In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), winter is associated with the water element and corresponds to the kidneys and bladder meridians. Winter is characterised by cold, stillness and darkness. It is a time of conservation, rest, and introspection. The kidneys, considered the "Root of Life," are crucial during this season, as they store our vital essence and provide the foundation for growth and regeneration. TCM views winter as a time to nourish the kidneys, preserve energy, and engage in activities that promote warmth and internal reflection. It emphasises the importance of maintaining warmth, protecting the lower back and consuming warming foods to support the body's resilience during this season. As the daylight hours decrease in length and temperatures drop, many of us are finding that our bodies are wanting more rest, so getting out of bed is just that little bit harder. Sadly, in today's fast-paced world, getting quality sleep has become a luxury that many people struggle to attain. Sleep disorders, such as insomnia including issues falling asleep, waking frequently, restless sleep, sleep apnoea, and restless leg syndrome can significantly impact our sleep quality as well as our overall well-being and daily functioning. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) provides a holistic approach to address sleep disorders by focusing on the root cause, and rebalancing the body's natural rhythms to nurture a restful night naturally and promote optimal sleep.
Understanding the causes of sleep disorders:
To effectively treat sleep disorders, it's crucial to understand their underlying causes. In TCM, sleep disturbances are often attributed to imbalances in the body's energy (Qi) and blood circulation, as well as disharmony between Yin and Yang. These are common reasons within Chinese Medicine why your sleep may be suffering. Yin deficiency:
Yin represents the nourishing, cooling, and moistening aspects of the body. When there is a deficiency of Yin, it can manifest as symptoms like night sweats, dry mouth and throat, restlessness, and difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
Heart Shen disturbance:
The Heart is responsible for housing the Shen, which refers to the mind and spirit. When the Heart is imbalanced or the Shen is disturbed, it can result in insomnia, excessive dreaming, palpitations, anxiety, and restlessness at night.
Liver Qi stagnation:
The liver is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi (energy) throughout the body. When the liver Qi becomes stagnant due to stress, emotional tension, or improper lifestyle habits, it can lead to difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night and vivid dreams.
Spleen Qi deficiency:
The spleen is responsible for transforming food into Qi and Blood, providing nourishment for the body. When the Spleen Qi is deficient, it can lead to poor digestion, fatigue, worry, and an inability to settle the mind, which can interfere with sleep quality.
Phlegm-damp accumulation in the body can result from dietary factors, improper digestion and a sedentary lifestyle. This can manifest as heavy limbs, brain fog, chest congestion and difficulty breathing, leading to disrupted and restless sleep.
Kidney Jing deficiency:
The kidneys store our vital essence or Jing, which is essential for overall health and vitality. When the kidney Jing is deficient, it can result in symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, low back pain, frequent urination at night and restless sleep.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine offer valuable benefits in assisting with sleep disorders. Acupuncture can help to regulate the body's internal systems, calm the mind, and alleviate insomnia, restlessness and anxiety. Chinese Herbal Medicine can help to nourish the body, balance energies and address underlying imbalances causing sleep disturbances. Herbs such as Suan Zao Ren (Sour Jujube Seed) and Huang Qin (Scutellaria) have sedative and calming properties, promoting relaxation and better sleep quality. Combined, these modalities offer a holistic approach to restore harmony, alleviate sleep disorders and enhance overall well-being naturally.
To promote quality sleep, incorporating healthy lifestyle practices is crucial. Firstly, establish a consistent sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Create a calm and comfortable sleep environment, ensuring your bedroom is dark, quiet and at a cool temperature. Limit exposure to electronic devices before bed, as the blue light can disrupt sleep patterns. Engage in relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or gentle yoga to unwind before sleep. Regular exercise during the day can improve sleep quality, but avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime. Lastly, limit caffeine and alcohol consumption, and opt for a light, balanced dinner to aid digestion.
The Importance Of Regular Treatments Throughout Winter
by Doctor of Chinese Medicine and Remedial Massage Therapist, Caitlin Harwyne
During the cooler months regular acupuncture and massage treatments are beneficial to boost your mood, reduce pain, calm your nervous system, warm the body and muscles.
As we lean towards a more stationary life during winter, pain conditions can sometimes be exacerbated. Regular treatments are a great way to keep the blood and lymph flowing to help nourish the muscles and joints in order to avoid further complications, especially with chronic injuries and arthritic pain (which are usually made worse in the cold).
To maintain good health throughout winter try implementing a stretching routine, heat packs or hot water bottles, bathing with magnesium, eating warm, slow cooked foods to boost your internal warmth and prioritising rest.
Naturopathic Herbs For Winter
by Naturopath Tam Philippe
As winter approaches, many people may be susceptible to colds, flus, and other respiratory infections due to the change in temperature and weather. Naturopathic herbs have been used for centuries to support the immune system and help fight off infections. Here are some naturopathic herbs that are useful in winter:
Echinacea: Echinacea is a well-known immune-boosting herb that has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of colds and flu. It stimulates the production of white blood cells, which help fight off infections.
Ginger: Ginger has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, making it a useful herb for combating respiratory infections. It also helps to soothe sore throats and reduce congestion.
Elderberry: Elderberry has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of colds and flu. It contains compounds that inhibit the replication of the influenza virus and stimulate the immune system.
Garlic: Garlic has anti-viral and antibacterial properties, making it a useful herb for preventing and treating respiratory infections. It also helps to reduce inflammation in the body.
Astragalus: Astragalus is a traditional Chinese herb that has been used for centuries to support the immune system. It has been shown to enhance the production of white blood cells and increase the body's resistance to infections.
Licorice root: Licorice root has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties and is useful for treating respiratory infections. It also helps to soothe sore throats and reduce coughing.
Thyme: Thyme has antibacterial properties and is useful for treating respiratory infections. It helps to loosen mucus and reduce coughing.
Andrographis: Andrographis is a bitter herb that has been shown to reduce the severity of colds and flus. It stimulates the immune system and has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties.
These are only a few of the herbs at our disposal when treating patients for colds and flus, there are many naturopathic herbs that can be useful in supporting the immune system and preventing or treating respiratory infections during the winter months.
We now offer acute, short consults for patients that need a targeted herbal formula to tackle symptoms of colds/ flus or other respiratory bacterial or viral infections. You can consult with Tam over Telehealth if symptomatic, without leaving the comfort of your house or changing out of your PJs! A loved one can pick up your prescription so that you can start taking your herbs as soon as possible for quick acting results.