The most recent cold snap we had in Victoria reminded me of the impact the outside world has on our body’s ability to function properly.
In TCM, this is a part of the concept of holism. Our bodies are not only an integrated whole, with every part (organs, structure, function, etc) being interconnected, but we are also connected to the environment in which we live.
Climate will begin to have a negative impact on us if the levels that our body can tolerate are exceeded. Each organ in our body has a climatic factor and is directly impacted when it exceeds what can be tolerated.
In the case of Cold, it causes constriction of vessels, muscles, Qi and blood flow in the body. In excess, it will cause harm to the kidneys which also rule the bones. When Qi and blood are restricted in their movement, pain is one of the results. Qi stagnation will cause dull/achy/distending pain and blood stasis causes sharp/stabbing pain. This is why people who suffer from arthritis feel more pain in the winter.
This is also where the phenomenon of the Victoria Snow Birds comes from. Kidney energy follows a bell curve throughout our life, it is weakest when we are young and old. This makes the elderly more prone to the consequences of the Cold because of their ability to tolerate it is lower due to their weaker kidney energy. As a result, many choose to spend the winter months down south (USA, Mexico) because they find that their bodies move freer and with less pain.
Clinically, TCM practitioners may choose to use moxibustion (infrared heat focused on specific acupuncture points or areas of the body) as a means of putting heat back into the body. There are several types of moxibustion application that can be used. At Lavender House, I use a device called the Premio 10 Moxa. It emits the same frequency as traditional moxibustion (infrared heat is emitted from the burning of the herb mugwort) but has the benefit of not exposing you to harmful smoke or smell.
You can find more information about the Premio 10 Moxa here.
Moxa Heat Packs are also available for pickup at my clinic for use at home. They are single-use packs that when activated will produce heat (122-158 degrees Fahrenheit) for a minimum of 18 hours. These are great for staying warm, whether it be outside for a weekend hike or bundled up at the rink watching a hockey game. They can also be “turned off” by placing them in an air-tight container. This will allow you to use them over and over again for a total of 18 hours instead of for 18 consecutive hours. I often use the same Moxa Heat Pack for a week or more by using this energy-saving technique. The pack are available for $4 each.
Internally, the best way to put heat into the body is through warming foods/drinks and wearing appropriate clothing. Avoid anything raw or straight from the fridge as this will cool your body down further. Winter is a great time of year for soups, stews, and chai tea (see recipe here). In regards to clothing, make sure that your lower back is always properly covered and wear a scarf (especially on windy days).
I hope you warm while this cold winter lasts. If you’re interested in finding out more about moxibustion, I’m always happy to connect!