Staying Well in Winter Using Ancient Medicine Techniques
By Catherine Baldi
Our Bay Area winter with its damp chill, blustery winds and reduced hours of sunlight brings constitutional challenges that can make us more susceptible to those persistent cold and flu viruses. In my experience, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture provide the most effective methods for treating colds and flus throughout this time of year.
Acupuncture is only one of five main branches of “Traditional Chinese Medicine.” In Acupuncture, the body’s illnesses are resolved by unblocking and directing energy through the rivers (meridians) that flow through the body — by stimulating points along these tributaries with fine-pointed needles. Acupuncture is the most well-known branch, but the other four equally-important branches, “Right Thinking,” balanced nutrition, herbal medicine, and massage all together create the TCM map to wholeness and health. In the United States, Traditional Chinese Medicine can be said to have been divorced from this map and its mystical and esoteric roots.
An even less-well-known fact: While Traditional Chinese Medicine is 2,500 years old and the most familiar to us of the non-Western medical modalities researchers have found that the same theories of the body, illness, and methods of treatment were also developing simultaneously in the ancient Mayan Civilization of southern Mexico and Northern Guatemala.
When our kids were babies, my in-laws, Ernesto’s family members, were always saying, “Cover their heads! Don’t let the wind get in their ears!” Ernesto is from Guatemala so when I read the book, Wind in the Blood: Mayan Healing and Chinese Medicine, I really understood why they would say these things!
Wind in the Blood details Mayan Healing practices using the lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine to gain a greater understanding of these Mayan practices. The Berkeley-based Hesperian Foundation translated and published this book in 1999. What started out as a Spanish-language field manual, written by two Mexican physicians for western health care practitioners working in the Mayan community, evolved into an extensive documentation of traditional Mayan Healing techniques. This book details the depth and breadth of Mayan cosmology and how it shares surprising parallels with Chinese medicine.
For example, in this excerpt from the book, the authors describe Mayan medical thought on root causes of illness:
Heat and Cold Imbalance
With respect to the entirety of causes, one relation is outstanding and seems to be integral to the entire body of Mayan medical thought: the concept of hot and cold. It seems that a great part of the causes of illness — dietary disorders, emotional imbalance, excess of work, weakness, etcetera — can be seen as representing qualities either hot or cold. Conditions, objects, food — all are classified as hot or cold and under certain conditions arise as the potential cause of illness. Both natural and supernatural winds are also considered to fit within this concept. (Wind in the Blood, page 42)
For anyone who is remotely familiar with Chinese medicine, cold and wind are considered highly impactful on our health in that modality. It is so interesting to see the same principles identified in historical Mayan culture.
I have asked Oakland-based Acupuncturist Aimee Ruiz, L.Ac., to give us specific tips from Traditional Chinese Medicine for staying warm and well in the winter, plus a recipe for a healing beverage, which we have presented on the adjoining page. Please enjoy these health-enhancing recommendations!