Written by Dr. James Ho in collaboration with Adrianna Locke.

The ancient wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine is a holistic practice that values harmony and balance with the relationship of the four seasons, the natural environment, and the human body. Even though the spring equinox is here, winter is not quite over. The flowers have been slow to bloom in this unusually cold weather. Just like those bulbs and seeds, we need to honor that our bodies may also be slow to come out of the downtime of winter and take care of ourselves accordingly by paying attention to the lessons of the season.

Winter is the best time to prepare the body for the upcoming year. If we preserve our body’s energy well in the cold winter, we can expect a healthier body in the whole year. Alternatively, if we don’t prepare a good foundation in winter time, we might easily get cold-related symptoms in spring. These include allergic rhinitis, asthma, stomachache, menstrual cramps, joint pain, and other conditions that affect the endocrine system, making us easily fatigued later in the spring. In Chinese medicine we are always supporting for our future vitality in the present moment. This can be hard in American culture, which lives in urgency. But we have some simple tips to help.

Significant ways to nourish and store our body’s energy include taking time to cultivate a calm and stable emotional space to help to maintain a healthy mental state. It is also essential to exercise, which improves metabolism and immunity, and increases cellular activities.

Moreover, according to the TCM, dietary therapy can assist our body’s energy. Foods such as lamb, duck, walnuts, chestnuts, sweet potatoes, carrots, black beans, black sesame seeds, black mushrooms, and seaweed can be increased in winter. Additionally, warm spices such as ginger, garlic, fennel, nutmeg, and cardamom should be added to the meal preparation. 

Acupuncture can also help use move smoothly between seasons, especially from winter to spring when the energy makes the hard turn from hibernation to sprouting up and out. We may need some additional support to feel like those energetic flowers bursting forth in the sun.