Happy New Year Everyone!!!
The temperatures are finally dropping after a record breaking warm December. This week had finally felt like winter. The topic of warmth is important this time of year, and the name of the next of the 24 Seasonal Nodes reflects the decreasing temperatures.
This year, Wednesday January 6th marks the beginning of the penultimate Seasonal Node – “Small Cold” (Xiao Han 小寒). The next, and last, Seasonal Node of the year (ending at the next Chinese new year) will be “Great Cold.” In Chinese there is a saying that goes “Xiao han da han, leng cheng bing tuan” 小寒大寒冷成冰團 – “Small Cold and Great Cold, coldness is here and ice abounds.” Even though, as mentioned in my last post, the Yang qi is already being birthed in the natural world, this month continues to become colder and colder. Why is this even though we are moving to the Yang phase of the year?
Think of the movement of the weather as being driven by the fluctuations of yin and yang in the natural world. Even though the “switch” has been flipped from yin to yang, it takes time for the weather to catch up. Imagine driving a car at 75 miles per hour (I apologize to you all who use the metric system – I’m metric impaired). If you wanted to stop and go in reverse, first you’d have to hit the brakes. However, even if you hit the brakes really hard, that car is going to continue skidding forward for quite a distance before you can start moving in the opposite direction. So, even though the brakes have been put on yin, before we can really move towards yang we continue “skidding” colder and colder for awhile, before Spring truly warms up the earth.
The health maintenance guideline for this season is, not surprisingly, not all that different from Winter Solstice. Specifically, during Small Cold we should focus on (1) Nourishing the Kidney (Yang Shen 養腎), and (2) Safeguarding the Spleen and Stomach (Baohu Pi Wei 保護脾胃). As mentioned in the previous Seasonal Node post, Winter is the time for all the Qi to be stored away internally. Since Kidney is the root of storage, and the root of Pre-Heaven Qi, we nourish the Kidney to nourish the body’s ability to store Qi away (i.e., the movement of Winter). While Kidney is the Pre-Heaven root, the Spleen and Stomach are the Post-Heaven. So, protecting the Post-Heaven helps to ensure that Pre-Heaven is not excessively tapped into. This is especially important for our patients with conditions of vacuity (especially either Kidney or Middle Jiao vacuity), or patients with cold conditions (for example patients with chronic arthritic conditions – Bi syndrome from Wind, Cold and Damp).
Continue having patients get to bed early. Also encourage warming therapies such as moxibustion, especially on points like Zu San Li ST-36, Guan Yuan Ren-4, Qi Hai Ren-6, and Huo Fu Hai 33.07.
Dietary guidelines for Small Cold are similar to Winter Solstice. Since we want to protect the Middle Jiao in particular, the first basic guideline is to eat foods that are easy to digest and take foods at regular intervals. Since most of us are coming out of holidays with lots of eating going on, it’s also a good idea to cut back on intake of meats and other heavier foods.
Patients with overall yang vacuity should consume yang warming foods such as lamb, venison, alcohol, and warming spices like cinnamon. Meats can be taken in moderation, but moderation is important. Traditional Chinese lists would add dog meat to the “should” list, but I have to admit that’s way out of my cultural comfort zone! These same patients should avoid cold foods such as duck, rabbit, chrysanthemum, mint, milk or yoghurts. Patients who are prone to cold damp conditions (such as arthritic patients) should do the same as already mentioned and especially avoid cold-damp producing foods such as oranges and orange juice, tropical fruits, and the overconsumption of refined sugars.
Here are some traditional recipes for the Small Cold seasonal node…
Lamb and Millet Congee
Ingredients: lean lamb 100g, millet 100g (a little more than ½ cup), fresh (peeled) ginger root 12g, scallions 3 stalks, black pepper and salt
- First clean lamb and cut into thin strips
- Put millet and lamb in about 4 – 5 cups of water (adjust water depending on if you want the congee more creamier or more soupy); bring to a boil
- Add in ginger (cut into thin slices or chopped), scallions (chopped) and continue to boil until made into a congee
- Add salt and pepper to taste; instead of black pepper, Sichuan Pepper (Hua Jiao) can be used as a substitute to make the soup spicier
Eat on an empty stomach. This congee helps boost the Qi, nourish the Blood, and warm the Center. Patients with internal heat patterns should be cautions about consuming this congee. But, patients with cold patterns or in generally good health can take this congee during Small Cold.
Stir Fried Nagaimo with Ginger and Goji Berries
Ingredients: fresh nagaimo (shan yao 山藥) 350g, Goji berries (gou qi zi 枸杞子) 30g, fresh ginger 25g, cooking oil, salt
- Peel and slice nagaimo; peel and julienne ginger
- Blanch nagaimo slices; if Goji berries are very hard, soak in warm water until soft, then drain(some brands this is not necessary)
- In a wok or large frying pan add an appropriate amount of cooking oil and warm; add ginger and cook just until fragrant
- Add in nagaimo slices and cook until softened (about 5 minutes)
- Add in Goji berries and salt to taste, cook for a few more minutes; serve warm
Nagaimo is both a food as well as Chinese herb. This recipe strengthens the Spleen and Kidney, and fortifies benefits the Stomach.
I hope everyone is staying warm!