Energetically, winter is the season of rest– Energy moves inwards. Thoughts move inward. It is the season of introspection and reflection. It is the season of reconnection with Self. Wondering how does all this dice out?
Well, depending on what season it is, our energy changes. How our energy changes can wear a body out or not. There are teas one can indulge in that will keep your energy highs and lows perfectly aligned with the natural world.
Yin qi is at its maximum and yang qi is subdued. Winter is a time of gentle celebration where nutritious and warming foods and family connection are promoted. It is also a good time for light physical exercises such as walking or biking, but on stormy or windy days, it is important to rug up properly or to stay indoors when possible. The cold that surrounds us at this time of year can easily seep into our bodies and lower our immunity. Cold and wind can combine easily and lead to susceptibility to flu symptoms.
Wind is considered to be the ‘spearhead of disease’, ‘piercing holes’ in the immune system and diverting the body’s resources away from immunity and protection from disease as it struggles to keep warm.
Wind can drive external pathogens into the body but seldom attacks without an accomplice. For example, wind-heat, wind-cold and wind-damp are the most common types of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) diagnosis of cold and flu.
Just because it is cold outside does not mean that you will only catch wind-cold in winter. Chinese medicine diagnosis and treatment is based on analyzing the presenting signs and symptoms and categorizing them according to the ‘pattern’ that this fits.
An important point highlighted here is how Western medicine differs from TCM, in that bio-medicine generally seeks to treat isolated symptoms (such as drying up a runny nose with pseudoephedrine) regardless of the underlying constitution or condition of the patient.
Chinese Medicine, on the other hand, will categorize and treat the ‘same disease’ (a cold, or the flu) a number of different ways, depending on individual presenting factors. In other words, Western bio-medicine tends to be more ‘disease/symptom-oriented’ while Chinese Medicine is “person/pattern-oriented’.
To give you an example: in Chinese medicine, two patients might both have ‘cold and flu’, but while one has symptoms of higher fever, sore throat, nasal congestion (wind-heat), the other is experiencing strong chills, body/neck ache and clear runny nasal discharge (wind-cold).
The TCM treatment required for each of them is very different, and so rather than prescribing them both a generic ‘cold and flu medicine’ that may work for one, but not the other, TCM treatment is tailored according to detailed differential diagnoses to better meet the needs of each of them.
While both need to have the ‘wind’ aspect treated, the first person’s treatment might be focused on clearing heat while the second would be concerned with warming and driving out cold. The key in TCM is in understand the presenting symptoms and patterns, and the aim of treatment is to restore harmony and support the body’s internal environment so that the virus can no longer survive.
Based on the type of ‘evil’ causing the cold and flu symptoms, a TCM practitioner can recommend the correct raw or prepared herbs. For example, wind-heat colds and flu can be treated with honeysuckle and forsythia powder (yin qiao san), which is available in tablet and soluble granule form from most pharmacies in China.
Tea remedies for wind-heat might include mint, chrysanthemum or mulberry leaf teas that both encourage diaphoresis (sweating) and cool the body. For wind-cold types, try raw ginger, cinnamon twigs, schizonepeta (jing jie) or magnolia flowers.