Winter in Traditional Chinese Medicine

by Denise Cicuto L.Ac., Dipl. OM. |

Winter in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Close your eyes and think about the colors dark blue or black. Say the sound “Choooooo.” This is the healing sound for the Water Element, which is associated with winter according to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory.

Winter is said to be yin time of the year, the time having great WI stillness. It is the time of darkness turning golden. It’s the time we sow the seeds or ideas that will grow out in the spring. It is also a navel-gazing time. Perhaps this is why people reflect on their lives at the end of the year 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 linked  with the Water Element are dark blue and black. In Chinese Medicine, the Kidneys save  the “Ming Men” or Life gate. They are the owner of our reproductive health, our urination, our bones, hair, teeth, and harmonizing 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.”

Salty is the flavor associated with Kidneys but as with everything: moderation is key. This isn’t a permit to add much salt to food, but if you crave salt this indicates the imbalance in the Kidney system.

Kidney 24: “Spirit Burial Ground”
Kidney 24 from A Manual of Acupuncture by Deadman, Al-Khafaji and Baker

Kidney 24 indicates 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. By stimulating this point, the healer brings the spirit back from its sleep beneath the world.

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 positioned on outer side of the foot, in the front of (closer to the toe side) of the tuberosity – or bump – of the fifth metatarsal bone.

Bladder 64

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.

Winter is a period of reflection about how you want your life to go on. How can you set your goals to bring positive change in your life?

Care Consideration: Just a reminder that the above information is not a substitute for medical care and is not a substitute for medical advice or recommendations  from a healthcare provider.  This information is not intended to treat, mitigate or cure any disease.  That said, we encourage you to connect with an Acupuncturist in your community to learn more about this and other Traditional Chinese Medicine options.  If you’ve got questions about Chinese herbal medicine or getting started with an Acupuncturist, feel free to connect with us on

Denise Cicuto, L.Ac., Dipl. OM of San Francisco-based Cicuto Acupuncture offers a compassionate style of acupuncture, having been healed through acupuncture and inspiring her to specialize in women's health. With a Masters from Yo San University, she educates and practices self-care.

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