Winter is the season that corresponds to the water element in Asian medicine. It is the season of deep yin, cold, and a time to conserve energy as life slows down. Winter is the season of looking within, quiet time, and observing one’s dreams during this phase of deep rest.
Winter is also the season where we get the most sick. Our kidneys and bladder are particularly vulnerable. The kidneys correspond to sexual vitality, emotions of fear, willpower, and the physical health of the bones, teeth, hair, ears, and knees. Going to bed earlier and waking up later keeps us in tune with nature’s rhythm.
The cold forces us to bundle up with clothing, and in doing so we also tighten our own muscles thinking this will bring relief. Our body needs to be relaxed since cold stiffens muscles and joints, especially while you sleep. Start your morning with a stretch or yoga routine; this helps increase blood flow and loosens your body for the day ahead.
Best Warming Herbs To Use This Winter
Herbs do more than spice up food. They are nature’s healer. In teas, smoothies, and on plates they promote a healthy and warming glow throughout the body, while providing numerous health benefits, without risky side effects prescription medicine causes.
These list of warming herbs will help you feel cozy while outside and improve circulation throughout your body during the cold winter months:
1. Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a member of Piperaceae (pepper family). Culinary wise black pepper helps accentuate dishes. As an antispasmodic and anti-arthritic spice, black pepper increases blood flow to provide relief and decrease stiffness of both muscles and joints.
2. Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is a member of Zingiberaceae (ginger family). It improves mental alertness and enhances the digestibility of starches. Cardamom has a warming effect on the body which helps promote sweat, increase respiratory passage clearing from mucus congestion, and provide headache relief.
3. Cayenne (Capsicum frutescens) is a member of Solanaceae (nightshade family). It is rich in vitamin C and helps relieve chills, coughs, and congestion. The high levels of capsaicin make cayenne a “naturally occurring vanilloid … linked with increased metabolic rate and core body temperature.”
4. Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) is a member of Lauraceae (laurel family). It helps dry dampness in the body and warms people that are always cold and regularly suffer from poor circulation. Cinnamon is antiseptic and an excellent digestive tonic.
5. Garlic (Allium sativum), a member of Liliaceae (lily family), helps you become more resistant to infection. Garlic is a potent vasodilator and improves circulation by helping prevent blood from clumping together.
6. Ginger (Zingiber officinale), a member of Zingiberceae, is a natural antioxidant and antiseptic. It improves circulation to all parts of the body, helps move stagnation, and reduces inflammation that contributes to stiff achy joints. Ginger baths are warming, muscle relaxing, and cold and flu relieving. Simmer eight ounces of ginger in a half gallon of water at a low boil for twenty minutes, and then strain into the bathtub.
7. Horseradish (Armoracia lapathifolia) is a member of Brassicaceae (mustard family). It is high in vitamin C and aids in the digestion of fatty foods. Horseradish is antiseptic and helps open congested respiratory passages.
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Clothing Tips Ways To Ensure You Stay Warm
Dressing warmer is a given, but walking and taking in natural light during this darker time of the year is important for mood boosting. When you’re heading out, opt for bright warm colors such as red and copper; they contribute to a feeling of warmth.
Mom was right; we do lose heat through our head and wearing a hat and scarf can help protect the chest, throat, and ears from cold invasion that can contribute to increased risk of sickness.
Baring your lower back to the elements can cause weakness in the kidneys. Protect the kidneys by wearing undershirts tucked into long johns and undergarments.
On days you don’t plan to venture out, yoga, tai chi, chi gung, stretching, crawling (helps prevent joint problems), and dancing can easily be practiced to keep your body limber and warm; you never know if you’ll need to run out last minute for something.
More Foods And Spices For Keeping Cozy
Sprinkling a bit of cayenne pepper between your shoes and socks can help warm your feet if you’re heading outdoors.
In winter, it makes sense to use more warming concentrated foods. Include more dark orange colored vegetables such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, and carrots. Eat more grounding roots such as burdock, onions, rutabagas, and turnips. Other warming foods include sprouted grains, arugula, mustard greens, and watercress. Nuts and seeds make excellent protein rich snacks. Consuming more nuts, nut butters, and dried fruit in the winter helps increase your resistance to the cold.
Get adequate fats from olive or coconut oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds to treat dry skin and scalp; a common issue when heat is used in the home. Avoid drinking icy cold drinks, and if consuming food from the refrigerator, take it allow it to reach a warmer temp before eating.
Lastly, the flavor associated with winter is salty. Rather than relying on simple table salt, learn to enjoy the wonderful mineral rich seaweeds such as kelp, nori, hiziki, and dulse, which can be used to season food. Salty foods, rather than food sprinkled with salt, due to their rich mineral content, can help build kidney life force. Black sesame seeds make a wonderful warming winter condiment when sprinkled on food. You can also include sun-cured black olives, chia, and poppy seeds as tonics.
Stay warm and enjoy the adventures winter has to offer!