While we have passed into a new year on the Gregorian (western) calendar, we are still in the tail end of the traditional 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 starts on Tuesday, January 20.
Great Cold is the time of the year when the temperature is still quite cold. Furthermore, it is usually characterized by dryness as evidenced by most of our dry 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 清淡食物). 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 (as we discussed previously). Eating clear and easily digested foods allows for the Spleen and Stomach to move and transform appropriately, and to build Latter 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 Latter 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 obviously 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 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.
As already mentioned, with diet the thing to emphasize during Great Cold is easy to digest foods that protect internal warmth and strengthen the middle. This is especially important for Spleen vacuity patients. These people can focus on eating, for example, rice, glutinous rice (in moderation), yams (including nagaimo), peanuts, clear soups like chicken soup, and cooked vegetables. They should avoid raw vegetables, cooling fruits, very greasy meats, and very sweet deserts. While cooking they can make good use of fresh ginger, and other mildly warming spices like nutmeg.
In addition to protecting the Spleen, during Great Cold it’s also important to guard against dryness, and in particular Lung dryness. To this end traditional recommendations for food include consuming white wood ear mushrooms (Bai Mu Er 白木耳) and pears, especially Asian pears.
Please all try to stay warm! Next installment will be about the beginning of spring (in the Chinese calendar at least).