Winter in Chinese Medicine

Close your eyes, picture the colors dark blue or black. Say the sound “Choooooo” (As in, “Chewie, we’re home.”) This is the healing sound for the Water element, which is associated with Winter in Chinese Medicine.

Winter is the most yin time of the year, the time of greatest stillness. It is the time of darkness turning into golden light. It’s when we plant the seeds or ideas that will sprout in the Spring. You can also think of it as navel-gazing time. Perhaps this is why at the end of the year, people reflect on their lives and figure out what they want to accomplish in the new one.

The Water element is also ruled by the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder. The colors associated with the Water element are dark blue and black. In Chinese Medicine terms, the Kidneys store the “Ming Men” or Life gate. They are in charge of our reproductive health, our urination, our bones, hair, teeth, and balancing our yin and yang.

The spirit of the Water element is called Zhi and as Lorie Dechar explains, it is our “will to live, the unknowable mystery of quickening life . . . not the ego driven control of Western “willpower”1

Foods that are good for the Kidneys and Bladder are dark foods like black rice (also called “forbidden rice“). Try Black rice salad with butternut squash and pomegranate seeds. There’s also a yummy black rice cake recipe here. I modify it for the season with cinnamon which warms the Kidneys, and with a dark berry like blueberry instead of mango.

Salty is the flavor associated with them but, as with everything, moderation is key. This isn’t a license to add a lot of salt to everything you cook. (But if you crave salt, this may indicate an imbalance in the Kidney system.)

Kidney 24 from A Manual of Acupuncture by Deadman, Al-Khafaji and Baker

Kidney 24 from A Manual of Acupuncture by Deadman, Al-Khafaji and Baker

Kidney 24: “Spirit Burial Ground”

Kidney 24 can be used for cough, asthma and wheezing. It can also be used for vomiting and when someone has no pleasure in eating. I often use this point on women in their first trimester to help stop morning sickness. But Kidney 24 also has another function:



Kidney 24, is the point of resurrection, located at the level of the heart, two inches on either side of the midline. In stimulating this point, the healer calls the spirit back from its sleep in the underworld.2

For this purpose, I have used Kidney 24 to help people who are living too much in their heads and not enough in their body. And I’ve used it to help ‘wake’ people up who are emotionally stuck or depressed. If Winter is when darkness turns into light, this point can guide people out of their own darkness. 

Bladder 64 “Capital Bone”

This point, located on the outside of the foot, in front of (closer to the toe side) of the tuberosity – or bump – of the fifth metatarsal bone.

Bladder 64 can be used for splitting headache, nosebleed, dizziness, palpitations, manic-depression, and epilepsy. Wow, that’s a pretty useful point. In another sense, it can be used to tap into your inner reserves. I think of it as replenishing the candle if you’ve burnt it at both ends:

As the source point associated with the bladder official, Bl-64 can ground the entire course of the meridian and its associated functions. This is particularly important because the bladder official empowers access to our inner reserves . .  that provide access to the deepest level of each organ’s functional reserve of qi.3

Winter is a time of reflection about how you want your life to unfold. What goals do you have for the new year? I like to think of them as goals rather than ‘resolutions’ because often people break resolutions and then feel bad about themselves. How can you make your goals a positive force of change in your life?

Denise Cicuto