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White Tree

Caring for your Kidney Qi in Winter

The Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, has arrived. In Chinese Medicine, we regard Winter with great care - this is when our yin energy is at its peak, and our bodies instinctively want to rest, conserve and store energy. Allowing time for reflection, slowing down, and nurturing ourselves deeply prepares us for the outburst of growth and activity in the new year. 

Winter is the season associated with Kidney Qi (chee) which is responsible for supporting our bones, bone marrow, adrenals, overall function of our nerves and brain. It plays a key role in our reproductive health, sex drive, fertility and successful pregnancies. Our hearing, memory, and motivation are also supported by Kidney Qi. It is the meridian system associated with longevity, long life, and governs our aging process, following us from birth until death. 

Kidney Qi is naturally depleted over the course of our lives. There are things that we do that can dissipate our Kidney Qi too quickly though - things like being overly stressed for prolonged periods of time, overworking, under sleeping, over thinking, too much screen time, too much time indoors, living or working in a stressful environment, being too cold internally or externally - ie eating too many cold, raw foods and not dressing properly for the weather. I’ll always be checking out your socks (or lack thereof) and whether or not your neck is well covered! Signs that there is Kidney Qi decline are feeling overly tired, stressed and drained, with additional symptoms such as weakness in the knees or lower back, increased frequency of urination, diminished hearing, tinnitus, changes in sex drive, premature ejaculation. Please pay attention! These are important signals your body is telling you! Activities and people that contribute to a sense of warmth, calmness and happiness are good for you, and your Kidney Qi.

Winter is the season of slowing down - animals go into hibernation, plants go into dormancy, and yet, we rarely slow down this time of year. Our busy lives often lead us to overbooking social engagements, working long hours to meet the year end deadlines, squeezing in lots of holiday parties, traveling, and spending lots of money, often beyond our means. We tend to stay up late this time of year, that with consuming rich food and alcohol, and worrying about how we will get everything we want done (and paid for!) can really zap our Qi. As you can see, the Kidneys can really take a hit this time of year!

So what can we do? Here are things you can do to protect and nourish your Kidney Qi:

  • Get sufficient rest. Napping is wholly appropriate for adults, especially this time of year.

  • Get a little fresh air every day, breathe deeply.

  • Keep warm! The Kidney meridian originates at the bottom of your feet, it is in direct connection with the earth, resonating with the Qi of the Earth. 

  • Try to limit the amount of stress you are exposed to at work and at home. Holding back from expressing our emotions appropriately can lead to illness. Try to limit the amount of time you’re in personal or work environments that stress you. 

  • Stay hydrated. Kidney’s element is Water, room temperature or warmer is best.

  • Take time regularly to sit quietly in meditation, reflecting, or reading a book for relaxation.

  • Make time for activities that nourish and inspire you - writing, singing, painting, crafting, tinkering, building projects, hiking, camping, skiing, skating.

  • Movement, especially yoga, tai chi, qi gong and walking, are all very good for rebuilding Kidney Qi. No matter what kind of exercise you do, if you feel energized afterwards then it’s a good sign that you are building up your Kidney Qi. If you feel tired afterwards and like you need to rest, it is likely too much so adjusting the type and intensity of what you are doing is necessary.

  • Eat lots of cooked and warm foods rather than cold and raw foods. The Kidneys love salty flavored foods and things from the sea - such as miso, sea salt, seaweed, tamari, salted raw sauerkraut, fish and shrimp. The Kidney’s also love kidney-shaped foods - black beans, kidney beans, most beans actually. And blue and black foods such as blueberries, blackberries, and mulberries. Most fruits are not seasonal this time of year, and they are mostly cold in nature. Cooking them into compotes and pies is a good option, or adding berries to oatmeal will warm them up a bit. The colors blue and black correspond with the Water element, which rules the Kidneys, so drinking lots of water is important too! And absolutely include lots of warming soups and stews - there are infinite possibilities when combining beans with vegetables! If your Kidneys are feeling especially depleted, bone-marrow broth is an age-old Chinese prescription. Grains: barley, millet. Nuts: walnut, chestnut, almonds. Seeds: flax, pumpkin, sunflower, black sesame. Seeds relate to fertility and growth which is governed by Kidney energy.

  • Acupuncture and herbs are ideally suited for rebuilding and supporting Kidney Qi. The frequency of your visits will depend on your individual needs. Especially come in if you are having trouble sleeping, are trying to get pregnant, are postpartum, are in peri-menopause, experiencing changes in your sex drive, hair loss, prostate problems, bladder problems, low back pain or weakness, tinnitus, hearing loss, diminished memory, or adrenal fatigue.


I encourage all of us to spend some time thinking about how we can be healthier and happier in a year’s time than we are now. I hope that in the coming year I can be a part of your healing journey. Tune-ups around Solstices and Equinoxes are a great way to stay in touch with the natural rhythms of the seasons to stay in harmony and balance with ourselves. Happy Solstice!

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