Yesterday, Tuesday February 19th, was the beginning of the second seasonal node of the new-year and the new Spring – 雨水 Yu Shui, “Rain Water.” Here in northern New Jersey as I sit here writing this post (on Wednesday) we are in the middle of winter weather. A mix of snow and freezing rain is falling. However, tomorrow we are expecting temperature to rise into the 50s (about 12 degree Celsius). And, there will be more rain. Thus true to the name of the node, there is more moisture in the environment.
During Rain Water the expansion of Yang in the natural environment continues. So, while days can still be cold, we are definitely experiencing up and down in temperatures. The three smaller periods of Rain Water are “Otters Sacrifice Fish” (ta ji yu 獺祭魚), “Swan Geese Appear” (hong yan lai 鴻雁來), and “Vegetation Sprouts” (caomu mengdong 草木萌動). The swan goose is a rare large goose native to northern China. While we don’t have them here in the US, we do have other species of geese, and here in NJ we are seeing flocks of geese flying north again heralding the warmer Spring weather to come.
One of the statements in Chinese related to Rain Water says, “Yu shui lai lin shi qi zhong, dang xin pi wei shou shang hai” 雨水來臨濕氣重，當心脾胃受傷害 – “as Rain Water arrives damp qi is heavy, be careful not to damage the Spleen and Stomach.” When walking around outside, I’m struck by the shift in the feeling. The ground and air are both moist with the release of water that was trapped in frozen form and there is now significantly more dampness outside in nature, attested to by my dog’s muddy paws as he come back in after his morning deer chase! The point Xuan Shu DU-5 (懸樞穴) is located at L1, the vertebra associated with Rain Water. While this point treats the spine as a local or adjacent treatment, one of the other most important classical indications for Xuan Shu is undigested food in the stool. This vertebra and point thus treats manifestations of vacuity in the middle jiao, the very thing we need to be wary of this Seasonal Node; thus needling or moxa at this point is appropriate now.
The basic “to do” recommendation for Rain Water is to supplement the Kidney and strengthen the Spleen. We do this because the weather is still chilly and can tax the Kidney as the viscera of cold and Winter. In addition we need to protect the Spleen because of increased environmental dampness. At the same time, the Spleen is the viscera associated with transformation and transition, and even though we are in Spring we are in a period of weather transition. Thus, another reason Xuan Shu is important this time of year is because, in addition to it’s ability to supplement the middle jiao, being a point on the lower portion of the Du Mai it also can strengthen the Kidney.
Other points to consider in the clinic are Si Hua Shang 77.08 (i.e., Zu San Li ST36) in combination with Ling Gu 22.05 and Da Bai 22.04. Ling Gu and Da Bai have the ability to course Qi and Blood, regulate the Kidney (because of the connection between the Large Intestine and Kidney channels mediated through relationships on the diurnal circulation of Qi through the channels), and expel external cold. Si Hua Shang supplements the middle burner, especially when treated with direct moxibustion.
The second “to do” for Rain Water is eat congee! Honestly, is there a season when congee is bad? For those not in the know, congee is a type of rice porridge or soup (depending on how thickly you prepare it). And why eat congee now? Because it dovetails with the other recommendations for Rain Water. First, congee is warming and supplements the Spleen. Furthermore, congee is mildly damp draining so it protects the body against the increase in dampness in the environment. Congee is incredibly easy to make, and in China it is a common breakfast or brunch food. People of all levels of health can benefit from being taught to make and eat congee.
The base recipe for congee is to add 1 part rice to 6 to 10 parts water. For example, we can cook ½ cup rice in 5 cups of water. This is cooked until the rice basically starts falling apart so that the resulting product is creamy white. Depending on the type of rice you use, this can take anywhere form 45 minutes to 2 hours of cooking. What I do at home and what I recommend to patients is that they put all the ingredients into a slow cooker overnight on low heat, and by morning perfect congee is done.
Just about any ingredient can be added into this basic congee. For patients with weak Spleens and damp accumulation, a basic congee starts with rice as described above. After that, add in several slices of fresh ginger, a handful of Yi Yi Ren 薏苡仁, and several Dang Shen 黨蔘 roots. Season with soy sauce to taste when finished. This basic Spleen-strengthening and damp-percolating dish can be eaten daily for breakfast.
During Rain Water, since it is a time period of early spring, we also need to stay warm and guard against Wind. As such, the basic “avoid” during Rain Water is “don’t rush to put away winter clothes.” The northeast US is starting to warm up. But, we are early enough in the year that we may see more cold, and the increased dampness in the environment makes the temperature feel a little chillier than it actually may be. Stay warm, and remember to use moxabustion as necessary on yourself and on your patients.
Here is a basic tea recipe associated with the current seasonal node. Its function is to warm and resolve the exterior, strengthen the Spleen, and guard against Wind.
Five Sprits Tea (Wu Shen Tang 五神湯)
Jing Jie 荊芥 9g
Zi Su Ye 紫蘇葉 9g
Sheng Jiang (i.e., fresh ginger root) 生薑 9g
Tealeaf (green or oolong) 6g
Brown sugar 30g
Place the herbs in a pot with 3 cups of cold water. Let soak for several minutes.
Bring water and herbs to a rapid boil over a high flame. Then, reduce and simmer for 10 minutes uncovered.
Strain out herbs and add in the tea leaf, letting the tea steep in the hot liquid for several minutes.
Strain out the tea. Stir in brown sugar and drink warm throughout the day. Molasses or honey can be substituted for brown sugar (use to taste).
Here’s another recipe, this time a soup…
Job’s Tear and Lily Pork Soup (Yi Mi Bai He Shou Rou Tang) 薏米百合瘦肉湯
½ lb. lean pork
1 large carrot
1 oz. Job’s Tear barley 薏苡仁
1 oz. Lily Bulb herb 百合
¼ cup (or a little more) of corn (or about ½ ear fresh corn)
Rinse Job’s Tear and Lily Bulb; place in a pan with about 4 cups of water and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes on low heat
While cooking, prepare other ingredients by cutting up carrot and pork into bite-sized chunks; remove corn from cob if using fresh corn; peel and slice ginger (an appropriate amount to taste
Add carrot, pork and ginger to the soup (add a little more water if necessary); simmer on very low heat for about 2 hours; add salt to taste
This recipe removes phlegm, strengthens the Lungs, expels dampness and opens the Spleen. Moreover, this is a light soup that won’t create internal dampness or damage the digestive function. It is also not overly warming.