“In the time of Water – retire early at night and rise late in the morning – wait for the rising of the sun.”   Nei Jing

The Winter Solstice, December 21st, marks the first day of winter and the longest night in the year.  It also marks the beginning of the Chinese element of Water.

The water element encompasses the kidneys and bladder, organs associated with our body’s water ways.   It also represents the energetics of the moon.   Have you been feeling a bit more emotional lately?   The water element rules our emotions.  Chinese elements mirror directly what is going on with mother nature.  Step back, take a look outside and gain an understanding of what Water is here to teach us.  Nature has gone into her resting season.  She is quiet, withdrawn, deep within herself.  Now is the time of inner reflection, going deep within us, resting and stoking our inner fire while waiting for the return to spring.

Water’s power is deep and yin.  It is a time to conserve our resources and not be wasteful with our active, outward (yang) energy.   Salt is the flavor of water.  But by eating too much salt, creates a craving for water, which can injure the kidneys.  The Nei Jing states, “eating too much salt will injure the blood”, which correlates with the fire element and with the heart, which directly affects the kidneys.   And as we know in Western medicine, salt causes water retention, high blood pressure and kidney and heart problems.

Kidneys govern the storage of life force in the bones and marrow.  They also govern the sex organs and sexual functions of the body.   The Urinary bladder rules the time between 3-5 pm, while Kidneys rule from 5-7 pm.   People who have a water imbalance are often more emotional or fearful during these times.


As we move into winter, it is a time to adjust our diet to reflect this more inward, colder time of year.   So, naturally we need a diet that generates more heat.   A diet with mainly carbohydrates (as in veggies) and protein will produce the heat your body needs.

Vegetable soups, especially on cold and wet days, are nutritious, warming and easy to digest.   Look for vegetables that reflect nature’s deep, solitary theme.  Root vegetables like carrots, turnips, beets, onions and potatoes are especially good for a winter diet.  Warming spices such as garlic and ginger root, with a little added cayenne pepper will warm you from head to toe.

In addition, cooked and whole grains are a fantastic winter staple.  Grains such as millet and buckwheat, along with red adzuki beans, mung beans, black beans or lentils.   Red adzuki beans are excellent for kidneys while black beans assist sexual functionality.

Nuts are also a great winter snack along with nut milks.   Feta cheese, made from a warm, wooly sheep is best for the winter months.  It breaks apart easily and is slightly less salty than other cheese.

For the meat eaters out there, fish is highly recommended, as it is found in the deep yin of the sea.  Some humanely raised, antibiotic and chemical free chicken and red meat is good occasionally.   But too much is over-stimulating and endangers the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys.

Most of all, take special care to listen to your body in what you should consume.


How Do I Know?…

In Asia, the common cold comes in at least 3 varieties:

Wind-Cold:  you feel chilly and feverish and have body aches, headache, cough and stuffy nose with watery nasal discharge. Warming foods help counteract this condition

Wind-Heat (in Western cultures, we call this flu):  you have a fever, or feel like you should, possible chills, along with a sore throat, thirst, yellow urine and a stuffy nose with thick yellow discharge.   Foods that are cooling are called for here.  Such as chrysanthemum, peppermint or mulberry leave tea.

Summer-Heat and Dampness:  Not traditionally found in winter, but in warmer months.  Slight fever, heaviness in the head, aching in the arms and legs, thirst without desire to drink, loss of appetite or nausea.  In this case, foods that drain dampness are required.  Watermelon, cucumber, and mung beans.  Also barley tea (found at most Asian grocery stores).