The climate is cold and the organ is, or are, the kidneys. As these are situated in the small of the back, just above the waist and close to the surface, if we are sensitive to, or exposed to the cold we may feel pain here. TCM states that disease during this time is located in the bones, so this can also lead to aching joints.
The natural element of winter is water, which has a capacity to flow, filter and cool when healthy, but to harden and cause blockage when not. This can add to the painful aspect. It can even lead to overheating if it has ‘run out’ too much, causing inflammatory urinary problems like cystitis.
Many people suffer from a lack of kidney Qi due to overwork and lack of rest, equal to adrenal exhaustion. Other common physical symptoms are fatigue, sexual and reproductive imbalances, depression, anxiety and insomnia.
The first most important thing is to keep warm. Minimise cold and raw foods instead eat beans – especially the ones shaped like and named thus: kidney beans. The associated colour is black, so black beans and their salty flavour, which fits this season, are another good choice. The Japanese adzuki bean has a lot of nutritional value. Try making stews, and sauces, and add coarse greens, which are the correct vegetable of this time of the year. Seaweed is also salty, root vegetables are warming and nourishing, combine with ginger and cinnamon.
Traditionally this is the time of harvest, when our energies retract inside, we need to do less, move a bit slower and rest more. There’s even an associated sound – it’s yawning! Our energy now can be harmed by over-standing – we may have experienced how standing for a long time either at work or at an outdoor concert can give us a sore back and aching legs, so avoid this if possible.
The sense that is connected with the kidneys is hearing, and the emotion, fear. Instead of giving in to anxiety about the future we can make good use of this time to listen more and reflect on the past year, in order to prepare ourselves for the spring that follows.