As winter approaches, traditional Chinese medicine offers us some valuable tips for staying healthy during this time of year.

The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine says: “During the winter months, all things in nature wither, hide, return home, and enter a resting period, just as lakes and rivers freeze and snow falls.  This is a time when yin dominates yang.  Therefore one should refrain from overusing the yang energy.  Retire early and get up with the sunrise, which is later in winter.  Desires and mental activity should be kept quiet and subdued.  Sexual desires especially should be contained, as if keeping a happy secret.  Stay warm, avoid the cold, and keep the pores closed.  Avoid sweating.  The philosophy of the winter season is one of conservation and storage.”

Traditional Chinese medicine honors the notion that we are human beings living on earth, and thus our habits should change with the seasons just as all other aspects of nature.  By focusing on conserving our energy and keeping warm throughout the winter, we will be energized and prepared for the spring and summer.  It’s natural to want to rest more during the winter, and it’s healthy to do so.

Dress in layers and keep your body warm.

It is beneficial to consume mostly cooked foods (80-100%) throughout winter.  Try to incorporate cooking methods of soups, stews, roasting, slow cooker, baking, sautéing and pan frying.Eating warm and slowly cooked food warms the digestive system and improves digestive function, thereby improving blood circulation so that you can more easily tolerate the cold weather and stay warm during the winter.

For those who are easily chilled/feel cold often, frequently consuming spices (in foods or teas) is beneficial.  Examples include ginger, cinnamon, garlic, basil, oregano, caraway, cloves, fennel, mustard, rosemary, sage, thyme and turmeric.

As far as exercise is concerned, strengthening exercises and less vigorous exercises such as yoga, weight training, Pilates, tai chi and walking are good choices.  Save your intense, sweaty cardio workouts for spring and summer.

Justine Myers, Lic. Ac.


The above exerpt comes from the book The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine: The Essential Text of Chinese Health and Healing, a new translation of the Neijing Suwen with Commentary by Maoshing Ni, PhD.