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Chinese Medicine’s Take On the ‘Wintertime Blues’


Am I depressed or is this just Wintertime blues? is one of the most asked questions in Winter.

The change of the seasons has come, passing the holidays by us once more. After a long, cooped-up year that we’ve left behind and the high energy of the holidays behind us, we find ourselves yet again – still in Wintertime. Mother Nature is still urging us to hibernate, to slow it way down. Often it can be this very slowing down that alarms us. Especially if you are used to over-functioning. Wintertime can be especially difficult if you are burned out at the turn of the seasons. 

How can we make friends with S-l-o-w-n-e-s-s? 

In the West, much of our identity is wrapped up in our to-do lists, our accomplishments, productivity, and earning money. When those very things slow down – which is a natural ebb and flow of the energies in our world – they can be a real ego blow. But that is good territory to take a little deep dive! Where do you source your validation from? What happens to your psyche when you don’t have much energy to perform? This is where feelings of depression can start to rear their heads. 

As someone who pretends to be Superwoman much of the year, I struggle with these things myself sometimes, too. I HAVE to let myself rest because I’ve learned that if I don’t, nature will take the reins and decide for me.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

There is also something called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that is not to be taken lightly. Partly this has to do with your constitution – some people, given their ancestry, need more sunshine than others to thrive. Often SAD has to do with Vitamin D deficiency – especially during the darker months of the year. It’s not uncommon for many of my clients to go on higher doses of Vitamin D in the winter. Luckily you can test for Vitamin D deficiency and dose accordingly. 

Additionally, one of my favorite wintertime supports for SAD is Homeopathic Serotonin Dopamine Liquescence, and it’s safe for everyone (including those who are pregnant or nursing!). Taking it in the morning when you wake, then in the evening before bed – both times away from food can give you a little boost to get through your days. 

Let’s Talk Kidney Health, The Yin to Your Yang

Our kidneys are the foundation of yin and yang, the root of fire and water, and are wildly important to nourish and support all year round but especially during the Wintertime. In traditional Chinese medicine, if the water element is out of balance, signs point to depletion of the kidneys and adrenal glands. One way we can begin to heal and support our kidneys is to eliminate any unnecessary stress as much as possible. Yes – this includes the stress we put on ourselves. 

Some folks need to get on kidney-strengthening herbs during the Wintertime. This will be how they find their energy come spring. Here are some of my favorite herbs for kidney support in the Winter: 

Cinnamon – sweet and pungent, supports the digestive system, kidneys, spleen, and immune system. Best consumed in a hot infusion or a decoction. Very warm so if you are having heat signs, avoid it.

Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng) – pungent and slightly bitter, supports the central nervous system, kidneys, adrenals, and endocrine system. It is a strong adaptogen but doesn’t give you the pizazz like the other ginsengs. Best consumed in a decoction.

Rehmannia – sweet and slightly warm, supports the liver, kidneys, and respiratory system. Best consumed in a decoction. Hands down one of my favorites!

For kidney-specific formulas, the Kidney Qi pills from the Golden Cabinet (Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan) are a beneficial addition for when you’re feeling exhausted and cold.

These recommendations are good to incorporate anytime during winter to set yourself up for energetic success come Spring. But for those who are really struggling this time of year, it’s all the more important to pick one and treat yourself. Learn more about Winter + the Water element in my book. And if you are having health issues, please talk to your doctor about starting new herbal remedies

If you already have an acupuncturist and herbalist, ask them about adding in Kidney tonics or other Water element boosting herbal medicines. A practitioner who knows you will be your best resource. If you want to work with me, consider scheduling a Discovery Session

Working With Winter Slowness: Bring In More Yin Activities 

Take Epsom salt baths, (visit hot springs with a friend!), read an autobiography from someone who you admire, learn a new and creative trade, start a journal, listen to calming sounds like Tibetan singing bowls or native flute. These are all Water element restoring activities for slowing down and taking in the beauty within nature’s hibernation – and our own.

Move Your Body

While winter calls us inward and encourages us to slow down, that doesn’t mean to become hibernating couch potatoes. We still need to move our bodies and our blood! Taking a nice, slow walk or finding a yin and restorative yoga class online that works best for you is a great way to move your body but in a way that is nourishing and not depleting. It’s important to move your body during this time of the year to keep the joints lubricated and the blood moving (without overdoing it!). Essentially you want to keep as much in your storage tanks as possible this time of year. 

If you feel you are depressed and in need of support, please reach out to someone. You can always call us at the Inner Center for Healing Center and speak to someone right away and we can help you come up with a plan. (720) 441-2392.

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