While we have passed into a new year on the Gregorian (western) calendar, we are still in the tail end of the Chinese year. The next of the 24 Seasonal Nodes marks the very last segment of the Chinese year before the next lunar-solar year begins. This last node is called “Great Cold” (Da Han 大寒), and this year started on Monday, January 20.
Great Cold is the time of the year when obviously the temperature is still decreasing. Furthermore, it is usually characterized by dryness as evidenced by most of our drying hands this time of year. The first thing that Chinese medicine recommends at this time of the year is to eat clear and easily digested foods (qing dan shi wu). Why is this? The Spleen and Stomach are the root of post-heaven qi. During the end of winter even though the time of the year is still predominantly yin, yang qi is being birthed. Eating clear and easily digested foods allows for the Spleen and Stomach to move and transform appropriately, and to build post-heaven qi. If foods are too heavy, such as very greasy or sweet foods, then the ability of the Spleen and Stomach to move and transform will be impaired. Easy to digest foods ensures that we continue to build post-heaven yang qi to get ready for the upcoming spring.
The second recommendation this time of year is to stay warm but also be sure to not be too dry. Staying warm is important in the time of greatest cold in the year. But since certain organs are harmed by excessive dryness, such as the Lungs, we also need to be vigilant there.
With patients who are cold, or have Spleen or Kidney vacuity patterns, continue to warm and supplement. Moxibustion, especially at points like Zu San Li (ST-36), Qi Hai (Ren-6) or Guan Yuan (Ren-4) is still appropriate. Acupuncturists can include Tung’s point San Cha San 三叉三穴 frequently in point prescriptions (this point can be found in Dr. Ross’ and my new book on Tung's acupuncture). This point has the ability to warm yang and supplement the Kidney. Furthermore, since it pierces through Ye Men (SJ-2; “Fluids Gate”) it also benefits fluids.