A huge part of what we teach to our students and patients at NUNM is proper self-care. Here are some of our favorite self-care tips for winter wellness according to Naturopathic and Classical Chinese Medicine. We wish you all a joyous holiday season!
Naturopathic Medicine Winter Self-Care Recommendations
Enjoy elderberry (sambucus nigra) syrup.* Elderberry syrup is a staple for winter self-care. This potent antiviral herb has been shown to be effective for treating influenza and shortening the duration of the common cold. And as an added bonus, this sweet berry syrup is delicious.
Head off cold symptoms with warming socks. This traditional naturopathic hydrotherapy treatment is great to use when you’re feeling a little under the weather. Take a warm bath or shower and then dunk a pair of cotton socks in ice cold water, wring them out well, and put them on your feet. Next, put a pair of thick, dry wool socks over the wet cotton socks. Go to sleep and wake up feeling better – it’s that simple! The socks help stimulate circulation and warming throughout your body.
Add ginger to your diet. This warming herb has a variety of benefits during the cold winter months. Ginger has anti-inflammatory compounds that can help ease aching joints and muscles. Ginger tea is great for nausea or upset stomach and can be used after a big meal to promote digestion. Ginger also promotes circulation and warms the body, helping get all your fingers and toes nice and toasty. It’s easy to incorporate into soups, stews, curries or teas so you get a daily dose of gingery goodness.
Prioritize sleep. Making sure that you’re getting plenty of sleep is essential to health and wellness. Stop using screens (e.g., television, tablets, phones) at least an hour before bed. Create a ritual for getting ready to sleep to encourage your body and mind to start winding down. Lean into the longer nights by allowing your body time to sleep and rest.
Practice gratitude. This time of year, we’re all busy with family, friends, and the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Taking a few minutes each day to remind yourself what you’re grateful for is an excellent way to practice mindfulness and keep yourself grounded. Keep a journal of gratitude and add three things to your list each day. Acknowledging all the good things in your life is a great way to make sure you are taking care of your mental and emotional health during the holiday season.
*As dosage recommendations vary for each individual, please consult your ND before trying these suggestions.
Naturopathic Recommendations by Josh Corn, ND, MS
Classical Chinese Medicine Winter Self-Care Recommendations
The overall approach of Chinese medicine to staying healthy during winter is best understood in the context of how Chinese medicine views humans as the microcosm of the macrocosm of nature. Since we are subject to the same laws as any creature in existence, Chinese medicine says that the processes that occur seasonally in nature occur in humans as well.
Wear a scarf; keep feet and back warm to support the kidneys. The kidneys are the organ system associated with the winter season. The kidneys are the reservoir of jing, or “essence,” thought to be a deep, core level source of energy for the body. In the winter, we want to protect and preserve this energy source as much as possible. In nature much of the external manifestation of energy expenditures throughout the year falls away – if you look at trees in the winter, their leaves fall, and the tree sap goes inward as the tree preserves its resources and draws everything in. As humans, Chinese medicine recommends that we preserve our warmth, our energy and our resources as much as possible.
Practice mindfulness and going inward. Like trees and animals, humans are subject to the same natural forces, so winter is the time for moving our own energies inward. Winter removes many of the distractions of the warmer seasons. Stillness and silence reign. Water, the element of winter, freezes. Winter thus presents us with the perfect time to rest, reflect and meditate. During the winter, we move less and spend more time inside the home, our own form of hibernation.
Eat nourishing, warm meals. Because our bodies are already contending with cold temperatures during winter and expending energy to stay warm, Chinese medicine recommends that we support that process by consuming warm, slow-cooked, rich meals. Winter is the season for root vegetables and other calorie dense foods. Root vegetables are highly recommended as they are harvested in the fall, have extended longevity, and are dense and nourishing. Eating warming foods helps to preserve the internal warmth of the body and support the kidneys and other internal organs, enabling us to preserve our vital jing essence.
Sleep early, wake late. Follow the natural light cycle, just as all animals in nature do. This enables you to preserve more energy and more resources. Listen to your natural inclinations and you may feel the urge to hibernate (as much as possible in our modern world).