Winter is the Season of the Water Element

Winter is the most yin of all the seasons: cold, dark, and quiet. It is a time for storage and rest in nature, when the plants die back to their roots and energy is conserved. Winter is a natural time for us to rest as well, sleeping more, staying more in the dream world, a semi-hibernation against the cold. It is also natural during this time of year to turn inward, reflecting on life.

Snowdrop

Water exists within us as an essential medium in the blood, which carries warmth and nutrients throughout your body, and in the lymphatic system, which drains wastes and helps you fight off viruses. Just like our planet, we are 75% water, and our blood is our private ocean, almost identical in its concentration of salt and other ions to seawater. The water element system includes the urinary and reproductive organs and the flavor associated with it is salty, like seawater. If you crave salt or have a strong aversion to it, this may signal an imbalance in this system. If you have an unquenchable thirst, drinking many liters of water a day, or no thirst, where you have to force yourself to drink, that may also signal an imbalance. A good way to gauge if you are getting enough fluids is by the number of times you urinate per day (normal is five to six, or approximately every two to three hours) and the color of your urine ( it should be pale yellow, not clear or dark). Because of the challenges of the weather in winter, it is especially important during this season to relax, eat well, and stay warm and dry.

Because we are less active in winter, we must take care to watch our portions so we don't gain too much weight over this season. Winter food should be hearty and warming. like soups, stews, and casseroles. A diet of mostly vegetables, grains, beans, dairy, and protein is ideal. Few fresh fruits are available during the winter and they are considered to be cooling in nature, so their consumption should be minimized in favor of preserved, dried, and stewed fruit. Winter root vegetables like carrots, onions, and potatoes are seasonally appropriate, as are winter greens like cabbage and kale. Ocean foods, especially deep, saltwater fishes, come from the water element and provide us with healthy fats and easily digestible proteins.

Just as the energy of the plants retreats into the roots during the winter, many of the herbs that are helpful during this season are roots. For example, marshmallow root is often used for respiratory infections, soothing inflamed mucus membranes, and thinning phlegm so it can be expectorated. Ginger root is warming and helps the body eliminate pathogens by sweating out fevers. Ginseng root is an excellent tonic to boost the chi, our internal source of warmth.

 
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