A Season Of Slowing Down

Winter Warming

The wheel of nature slows down:
in this season of the water element,
we conserve our energy and rest.
Our kidneys resonate to store
and distribute Qi energy and nutrients.
Ancient Chinese knows how to counter the cold by collecting delicate snow flakes off the branches of plum blossoms and put them in clay urns. These urns are buried underground to allow the melting snow to settle. The melted snow water used for brewing tea is said to have a hint of plum blossom fragrance.

Any left over tea or used tea leaves in water instead of throwing it away. Use it to clean your eye lids to relieve redness, puffiness and dryness. You can also use it to rinse your mouth before your brush your teeth.

In winter, as nature rests, we gather in our resources and energy to keep healthy, strong and resilient.

Taking Care In Winter

As a water element organ, our kidneys are believed to conserve and distribute Qi energy. One should try to nourish one’s kidney or tame the fire in one’s heart in winter.

Those with a weaker constitution or those whose bodies are in a state of disharmony tend to have an accumulation of Yin energy in their kidneys. With the dry cold energy in winter, too much Yang energy in their bodies are consumed to achieve a harmony. This results in feelings of being light-headed, insomnia, anxiousness and general lethargy. One could consume chestnuts, ginger, sprouting soy beans, Yuzu and honey to strengthen the Yang energy in one’s kidneys. A good infusion for this season is Organic Golden Monkey black tea brewed with ginger and brown sugar.

Some of us might feel excessive heat on our hands and face or weakening sight, light-headed, aching backs and legs, dry mouth and insomnia. This is the result of the winter coldness and a lower level of Yin energy in our bodies making our kidneys work even harder thus generating inner heatiness. One could consume kumquat, barley, apple and Cinnamon, ginger, sprouting soy beans, buckwheat, Yuzu and honey to strengthen the Yang energy in one’s kidneys. A good tea to relieve the excessive heat is to drink Green Pu Erh teas of a younger vintage.

Seasonal Festivities

As we approach the seasonal celebrations, one must strengthen our immune system and our lungs and kidneys to acclimatise to the increasingly lower temperatures. It is good to consume chestnuts, yuzu / pomelo, walnuts, sesame and the more oxidised teas or vintaged teas.

After the excesses of the festivities, the constant cold makes our kidneys and heart work a lot harder. One should eat well and keep warm to maintain a sufficient level of Yang energy. Seasonal foods like clementines, yuzu or pomelo, grapes and ginger are good supplements for this season. Or try to drink a bowl of hot broth every day.

Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that we are governed by seven emotions and desires. This is the season to restrain these emotions to maintain a restful state. Learn to let go of your anger and frustrations.

Read more about the five-element theory in traditional Chinese medicine and achieving your Yin and Yang balance

Traditional Chinese Medicine believes salty foods burden our kidneys in winter time. So as a general rule, one should avoid excessively salty or salt-cured items. Here are a couple of recipes for you to try in this season.
This dish nourishing the Yin strengthen the Yang. The Cordyceps (Wikipedia: Cordyceps) strengthen the kidneys’ Yang energy. The aged duck nourishes the Yin energy.
5 Cordeyceps
1 Duck, quartered
Shaoxing wine
Spring onions

  • Put all the ingredients into the cavity of the the duck.
  • Place the duck into a dish together with some water and the shaoxing wine.
  • Double boil for 2 hours or till the duck is tender.
  • Serve hot and drink the nutritional broth.

A very simple and quick soup to make if you are in a hurry. Add an egg to transform it into an egg-drop soup.
5g Black wood-ear ‘mu-er’ fungus
10g Goji berries
1 litre Chicken or Vegetable stock
1 block silken tofu
1 spring onions

  • Soak the Black Wood-ear fungus in some hot water. Cut into chunks.
  • Put the mu er into a pot together with the goji berry and water or vegetable stock.
  • Bring to a boil and simmer till the fungus is cooked.
  • Add the tofu to warm through.
  • Add salt to taste and sprinkle with spring onions.

Mooli (daikon) nourishes the lungs and helps to relieve coughs. Make a nourishing drink for your lungs and relieve your cough with this recipe
1 small mooli
rock sugar
honey to taste

  • Cut the top ⅓ off and the tapering tail end of the mooli.
  • Scoop the middle part of the mooli and save it together with the tail end for another dish.
  • In the cavity of the middle section, put some rock sugar chunks and secure the top half to this middle section with toothpicks.
  • Put this in an air-tight container and leave it in the fridge for 5-6 days to allow a nourishing nectar to form.
  • Tip the nectar created by the rock sugar into a bowl and add some honey to taste.

500g Lean pork, cut into bite-size chunks
300g Dried chestnuts
2-3 Spring onions
600ml Chicken Stock
2-3 tbsp Dark Soy sauce

  • Score the shell of the dried chestnuts and put boiling water over them. When the shell and the papery skin of the chestnuts are softened, remove them.
  • Heat some oil in a wok till barely smoking, fry the chestnuts for 3 minutes. Remove from the oil and set aside.
  • In the same wok, add the spring onions and ginger, then pork.
  • Brown the pork and then add chicken stock.
  • Bring to a boil and add the chestnuts, dark soy and simmer till the pork and chestnuts are tender.
  • Serve with a bowl of rice.

This is a really easy recipe which really only require some assembling if you have a slow cooker or thermal pot.  Dried Chinese Yam (‘Huai San’ 淮山.  Wikipedia: Dioscorea Polystachya) nourishes your kidneys, spleen and lungs and can be purchased in Chinese grocers or herbal shops. The dried tangerine peels nourishes the lungs and relieves with any coughs. The best peels are those with at least 3 years of vintage.
5 sticks of Dried Chinese Yams
1 teaspoons of goji berries
small knob of ginger
small piece of vintage dried tangerine peel (陈皮‘Cheng Pi’)
2 chicken thighs or 3-4 chicken wings or 1 chicken breast
Splash of shaoxing wine or sake
Salt to taste

  • Place all ingredients, except for the salt, into a slow cooker and add water to just covering the ingredients. Let it cook gently for a good 5-6 hours.
  • If using a thermal cooker, bring everything, less the salt, to a gentle boil for 15-20 mins. Take it off heat and place it in the thermal cooker and leave for 4-5hours.
  • If using a steamer, place all ingredients, without the salt, with the water in a small crockpot. Steam it for a good 2-3 hours.
  • Season with salt just before serving it hot.

Here are a few acupuncture points you can give give some TLC for a more comfortable Winter.
The great littérateur ’Su Dong Po‘ (苏东坡, 11 Century. Wikipedia entry) has a deep understanding of hair combing. He described in a poem that if one massage the scalp by combing 50 times just before bed time and lay down with your hair undone, one can enjoy a deep sleep till sun rise. This head massage is believed to help to reduce stress and improve blood circulation.

  • Pressing the ‘Feng Chi’ (风池) acupuncture points on the two hollow areas where the base of your head joins the back of our neck.
  • Press till the two acupuncture points feel warm and slightly aching.


  • Bend your knees a little (no further than the tips of your toes).
  • Then straighten your legs and stand on tip-toe.
  • Hold for 5 seconds and put your heels down.
  • Repeat five times.


  • Add freshly boiled water to 2 or 3 grams of tea leaves in a small bowl roughly the size of a Chinese rice bowl. Choose a fragrant tea, if you can, like Lishan Oolong, or an mellow aromatic one like Emperor Pu Erh 1998 Vintage.
  • Position your face over the bowl and let yourself breathe in the steam.
  • Use your hands to keep too much steam from escaping.
  • Enjoy this experience for 10 minutes, then you can sit up and drink the tea!
  • Don’t forget, with a good quality tea, you can keep adding more hot water and brew the tea again and again.

If you tend to have cold hands and feet all year round, there may be a blockage preventing the free flow of Qi energy in your body. For a simple way to improve this flow:

  • Fill a muslin bag, no bigger then the palm of your hand, with some unrefined rock salt.
  • Warm the bag in a microwave.
  • Lie down on your front comfortably and place the warm muslin bag on your ‘Da Zui’ (大椎) acupuncture point. This acupuncture point is the slightly protuberant vertebra just below the back of the neck.
  • Do this as often as you can, ideally every day.
  • You can also aim the hot water flow at the same acupuncture point when you’re in the shower.

Traditional Chinese doctors believe that cold air enters the body via the feet. Hence, they encourage you to bathe your feet in warm water.

  • What you should then do is very gradually add hotter water.
  • When the first drop of perspiration appears on the tip of your nose, drain away the hot water and massage your feet dry.
  • Then lie in bed with the soles of your feet facing each other.
  • Do this in as relaxed a way as you can, staying in that position for about 10 minutes.
  • This will allow your Qi energy to flow more freely via the acupuncture point that affects the kidneys.
  • After that, let yourself enjoy a night of blissful rest.


  • Massaging the ‘Ying Xiang’ (迎香) acupuncture point, helps to strengthen your breathing system and relieve any nasal congestion. This acupuncture point is located on the one finger nail space from your left nostrils.
  • The ‘He Gu’ acupuncture point (合谷) can helps to relieve any nasal sensitivities light headedness and tooth aches if you massages them frequently. Make a fist with your right hand, thumb side up and straightening your thumb. Using your left index finger or thumb, massage the flesh to the right of the base of your right thumb. Repeat the same for the He Gu acupuncture point on your left hand.
  • Unblocking your ‘Zu San Li’ acupuncture points (足三里) helps to regulates your digestion and strengthens your immune systems.  This acupuncture point is about 4 fingers below your knee and about 2 fingers away from the centre of your knee on the outer biceps. Gently massage it with a finger till acupuncture point feels warm.
  • If you have access to moxa (dried mugworth) sticks, you can gently warm these acupuncture points with a lit moxa stick for a few minutes.