Winter Care

Chinese Wisdom for Health
March 19, 2014 Updated: March 19, 2014

The crisp cold of winter brings the delight of holiday cheer as well as seasonal aches and sniffles.

Bodily issues like muscle spasms, allergies, PMS, and colds can be worse during the cold months. Often, when we experience these symptoms, we start looking for some special formula, be it herbs or drugs, to get rid of them. However if we are not cautious, we can find ourselves relying heavily on pills and supplements, taking far more of them than we need.

When we are combatting seasonal unwellness, it can help to take a step back from just treating symptoms, and try to understand why we are experiencing discomfort.

From the traditional Chinese medicine perspective, sneezing can often be the result of not dressing warmly enough. You may think that your sneezing is caused by the allergies you’ve had forever, but the root of those allergies—even if you’ve had them for a long time—could still be that you habitually do not dress warmly enough.

This is because being chilled can cause us to sneeze, and over time, the accumulated strain on the lungs from sneezing affects the kidneys, leading to allergies.

Traditional Chinese medicine emphasizes the importance of dressing appropriately for the seasons so that the body does not become chilled or overheated. When cold enters our bodies, it can bring in pathogens, which we then need to eliminate by sneezing. Dressing warmly is also necessary in summer because we can get chilled in air-conditioned buildings.

Now that winter is here, we especially need to support our bodies with warmth from food. Chinese medicine tells us that we should never eat cold food or drink cold drinks because this brings extra yin into our bodies. Yin energy is cold, dark, passive energy, and too much yin decreases our circulation, which can lead to muscle cramps and spasms.

We also need to make sure we eat enough nutritious food, especially in the mornings. The morning meal is important because this is the time when our warm, active, yang energy is rising and needs to be fed.

So if you are prone to symptoms like sniffles, pulled and tight muscles, leg cramps, PMS, menstrual cramps, back sprains and strain, nervousness, neck and shoulder pain, headaches, trouble sleeping, feeling tense and stressed, and these symptoms get worse during the cold months, make sure you dress warmly, eat and drink warm foods and beverages, and eat well in the mornings.

If you can make these measures lifelong habits, you may find yourself staying healthier without medications or herbal supplements.

Sophia Zheng worked as a doctor of allopathic medicine for 17 years before becoming certified in acupuncture and herbalism by the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. She has practiced Chinese medicine for 25 years.

Porridge photo from