ACH Blog

Chinese Medicine in Winter

Isobel Cosgrove - Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Since ancient times Chinese doctors have understood that our health and energy (Chi) are closely linked to the cycles of the seasons. Winter is an important time of year from this perspective. The rain which falls in the coldest months does not evaporate as in Summer but collects underground, providing vital water supplies for the rest of the year. In the Su Wen (the ancient Chinese medical text which underpins modern Chinese medicine) there is a parallel between this natural process and our health.

“The three months of Winter are the period in which everything is closed and stored. Water freezes and the earth cracks ... It is desirable to go to bed early and get up late to await the arrival of sunlight. In the Winter one should avoid cold, keep warm and refrain from perspiring so that the Yang energy is not attacked by cold energy. This is known as nourishing life in response to the energy of Winter. To act to the contrary will injure the kidneys and one will suffer weakened limbs in the Spring.”

We are advised to nourish and conserve our reservoirs of energy, avoid over-stimulation and rest more to adapt our lifestyle to the season. Particular herbal tonics can be taken alongside acupuncture treatments if symptoms get worse during this time of year. The Su Wen highlights another point relevant today; if we ignore the the need to change our lifestyle in Winter and continue to over-work, the effects are felt in Spring.

“If one is invaded by Cold in Winter, but the pathogenic factor causes no symptoms, the Cold hides in the Interior, turns into Heat and emerges in Springtime to cause a Warm disease.”  Giovanni Maciocia tells us ‘This is the pathology of many cases of ... M.E; a pathogenic factor invades the body ‘silently’, it incubates in the Interior, transforming into Heat and later emerging as Latent Heat. The main cause of the body’s failure to react to the initial invasion is a kidney deficiency for which a failure to conserve one’s essence in the Wintertime is usually at least partly responsible.’

Our experience spans over 20 years in practice and during this time we have treated a lot of chronic fatigue (ME) symptoms. There is confusion as to why the symptoms are so persistant and difficult to treat. Their appearance should be viewed in the context of long term exhaustion and invasion of a pathogen which the body cannot fight because of underlying exhaustion. Recurrent throat inflammation, sinus or chest infections, cystitis and other general immune deficiency problems are also indications of underlying kidney deficiency in Winter and early Spring.

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