Winter: Water Element of Chinese Traditional Medicine

5 Elements in Traditional Chinese Medicine Taoism: Fire (heart/small intestine, Summer), Earth (spleen/stomach, Harvest), Metal (lung/large intestine, Autumn), Water (kidney/bladder, Winter), Wood (liver/gallbladder, Spring)



  1. Qi (pronounced “chee”): immaterial, like vapor, a subtle powerful vital force in our bodies, derived from our prenatal life and everyday lifestyle. Energy, life force, moving power, bio-electricity
  2. Yin and Yang: Yin is quiet, Yang is active. Yang gives life, Yin makes it grow…Yang is transformed into Qi, Yin is transformed into material life (blood, body fluids).
  3. Kidney Essence (prenatal Qi): It is like our DNA and it determines growth, reproduction, development and aging, sexual maturation, conception, and pregnancy. Essence is derived from our parents, resides in the kidneys, and is our savings account for life.
  4. Postnatal Qi: This defines your daily lifestyle Qi quality after birth


Autumn is letting go of what no longer serves us via the lungs and large intestine, transforming into the Water element of Winter. Winter Qi is close to the Kidneys/Bladder organs and the bones. Depending on balance in a person, emotion can be fear and insecurity based, will power is Kidney Qi strength, Qi traverses deep to the bones, ears reflect Kidney Qi health, deep blue/purple/black is the Winter Kidney color, Kidney Yin/Yang represents our past (prenatal) and our future (postnatal) immunity/health. Winter sound groaning! Winter Water is Yin time for self care, especially for women.

The Kidney energy manages our water metabolism (all secretions), endocrine system (hormones), aging process, filters our blood volume hourly, controls the bladder and genitalia, supports all other internal organs, nourishes our bone marrow, stores our essence (jing), supports low back and knees, strengthens libido.

Kidney/Bladder meridian pathway of Qi/Prana:

K channel: starts at bottom foot-inside ankle, lower leg, thigh, through genitalia/kidneys/bladder, up through abdomen, through chest, opens to ears


B channel: starts at inner eye, up over head, down back of spine, through

kidneys/bladder, down backside of legs, terminates at pinky toe


Accelerated aging increases from poor lifestyle, lack of exercise, poor diet (including mal-absorption from poor digestion), overwork, drugs, poor sleep, excessive sexual activity, and stress (including emotions).


Healthy aging is influenced by heredity, good digestion (upper and lower digestion), quality sleep, stress reduction practices, exercise, whole foods diet, and laughter.


Winter Water Kidney Energy and Emotions

Best time to conserve energy, boost nutrition and stay warm, meditate, and refine your listening skills in your spiritual depth

Go to bed earlier; rise later to boost energy for Spring (nature’s rebirth)

Stay active enough to preserve flexibility in the body/mind/heart


In balance Full of life force and calm at the same time; like a large calm river flowing quickly. This fullness and strength in energy leads us with courage to face emotions and allows for calm, originality, and a great outflow of effortless power in the creative energy of Water.


Out of balance Water can be aggravated in Winter: depression, lack of motivation, arthritis, low energy, urinary dysfunction, feeling lackluster, “feeling cold to the bone”

Like a small stream rushing and bumping into everything, energy is running low and fear and stress is overtaking. This fear makes us feel weak and if Kidney yin/yang continues to weaken, we can become paralyzed and numb.


Daily Qigong

We will cultivate together
* short daily practices to begin your mornings joyfully, to
experience aliveness during the day, and to deeply rest at night
* grounding breathing, postures and acu-pressure points to help us
maintain and regain balance when confronted with challenges and
strong emotions
* meridian-based massage -focusing attention and intention- to
clear and revitalize our energy field
* gentle flow movements from the wisdom traditions of India and China
to clear energy blockages and to awaken the Qi/Prana through the body

By cultivating together these states of peace and of inner and outer
flexibility, your body/mind/heart will begin to familiarize itself
with them and will store that experience for you—to give a better
quality of life each day. You will also develop greater resilience by
being able to come back to these states of peace, by doing the
practices whenever you need them. They will eventually become second
nature to you and help you to create an inner framework of vitality
and peace, opening doors to new ways of being in the world, full of creativity and positive dreams.


Energetic Nutrition for Winter Water Yin

In the Winter, eat fewer cold, raw, foods—such as salads, raw veggies, smoothies. Switch to warm hearty soups, whole grains, roasted nuts, dark beans, seaweeds, winter greens, and partake in warm, cooked, sautéed, steamed, roasted, baked whole foods. Salty and bitter flavors balance our Kidneys in the Winter cold season.


Warm and nourishing foods and herbs to add to your Winter diet:

Bitter goes to the Heart (heart fire balances kidney water)

endive, turnip, celery, asparagus, alfalfa, carrot top, rye, oats, quinoa, amaranth, citrus peel, chicory root, burdock root, horsetail, chaparral (Dandy Blend)


Salty goes to the Kidneys

Miso, seaweeds, sea salt, millet, barley, Braggs


Warming Yang-Qi

Cloves, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, anise seeds, black peppercorn, ginger, cinnamon bark, walnuts, black beans, onion family, quinoa, chicken, lamb, trout, salmon


Jing Tonics

Micro-Algae, wheat grass, almonds, milk, ghee, nettles, royal jelly, bee pollen, chicken, mussels, fish, liver, kidneys, bone broth–marrow from bone (RNA/DNA, rich in B12, Vit.A)

Omega-3s (good quality cold water fish oil), black sesame seeds, chestnuts, raspberries, strawberries, walnuts, black or dark colors in food go to kidneys, black beans, kidney beans, adzuki beans, winter squash, potato with skins, parsley, sweet rice, rose hips, schissandra fruit, goji berries


Moderation is important in each season. Energetic nutrition and herbs help balance the body-mind if there is illness, disease, pain, emotional stress.


Avoid: cooling foods and fruits, raw foods, excessive salt

Eat in season, organic!

Factors which Deplete Jing (Kidney Qi, Yin, Yang, Essence)

  1. Stress, fear, insecurity, overwork
  2. Toxins: alcohol, drugs, coffee, tobacco, heavy metals
  3. Excessive sweet-flavored food
  4. Too much dietary protein
  5. Too much semen loss, particularly in “old age”
  6. Too many childbirths without rebuilding energy after each one



Since Winter is the time to replenish our energy, adrenals, Qi, I like to partake in kidney yin/yang-qi tonics. These herbs have an adaptagenic effect, meaning that they strengthen our kidney immunity and boost adrenals. These herbs are the ginsengs, cordyceps, astragalus, rhodiola, ashwagandha, to name a few. Usually by blending a few of these herbs with slightly warming herbs (like cinnamon bark), plus a sprinkle of invigorating/strengthening blood, a beautiful synergistic formula is created! Herbs are so wonderful when they are prescribed properly according to diagnosis.


Winter Water’s Kidneys are the deepest yin in our body and psyche. Creativity and our dreams are housed here, which mental intelligence/vision from the liver and willpower from the kidneys emerge to produce strength and peace in life.








PS (If you are interested in Qigong, try YouTube and look up Lee Holden to start. There are other practitioners teaching as well. Adult Ed. locally in our community usually includes Qigong.)