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Can TCM Help Conquer The Winter Blues?

Do you feel disconnected from nature? Do you spend most of your time indoors staring at screens? Does being stuck behind the wheel zap your Shen (spirit), making you feel even more out of touch with the elements? 

Well, this time of year, you’re probably more dialed into nature than you think. Many people experience the winter blues. With less sunlight and weak UV rays during the day, winter induces biological processes that naturally make us feel more lethargic and melancholic.

But if you can’t get out of bed, well, that’s another story. Here’s how TCM may help.

Are The Winter Blues Natural?

You don’t have to be a Chinese Medicine doctor to know that people and nature are inseparable. As the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine explains, the coldness of winter forces inactivity and storing. So that’s the good news if you’re experiencing the winter blues. You are supposed to feel sluggish this time of year. But our always-on-the-go Western society pressures us to think we must always be productive. With the exception of our 2 or 3 weeks off for vacation a year, we’re always on. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine and other ancient holistic philosophies urge us to just go with the flow. Let the rhythm of the seasons be our guide, not how many gifts we have to buy for the holidays or the projects we must complete by the end of the year. 

Yet some people are struck with serious cases of the winter blues. The urge to hibernate is overwhelming. If this time of year completely robs your life of joy, then Houston, we have a problem. 

TCM Theory For Dealing With The Winter Blues

Wintertime is Yin energy to the max. The cool, dark, decreasing, low-energy, chill-out natural aspects of Yin are amplified in winter. Again, there’s no harm in feeling a bit lethargic in winter. The problem arises if you already have a Yin-dominant constitutional pattern or a Yang Qi Deficiency. 

To have abundant energy in the winter, your Kidney organ system must be balanced and well-nourished.  

People who are naturally more Yin (pale face, cold extremities, prone to low back discomfort) may have a more serious case of the winter blues. And if you give in to your boss’s plea to take on more work (for the same pay), you’ll experience an even greater imbalance. Being overworked, not getting enough sleep, and not eating a nutrient-dense diet will further deplete any traces of warming Yang energy you may have in winter. 

If you have the winter blues, chances are good that your Kidney organ system is weak. According to the five-element theory of TCM, wintertime is associated with the paired organ systems of the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder. These energetic channels are associated with the water element. 

To have abundant energy in the winter, your Kidney organ system must be balanced and well-nourished. In TCM theory, the Kidneys are the reservoir for energy. And it’s not just the cold weather making your joints feel achy. When your Kidney organ system is deficient in Qi, discomfort in the musculoskeletal system can manifest. 

Using TCM For The Winter Blues

The easiest way to support your mood and energy during the winter is nourishing Yang energy. A 12-herb blend YanVive is one of the most well-regarded TCM formulas. First recorded in Essentials from the Golden Cabinet (written by Zhang Ji, an eminent Chinese physician in the Eastern Han dynasty circa 150–219 CE), the oldest clinical book dedicated to internal and external patterns of illnesses. Diseases, YanVive is designated in China Pharmacopoeia for Yang insufficiency of Kidney. By reinvigorating Kidney Yang, YanVive may support overall energy (including sexual energy) and help your extremities feel not so cold this time of year.

AllTonic For All Seasons

If you’re looking for one TCM formula to support your health any time of year, AllTonic may help. This Modern Essentials brand best-seller replenishes Qi energy, tonifies the Kidneys, supports a positive mood, and, though AllTonic is not designed specifically for the “winter blues” it may help balance Yin and Yang energies. And in doing so, you’ll feel less like a bear in winter and more like a hummingbird in summer. 

Defeating The Winter Blues

While TCM herbs and acupuncture may be effective for feeling more energetic and balanced in winter, conquering wintertime blues requires a holistic approach. Stay physically active (but don’t overdo it), rest more and sleep more, heat warming nourishing foods and as the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine suggests, just go with the flow, even if that flow is slower. And don’t forget to surround yourself with loved ones even if they drive you crazy from time to time. Happy winter!

What do you do to defeat the winter blues? Let us know below!