Right after the eight lights of Chanukah and the new moon comes 大雪Da xue, the time of great yin.  The days have reached their shortest length, the angle of the sun long, leaving shadows and reflected, soft light. The sky is crystal clear, long distances in view, a silence in the cold, crisp nights, low humidity.  Unlike the last two winters, California is finally seeing a normal winter, with lower temperatures, snow on the mountains, and big rains storms coming in off of the Pacific Ocean.

This is the time of storing 精jing/essence, return to source, to roots.  Speed and hyperactivity feels unnatural at this point in time.  It is important to have a core of yang, of warmth, a time for slow cooked soups and congees, to reflect on the end of yin time and the beginning of yang in the new solar year.  A time to sit by a fireplace, study, and plan the future, read seed catalogues.  As it says in Su Wen 2, “Do not disturb the yang qi.  Go to rest early and rise late (after the sun rises). Let the mind enter a state as if hidden (shut in), as if you had secret intentions; as if you already had made gains. Avoid cold and seek warmth, do not allow sweat to flow away through the skin.  This would cause the qi to be carried away quickly. This is correspondence with the qi of winter and the Tao of nourishing storage.  Opposing it harms the kidneys.”

This winter I have seen many tai yang, dual yang (tai yang/yang ming, tai yang/shao yang) conditions develop, influenzas, gastrointestinal disorders and simple colds.  I’ve even treated a few cases of pneumonia during this season.  Formulas I’ve used include xiao qing long tang, ma xing shi gan tang, and even ma huang xi xin fu zi tang.  I’ve also used many shao yang combination formulas, such as chai hu gui zhi tang, chai hu gui zhi gan jiang tang, chai ge jie ji tang.  Other formulas that have been useful include jing fang bai du san and ban xia xie xin tang.  The latter formula has been very useful for gastrointestinal conditions with diarrhea, counterflow nausea and rumbling intestines.  I’ve also been using a great deal of moxa in my practice, and focusing on warming the kidneys and abdominal region.

Now as I write this (early January), the days are gradually getting longer, and we are on the cusp in California of a wave of heavy rainstorms.  The houses are cold here in San Diego, and one has to be careful to wear a warm sweater inside, wear a scarf when outdoors, and respect the season.  Use of warming herbs and spices, such as rou gui/cinnamon, gan jiang/dry ginger, and the various cardamoms is essential.  Zhang Zhongjing warned us of the insidious advancements of cold penetrating the body, it is best to ward it off at the exterior rather than letting it slowly advance towards the tissues, where over time it can create arthritic conditions, blood stasis, or fluid accumulation, or towards the internal viscera, where it can create long-term depletions and disturbance of organic functions.