewing.

My standard wintry day’s menu, for well-rounded TCM health, looks something like this:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with dried fruit, plus an egg to really round it out.

Lunch: Soup and bread, or a steaming bowl of beef noodles.

Dinner: Chinese dishes with rice are always nice, or a bowl of stewed beef with a generous helping of carrots.

But, most importantly, keep warm! If you fail to follow these guidelines, the Yellow Emperor makes his warning perfectly clear. “You might feel the coldness seeping into the bones, and the lower limbs heavy and fatigue.” And who needs that?

Frances Ren Huang is a Beijing-based TCM consultant and yoga teacher, with a master’s in clinical acupuncture. For more information, you can reach her at healingwithfrances@gmail.com.