How can Chinese Medicine help us stay healthy during the Winter ?

Brrrr. It’s chilly outside!  Time for a cup of cocoa, warm slippers and a crackling fire.  As our environment becomes increasingly cold, we naturally move into a period of hibernation and quiet activity.


Snow and ice blanket the ground.


Days become shorter and darker.


We take refuge in our warm homes and celebrate with traditional warming food and drink with our friends and family.

 So what does this have to do with acupuncture and Chinese medicine? 

 Chinese medicine believes that human beings are subject to the same cycles that occur in nature; essentially our outward environment affects and reflects our inward environment. 

 Take for example a hot, sweaty day.   What kind of food would you be hungry for?  Hot days call for us to eat more watery foods to replace fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat.  Watermelon is one such food.  It physically cools us down and help us to rehydrate.  No wonder it tastes so good during the summer.

 But winter is different!  It is natural and healthy to want to keep warm and do quiet activities like sit in front of a fire or read a good book when it is cold outside.  Slow-cooked, warming food and drink like soup flavored with ginger, garlic and black pepper or a mug of sweet and spicy chai are healthy choices that feed our bodies well during the cold months.


Organ        Season       Color         Taste    Emotion   Sensory Organ

 Kidneys      Winter       Black/Dark   Salty     Fear          Ears


In Chinese medicine each internal organ is associated with a season, color, taste, emotion and sensory organ.  These are clues as to how to keep healthy and energized during this time of year.  So let’s follow these clues and see where they lead us.

Chinese medicine regards the KIDNEYS as one of the most important organs. In Chinese thought they are the batteries of our bodies and store our genetic material inherited from our parents.  If the kidneys are weak our body may experience lack of energy, low back, knee, ankle or heel pain, tired legs, poor memory, frequent urination especially at night, early greying of hair, early menopause, impotence, or developmental problems for children such as delayed walking or speech. In certain cases patients may a salty taste in the mouth. This is the body’s way of signaling a possible kidney deficiency or disorder.  It goes without saying that it is vitally important to treat our Kidneys well!

The color of winter is BLACK.  This means loading up on dark colored foods like black beans, black mushrooms, black sesame seeds, black olives, and figs can deeply nourish and energize us during the wintertime.  When we eat well during one season, we strengthen our internal organs and increase our body’s health in the upcoming season.  In this way Chinese medicine is always looking ahead; how you treat and nourish yourself this winter has direct implications for how you will feel during the spring.

And then there’s the SALTY flavor.   Seaweed, soy sauce, miso, pickles, barley, prawns,  lamb, oyster, walnuts, and chestnuts are salty foods that can nourish the Kidneys.


It should be noted that too much salt harms the Kidneys.  As with everything there exists a healthy balance.  The above foods naturally taste salty and do not need additional salt added to them.


Want to learn more?  Grab your black beans and join me, Leah Fifield, L.Ac. for a fun and informative discussion about Chinese Food Therapy for the Winter on Wednesday, December 14th from 7-8:30pm at NE Community Acupuncture and Wellness Center, next to Sweat NE.   Hope to see you there!

Noah Frohlich