The longest night is now behind us with the passing of Winter Solstice, and the days will slowly become brighter. Now that winter has officially arrived, we can start to treat our bodies and minds with the Chinese Medicine knowledge that has been around and practiced by many for years.

This is the season where we are told to meditate more, sleep in when possible, and take care of our fatigued bodies. This is what we call the Yin (cold, dark, slow )time of year, as opposed to Summer's Yang (warm, bright, energetic). Winter here is definitely Yin, with the cold, dampness, and dark days (unless you are in Australia...). It is the time we eat a little more, sleep a little more, and nourish our bodies for the coming spring.

Chinese medicine is a great way to keep your body cold and flu-free. Practitioners often use moxibustion this time of the year for its power to keep dampness (which is that heavy sensation we may feel in our bodies, along with a lack of energy). Moxibustion is a powerful tool, and it keeps cold out of the body (this is especially a problem here in the Northwest). Acupuncture points are chosen to keep the immune system in check, and also to keep your energy at a balanced level.

Speaking of energy, you may notice that you don't have the same amount of "get-up" you do in the summer, which is a good thing. Not that you should be feeling lethargic, but life is a little slower in the winter- take your cues from nature. The ground is cold, animals are hibernating- life is building up to slowly burst forth in the spring. Not that we have the luxury of taking a few months off to sleep as the animals do, but our general nature should slow down.

Acupuncture practitioner Diane Joswick, MSOM, wrote this great excerpt on the acufinder site (I think it embodies a great deal of the TCM philosophy):

"Winter is ruled by the water element, which is associated with the kidneys, bladder, and adrenal glands. According to the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine, the kidneys are considered the source of all energy (Qi) within the body. They store all of the reserve Qi in the body so that it can be used in times of stress and change, or to heal, prevent illness, and age gracefully. During the winter months it is important to nurture and nourish our kidney Qi. It is the time where this energy can be most easily depleted. Our bodies are instinctively expressing the fundamental principles of winter — rest, reflection, conservation, and storage."

A few thoughts on making the most of food during the winter:

-Time to stop drinking iced teas and coffees- go for the warm versions of these (I recommend a nice herbal tea, as coffee increases dampness in the body). -Choose warm and nourishing soups and stews over cold summer salads. Be sure to choose good quality meat and fish for these meals- know where your ingredients come from. -Eat more root vegetables, such as potatoes and yams. They are a great base for soups and stews. -Make your own food instead of eating out- it will warm your house as well as your heart. Use a slow cooker to simmer nourishing meals for yourself and those you love.

Happy Wintering!