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Greetings from December! The recent weather changes in Kentucky have led to a common theme around here: cold and flu! While the treatment (and perhaps more importantly, the prevention) of these seasonal maladies with Chinese medicine is not new, it is something worth discussing here on our own blog. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to break it down into 4 easy steps:

 

Step One: Stay warm on the outside! This is true from both the inside and the outside – what you eat and what you wear – but we’ll start with the outside first. We have an understanding in Chinese Medicine that involves the cause of disease. As you might imagine, one of these causes is cold. Most of us can easily think back to a time when we were physically cold either out in the elements or even indoors, perhaps during the night especially, and the next day had  a cold, runny nose, fatigue, cough and all. Exposure to cold is not often disputed as a predecessor to illness. What you may not know, however, is that wind is another culprit to be on the lookout for. Especially when the body’s pores are open, or vulnerable areas are exposed, such as the back of the neck. At times, such as in winter, when wind and cold combine, sickness is much easier to come by. Luckily, there are some simple ways to avoid sickness at the hands of wind and cold: cover up! YouTube and the internet in general are teeming with creative ways to wear scarves (I like this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LYAEz777AU) – take advantage of these suggestions to keep yourself protected. Additionally, don’t go out without wearing appropriate outerwear such as coats, hats, and gloves, even if, “It’ll only be a minute…” It may only take a minute of exposure to lead to a month of misery! Finally, don’t go fanning around (as my mother would say) when your pores are open. A particularly important time to remember this is after a workout at the gym when you’re “just going to the car” – that is a key moment to make sure you are protected against invasion by cold and wind!

 

Step Two: Stay warm on the inside! Memorize this: winter is not the time for smoothies and salads. The nature of raw fruits and vegetables is cold (making them perfect for summer) and they require extra digestive energy to break down, which takes away from the energy your body could be using to keep itself warm! The winter-friendly way to eat vegetables is well-cooked, or roasted in the oven (see this how-to if you need some help: http://www.bhg.com/recipes/how-to/cooking-basics/how-to-roast-vegetables/) You can also augment your winter warmth by drinking things such as ginger tea, which is good for digestion, and peppermint tea, which is also good for helping to combat the feeling of “cabin fever” that may arise when the weather turns icy and prevents travel.

 

Step Three: Pay attention to your body. When you feel like you’re coming down with something, you probably are! The good news is that in the early stages of illness, when you start to feel not quite right but don’t have any full-blown symptoms, there’s a simple tea you can cook up to help yourself feel better. Boil 2 ginger slices the size of quarters in 3 cups of water for about 20 minutes (the water should take on a slight ginger-colored tint), then add 2-3 green onion bulbs and a citrus peel (we save and dry onion bulbs and tangerine peels to have when we need them), boil for 5-7 minutes more. When the time is up, strain off the solids and discard them. The best way to drink the tea is when it’s still quite warm and you are bundled up under a blanket. Often a light sweat will be produced and the wind and cold that were in the superficial layers of the skin exit back out through the pores, sparing you untold amounts of discomfort!

Step Four: Know your options. If you are unable to drink the tea in Step Three soon enough and your symptoms have progressed, hope is not lost. In many cases, acupuncture and/or an herbal formula are able to address the illness and either eradicate it immediately or seriously lessen the extent and duration of the symptoms. In fact, many of these herbs can be purchased ahead of time to have on-hand in case you need them this winter. Suffering is not your only option! Give us a call if you have any questions about treating what ails you, or if you’d like to schedule a consultation. Be well!

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