Seasonal Healing: Winter and Traditional Chinese Medicine
Winter. This is the time for us to rest and replenish.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers practical advice for
adjusting to seasonal changes. One of the basic concepts in TCM is
the 5 Element Theory of correspondences. Each element has an
associated season, emotion, taste, organ...
The Season of Winter is associated with the element Water. The
emotional aspect is Fear. The predominant taste is Salty. The
associated and most effected organ in Winter are the Kidney and
Urinary Bladder and the most common external element is Cold.
Strengthening the immune system should be a part of any seasonal
ritual! Any tonic formula that strengthens the kidneys and urinary
bladder, nourishes the Qi and preserve our essence is appropriate.
Remember, the best form of medicine, is preventative.
The Kidneys and Bladder
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, The kidneys and urinary bladder are
associated with Winter. They belong to the element of Water. The
Kidney "system" as a whole, is the storage house of our vital
Essence, vitality or Jing (the basic materials that make up our
constitution and the reproductive fluids that create life). Libido
levels, reproduction, water metabolism and the development of our
overall health are associated with the health of the Kidneys. All
organs are dependent on the Kidneys for proper growth, reproduction,
water flow and control and the balance of "fire and water". The liver
sends water soluble waste to the kidneys, where they are further
filtered and passed through the bladder for elimination. The kidneys
filter nutrients and waste from the blood.
The Kidney system in Chinese Medicine is associated with the
development of brain tissue, blood, spinal fluid, marrow, teeth and
bones. The Kidneys rule the lower body, are associated with the
urinary bladder, is represented by the root of tongue and opens into
the ears. Metaphysically, our kidneys are associated with the
development of our Will. The kidneys are associated with the flavor
of salt and represented by the color of black and/or blue. Our
kidneys relate to the emotion of fear.
Signs and symptoms of poor kidney function or yang energy deficiency
due to excess cold include cold lower back, legs, incontinence, slow
mental or physical movement, fluid retention of the limbs and mid-
section, frequent urination and stiff, cold joints, especially the
Signs and symptoms of poor kidney function or yin energy deficiency
due to excess heat include dry skin, ringing ears, water retention,
night sweats, insomnia, emotional fright, constipation, restlessness,
anxiety, agitation, red face , weak bones, chronic fever or sore
throat, dry mouth, memory loss, hot palms/feet/chest, slow healing
wounds, rashes or bumps, hair loss, weak eyes, extreme libido levels,
dark urine, pre-mature ejaculation, hot flashes and a weak or sore
The balance of fire and water are the perfect example of the balance
of Yin and Yang.
The Water Element
The element, Water is associated with the Winter season and with
The element is associated with the kidneys and the bladder, which
regulate water metabolism and to the reproductive system. There is
also a strong relationship with the immune system and the ability of
the body to lubricate, repair and protect itself.
Water is the symbol of our emotions. All life forms consist of water.
It involves healing, compassion, reconciliation, friendship, de-
stressing, insight, peace, sleep, dreams, intuition, and psychism and
health and beauty. A positive water person is sensitive, caring and
nurturing. Sometimes they can be a little over emotional and over
dramatic in all areas of life. A good balance of water here is needed
to keep so that the water person can share there true gifts.
Emotionally, water represents taste, which is experienced on the
tongue. It also represents one's taste in general and one's desire to
taste or experience the world. Therefore, excess water is often
equated with sensuality, possessiveness and greed.
Psychologically, water represents a good memory. This can manifest as
dwelling on the past. But the ultimate experience of water is
remembering that we all share life as a common heritage. This
manifests as peace, love and compassion.
The Sacral/Spleen/Sexual Chakra is in the second in the Chakra system
and represents our emotional identity, oriented to self-
gratification. The second Chakra, located in the abdomen, lower back,
and sexual organs, is related to the element water, and to emotions
and sexuality. It connects us to others through feeling, desire,
sensation, and movement. Ideally this Chakra brings us fluidity and
grace, depth of feeling, sexual fulfillment, and the ability to
Fear and Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Kidneys are the Organ most
likely to be damaged by fear and to cause a person to be more prone
to feeling fear when damaged or suffering imbalance. So it's not
surprising that something which can build up the Kidneys would help
panic attacks when the panic attacks have a root of Kidney imbalance.
There are a lot of different things that can cause panic attacks.
About the most well-known one is respiratory alkalosis. This is the
CO2 (carbon dioxide) level in the blood is too low and the pH
(measure of acidity-alkalinity) is too high (too alkaline). The
person feels like s/he's smothering and needs more oxygen, but the O2
level is too high. It's the CO2 level that needs to be brought up.
This is the condition where if the person will hold his/her breath or
breathe into a paper bag (and re-breathe CO2 just exhaled), the CO2
content of the blood will rise and the pH will get lower (less
alkaline), and the breathing problems and the panic will stop. The
most common cause of respiratory alkalosis is hyperventilation
(breathing too fast and too swallow), and the most common cause of
hyperventilation is anxiety. When the CO2 drops low enough and the pH
rises too high, the anxiety turns into a panic attack.
Without a doubt, there are situations in our lives that cause fear.
This is something we must "pick apart" in order to find it's roots.
There may be one or two things that are not allowing your mind to be
free. Write them down.
Fear and the Amygdala
Whether you are ecstatic, dejected or frightened, emotions certainly
can have a grip on your life. In the world of science, however,
emotions did not have such a hold. In the past they took a back seat
to more clear-cut scientific topics. But now an increasing amount of
evidence is showing that the emotion of fear is decipherable. The
identification of a specific brain system that processes fear is
spurring a great interest in the field. New discoveries could explain
the mystery behind many mental disorders and prompt the development
of new treatments.
An almond-shaped area of the brain, the amygdala (uh-mig-dah-la)
receives signals of potential danger and begins to set off a series
of reactions that will help you protect yourself, according to an
increasing number of studies. Additional messages sent to the
amygdala determines whether there is a threat or not.
Fear can often be a daily part of our lives. The fight or flight
response can occur when an individual is subjected to fear such as a
threatening situation or a resistant or hostile event. The response
may be one of confrontation or one of avoidance such as running. The
response involves all parts of the nervous system, as well as the
endocrine system, and can be consciously or unconsciously mediated.
The autonomic part of the fight-or-flight response results in a
general increase in sympathetic activity, including heart rate, blood
pressure, sweating, muscular strength, and can trigger an adrenaline
surge that quickens your pulse, raises blood pressure, kick-starts
anxiety and prepares you for "fight or flight." The fight-or-flight
response is adaptive because it enables the individual to resist or
move away from a threatening situation. can trigger an adrenaline
surge that quickens your pulse, raises blood pressure, kick-starts
anxiety and prepares you for "fight or flight."
Tips for Releasing Your Fears
No matter what type of fear you are experiencing, there are many
techniques which will allow us to move forward.
1. By slowly taking away the "layers" of what covers this fear or
block, and discovering what is truly at the root of the fear, it
enables us to deal with it from a higher point or view and opens up a
path in which to rebalance.
2. Look at them on paper. Send them to me if you like (we can look at
them together). Be honest with yourself when you write them out. Go
with your immediate intuition. Fears have a tendency to dissolve when
we are looking them face on.
3. Re-balance. As a holistic individual, you know that our bodies are
continuously in a state of re-balancing itself. This is how we
function. This is how we grow. By holding on to a fear, we are not
allowing this processes (your intuitive state) to flow freely. This
block can be the cause of a much bigger problem.
4. Letting go. By giving this fear up to the universe to handle, you
are essentially allowing yourself to release this fear, and in turn
strip away any kind of meaning or significance it may have upon you.
By letting go, this allows us to move to the next level in our lives.
The next natural process. Often times, this is a fear in itself. The
fear of "what will happen when I DO move to my next stage in life?"
Feeling protected always comes by letting go of the fear.
5. Let your guard down. Let it go. This is not a fear. This is a
great journey. Allow yourself to follow it.
6. Being Grounded. Beng grounded is related to our survival
instincts, and to our sense of connection to our bodies and the
7. Being Aware. Ideally, being aware allows us the understanding of
fear, which gives us the comfort to feel protected. Once you know
what your fear is, you can take steps to address it. Being aware can
keep us healthy, secure, and allow us dynamic presence.
8. Be Familiar. When we are familiar, we are comfortable and we feel
connected with our physical body and the space around us.
9. Be Open. Being open, gives us the ability to be conscious and
secure in ourselves and determines how we look at life around us.
This roots us in survival of both the physical realm and spiritual
10. Deep Breathing. Learn to breath deeper. This is very helpful in
stressful situations. It allows for the release of carbon dioxide
(stess) and room to take in fresh, soothing air (calm).
Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac
Therapies for healing
mind, body, spirit
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