Sunday November 22 was the beginning of the Minor Snow (xiao xue 小雪) seasonal node. We haven’t had snow yet in northern New Jersey, but colder weather and darker days are here. Winter has progressed enough that in less than a month the days will start getting longer again! The three smaller segments of Minor Snow give us a flavor of the node – Rainbows Stay Hidden Out of Sight (虹藏不見), Heaven Qi Ascends While Earth Qi Descends (天氣上騰，地氣下降), and All is Blocked Up and Has Completed Winter (閉塞而成冬).
Guidelines for Minor Snow are similar to previous seasonal nodes. The thing to focus on to ensure health this segment of Winter is to nourish the Kidneys and protect the Yang Qi. During winter we need to get a little more sleep, getting into bed a little earlier and ideally sleeping past sunrise. The Neijing tells us to, “not disturb the yang - go to bed early and rise late. You must wait for the shining of the sun (無擾乎陽，早臥晚起，必待日光).” Since at a fundamental level Kidney represents the Water phase, it is just a symbol in the body for the movement of Winter – quiescence and storage. Being a little more quiet, a little more rested, and a little more inward directed puts us in direct resonance with the Qi of Winter.
The main environmental Qi for the time period from Minor Snow to Minor Cold (just after New Year) is Cold. Cold easily harms the Kidneys, and thus nourishing Kidney and protecting the Yang (against Cold) are more or less two sides of the same coin. Trying to stay warm is one way to protect the Yang. Be sure to dress appropriately for the temperature, and avoid unnecessary exposure to cold. Moxabustion can be continued on points such as Guan Yuan REN-4 or Qi Hai REN-6. If appropriate, some patients can take small regular doses of herbs like Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan as a pill.
As the weather gets colder another pitfall is stagnation of Qi and Blood. As I write this, today the weather was particularly cold and wet. As a result at least half of my patients today complained of an increase in pain and stiffness, even those who were generally doing better up until now. One of the best formulas for moving Qi and Blood is to increase movement. Encourage patients to engage in some regular movement activity or exercise. If the weather allows, walking outside is great, or if the weather is bad then walking indoors at places such as shopping centers is an appropriate substitute.
Diet should also be modified to match the Minor Snow node. A very simple recommendation is to take a small amount of fresh ginger every morning just before breakfast, or alternately start the morning with a light ginger tea. Ginger warms and protects the Yang, and circulates Qi and Blood internally, thus satisfying the basic recommendations previously mentioned.
The other basic idea to follow for diet is to avoid foods that create internal heat rising, and incorporate foods that are gently heat clearing and Qi descending. This may sounds a bit contradictory, but the ancient Chinese realized this time of year people are prone to eat more meat. Before refrigeration this time of year there would be less access to fresh fruits and vegetables. If people have consumed more meat than usual over the last few weeks (think Thanksgiving with lots of turkey and heavy desserts), they may be prone to internal heat from diet. The way to counteract this is consuming just a little heat clearing and Qi descending foods. One traditional food for Minor Snow that does this is daikon (Asian radish). Small amounts of bitter greens, or more salty foods are also appropriate.
Here is a traditional recipe for Minor Snow:
Lamb and Daikon Soup 羊肉白蘿蔔湯
- Lamb ½ lb. (boneless)
- Daikon ½ lb.
- ¼ large onion
- Ginger, cilantro, salt and pepper
- Blanch lamb, drain away water and then cut lamb into cubes
- Place blanched lamb back into pot, add ginger and sliced onion. Cover with an appropriate amount of water and bring to a boil Simmer for around another hour.
- Cut daikon into cubes and add to pot, cook for another 10 minutes until daikon are translucent
- Remove from heat, garnish with fresh cilantro and add salt/pepper to taste
This recipe warms the stomach, supplements Qi, protects the Yang and restores vigor to a weak body.