Winter—A Chinese Medicine Perspective

In Chinese Medicine the kidneys are associated with the season of winter and they represent the foundational essence/energy of the body. Winter is considered to be of the most yin aspect and is an important time to nourish, support, and strengthen the kidneys.


This is a time when we can turn inward, self reflect, meditate, and prepare ourselves for the next season. Activities of inner reflection and nourishing the soul support us in preserving our jing, the foundational energy stored in our kidneys.


The functions of the kidneys in Chinese medicine:

  • Stores essence and governs birth, growth, reproduction and development
  • Controls the gate of life (minister fire)
  • Produces marrow, fill up the brain and control bones
  • Houses the Zhi, which is associated with will power
  • Governs water
  • Control the reception of Qi
  • Open into the ears
  • Manifest in the hair
  • Controls the two lower orfices

A Little Background About The Five Elements:

The theory of the five elements and their application to medicine marked the beginning of “scientific” medicine and departure from shamanism; a time when healers no longer looked for supernatural causes of disease and started observing nature to interpret disease. The five elements are water, fire, wood, metal, and earth. They symbolize qualities and states of natural phenomena.


Five Element Associations Of Water:

  • Yin organ – Kidneys
  • Yang organ – Bladder
  • Season – Winter
  • Element – Water
  • Cycle – Storage
  • Climate – Cold
  • Color – Black
  • Orfice – Ear
  • Sense – Hearing
  • Tissue – Bones
  • Taste – Salty
  • Voice characteristic – Groaning
  • Emotion – Fear
  • Virtue – Wisdom
  • Spirit – Zhi/Will

Practices to support the kidneys:

  • Drink plenty of water, not enough water harms the kidneys
  • Don’t overdo it, take time to rest and rejuvenate, anything in excess harms the kidneys
  • Limit your intake of salt, too much salt harms the kidneys
  • Manage your stress, excess stress harms the kidneys
  • If there is something in life you’ve been avoiding or fearful of evaluate it and work through it, prolonged and intense fear harm the kidneys

Foods that support the kidneys:

  • Asparagus, artichoke, alfalfa sprouts, mungbean sprouts, potatoes, spinach, string beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watercress, yams, and wood ear (black fungus)
  • Seaweed, kelp, nori, wakame, miso, and soy sauce
  • Blackberries, Blackcurrants, cranberries, grapes, grapefruit peel, lemon, lime, mulberries, raspberries, and strawberries
  • Millet, barley, kamut, oats, quinoa, wild rice, corn, job’s tears, and whole wheat
  • Bone broth, warm soups, and steamed foods
  • Aduki beans, black beans, kidney beans, lentils, and black soybeans
  • Chestnuts, pistachios, black and white sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and walnuts
  • Clams, eel, lobster, octopus, oysters, scallops, squid, and carp
  • kidney (beef), chicken, chicken liver, duck, goose, goat, lamb, pork, and venison
  • Aniseed, basil, caraway, chives, cinnamon bark, cloves, dill seed, fennel seed, fenugreek seed, horseradish, nettle, parsley, black pepper, rosemary, savory, and thyme

Essential oils that support the kidneys:

  • Basil, clary sage, frankincense, geranium, ginger, jasmine, juniper, rose, tea tree, and thyme

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