This time of year is widely recognized to be a time when folks are more vulnerable to getting sick. According to traditional Chinese medicine, this is a time of year when the gates of the body are thought to be more open. It is also the end of the Lung season, and Lungs are very intimately related with immunity in Chinese medicine, as they rule our defensive qi, our skin, our pores, our nose, throat, and of course our breath. It is the beginning of Kidney season, the foundational strength of our body. Here are my general reminders for keeping healthy at this time of year.
Keep warm! Food and drink should be warm or hot when possible, and never cold if it can be avoided. Feet and low back should be kept warm (both relate with Kidney). The back of the neck should also be kept warm, as this is thought to be a place easily penetrated by “wind” (in this context meaning a contagious pathogenic influence).
Eat seasonally! Pomegranate, pear, winter squash, greens, all the local produce, cooked a bit when possible. Revisit the suggestions for food and drink in the Autumn and Winter blogs. Eat nourishing, protein rich foods, especially soups and stews that have been slowly cooked for long periods of time (including bone broths!). Avoid sugars and refined grains as much as possible.
Vitamins A, C, E, and especially vitamin D (probably 2000-4000 IUs daily for most adults at this latitude, 1000-2000 for kids). There are food-based ways to achieve these vitamins-- feel free to ask me for recommendations. If you do take a vitamin pill, please choose a quality one that is food based, like New Chapter and others. Carlson’s solar D drops are great for the vitamin D.
Apple Cider Vinegar (raw, unpasteurized, unfiltered): 1 tablespoon with a teaspoon of raw honey, in warm to hot water, once or twice a day. Antimicrobial, moves qi, transforms damp, prebiotic (encourages growth of probiotics)-- take it more often if you are fighting something off. Lemon is a good alternate. I would also encourage taking a quality probiotic daily (New Chapter, Biokult, Primal Defense) or even better, eating probiotic rich foods like raw cultured sauerkraut or miso.
Cod Liver Oil, Krill Oil, or Wild Salmon Oil from a quality brand like Nordic Naturals, Blue Ice, New Chapter, Mercola, Health Concerns, or possibly Carlson’s-- or eat fish frequently (especiallysardines or wild salmon). Omega 3s are most easily absorbed from cod liver oil but it must be high quality and not contaminated or rancid. On another note, unrefined coconut oil is also very strengthening for immunity, and has many other health benefits as well!
There are many herbs and foods that can be helpful for everyday wellness. While I highly recommend an herbal formula that is uniquely tailored to your specific constitution, I also want to mention some general supports that do work well for many people. Please do consult your acupuncturist/herbalist if you aren’t sure! With that caveat in mind, I would sing the praises of elderberry (tincture, tea, or capsule is fine), garlic, and nettles (tincture or freeze-dried). Chrysanthemum, peppermint, echinacea, and mulberry leaf for some of the warmer constitutions; astragalus, cinnamon and ginger for some cooler ones. As mentioned above, oregano (some also take oregano oil), thyme, sage, mullein, bay, eucalyptus, for some respiratory issues. Reishi can be a strengthening support for those with chronic respiratory issues who tend to be on the hot side, while cordyceps can support lung wellness for those on the cooler side.
We all need more sleep this time of year, more down time, more rest-- the natural cycle is to go inward and rest in darkness, putting energy into our roots. Go to bed early, cultivate peaceful moments, energy into home and hearth. Exercise is vital for maintaining good health--make sure to use moderation, warm up your body beforehand, and keep warm after. Neti pots, and/or gargling with hot water and sea salt, are other great practices to maintain wellness.
Traditional folk methods such as moxibustion and qi gong practices, as well as acupuncture and Chinese herbs, are of course vital elements of strong health as well....