For many of us, winter is synonymous with colds and, if you’re really unlucky, the flu. Let ancient Chinese remedies change that for good.
For many of us, winter is synonymous with colds and, if you’re really unlucky, the flu. Being in close confinement with coughing fellow commuters and colleagues letting out sneezes left, right and centre can leave you exposed to a host of viruses that never seem to strike in the summer.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it’s vital to keep your kidneys happy, says expert practitioner Akcelina Cvijetic. “We associate winter with the water element, the partner organs of which are the kidneys and bladder. In TCM, the kidneys are the main source of energy (qi), and low kidney qi leads to all kinds of symptoms like fatigue, stiffness in the body, weak legs and knees, bone pain, low back ache and cold extremities,” she says. “Keeping these organs warm by wearing a scarf around the waist, holding a hot water bottle or having a ginger foot bath can really help improve energy levels and inner heat, plus alleviate the abovementioned ailments.”
According to the ancient wisdom of this medicine system, different foods possess four different energies: cold, neutral, warm and hot.Raw foods, dairy, gluten and processed foods all have cold energy, and are best avoided at this time of year. “They can contribute to you feeling chilled, mucus production, congestion showing up as runny nose, colds, earache and respiratory problems and fatigue,” says Akcelina.
All refrigerated drinks are cooling on our system so are best avoided; replace with room temperature, or even better, heated versions. “Wonderfully warming and delicious tea choices include ginger, cinnamon bark and clove tea,” she explains. “Boil these spices individually or collectively for 20 minutes and enjoy a soothing and immune-boosting cuppa.”
Foods to eat
“In winter, we need to eat things which are warming, nourishing and supportive of the kidney and bladder energy,” says Akcelina. Some good choices include:
Root vegetables, beans and lentils in the form of soups and stews
Organic free-range chicken, grass-fed lamb and wild salmon
Ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, miso, garlic and onions are especially good for fighting colds and coldness in general
Other delicious foods to have, include roasted or cooked chestnuts, leek and broccoli soup, warm beetroot and butternut squash salad, buckwheat porridge with acai berries and mixed seeds and homemade cinnamon rice pudding
Foods to avoid
Cold/refrigerated foods and beverages
Dairy and gluten products
Any processed, sugary foods and caffeinated drinks
Winter wellness is all about nourishing and nurturing your mind, body and spirit in Chinese medicine. “It is a season for conserving energy, keeping warm and wellnourished,” says Akcelina. “Just like plants preserve their essence inwards until the spring, we too need to economise on our energy expenditure. We need to preserve our strength, and so strenuous exercise is not advisable. Tai chi and qi gong are the activities we recommend, as well as walking and light jogging.”
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