5 winter life rules from TCM masters

5 winter life rules from TCM masters

As the winter months kick in, fight the cold and stay healthy in the traditional Chinese way
Consumption of warm spices, such as cinnamon and ginger, can nourish your body in winter.

According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), different foods emit different energies ranging from cold to hot.

During the winter, our bodies need food with warming properties to generate body heat and keep our qi flowing.

Two Shanghai-based TCM doctors write us five prescriptions for staying healthy and warm through Shanghai's bone-chilling winter days.

Winter TCM prescription 1: Do not eat cold food

Dr. Doris Rathgeber, founder of Body & Soul Medical Clinics, recommends eating heavier foods such as stew, lentils and beans and sticking to things that nature produces at this time of year, such as oranges and lemons.

According to Dr. Lawrence Huang from Tranquility Medical Center, winter is a time for nourishing.

“Eat plenty of lamb, cabbage, onion and garlic and warm spices such as cinnamon and ginger, and avoid ‘cold’ foods such as cucumber, melon, tomato and literally anything out of the refrigerator,” he says.

“Ginseng is a good energy booster that nourishes the lungs and kidneys, and wolfberries, mulberries and raspberries nourish the blood.”

Winter TCM prescription 2: Drink warm water

What applies to what you eat, applies to what you drink. Drink warm or hot water or green tea for its antioxidants.

Dr. Huang also recommends drinking lemon or grapefruit juice in the morning,

“The acidity aids digestion and metabolism,” he explains.

But don’t drink it every day, warns Rathgeber: “These fruits are quite aggressive and are bad for heat diseases such as eczema.”

The good news is red wine is also good to warm the body in winter, just in small doses.

Winter TCM prescription 3: Take herbal supplements

Starting on December 22, health-conscious Chinese start to consume gao fang (膏方) every day for six weeks.

According to Rathgeber, “it’s a syrupy mixture cooked from 30 to 40 different herbs that you drink with hot water. The herbs strengthen your qi, improve your circulation and boost your immune system in the winter.”

Ready-made batches are available in Chinese pharmacies. Alternatively you can visit a TCM doctor and seek for a mixture custom-made according to your ailments.

Winter TCM prescription 4: Keep warm ... but not too warm

Qi stagnates easily in the cold so wear lots of layers to keep your energy and blood flowing.

“You’re more likely to catch a cold when it’s windy,” says Huang. “If you do get any flu-like symptoms, boil perilla leaf or cassia twig in water and drink it.”

But don’t overdo the heating indoors.

“It’s supposed to be cold in the winter and your body adapt by keeping warm," Rathgeber explains. "If it’s too hot indoors, your body cannot adjust to the outside temperature and you’ll get sick. Train your body by taking a cold shower after a hot shower.”

Winter TCM prescription 5: Take exercise … but not too much

It’s important to keep your pulse high and your qi pumping so exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.

“Don’t exercise until you feel exhausted,” advises Rathgeber. “You need to boost your energy levels, [so do] not deplete them. A brisk walk is enough.

"If the weather is good, boost your oxygen levels with some fresh air.”

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There are four Body & Soul Medical Clinics in Shanghai. The most central one is in Huangpu District. 14/F, Anji Plaza, 760 Xizang nan Lu, near Jianguo Xin Lu 西藏南路760号安基大厦14楼, 近建国新路, +86 21 5101 9262, Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday: 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday: 10 a.m.-3 p.m., www.tcm-shanghai.com

Tranquility Medical Center, 114-116 Pudian Lu, near Pudong Nan Lu 浦电路114-116号, 近浦东南路, +86 21 5876 1302, Saturday-Thursday: 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 2 p.m.-6 p.m., www.tranquility-tcm.com