For the people who are thinking about doing a Liver cleanse now... WAIT a few months! Winter is actually the time to nourish the Chinese kidney [water element], which is the mother of Liver [wood element] in preparation for a spring-cleaning. According to Chinese medicine, Liver [wood element] detoxification is best done in Spring when the body is climatically receptive to cold, bitter & draining cleansing medicinals. So how does one support the Liver now in Winter? By supporting its mother the Kidney, and its grandmother the Lungs.
Winter Time Support
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine [TCM] theory, "Water [kidney] is the Mother of Wood [liver]. The water element is associated with wintertime, the kidneys and the adrenal glands. The kidneys are the source of, and reserve for essence that is used in times of stress & change; to prevent & heal illness; and for dignified aging. Throughout Winter, kidney essence & qi can be most easily depleted if one does not instinctively abide by the fundamental principles of the Water element – rest, reflection, conservation, and storage. In other words QUIESCENCE.
In Autumn, life energy begins to descend & move inward and by Winter it resides deeply. Just as seeds & leaves fall in Autumn, and the tree’s energy [wood, liver] is in its roots by Winter. According to TCM, human beings store energy in our root too [kidneys & adrenals] in the Winter. Our Wood element [Liver] is at it greatest state of contraction in Winter. Hence, Winter is not a good time to cleanse the Wood element outward. The energy of Winter is Quiescence, hence the best season to store essence qi internally.
What to Embrace & Avoid in Winter?
Cold and raw foods such as fruit juice, raw salads, soymilk, and tofu are best avoided. Eat more protein, cooked foods, and warming spices & herbs. Warming foods strengthen the kidneys, blood, and qi. Include plenty of protein [preferable meat sourced], and foods that would have been naturally / traditionally only available, stored, or hunted in Winter. Any being that is still green & lively in Winter is by the doctrine-of-signatures a wintertime tonic; any food that is dark red, or black in color is a kidney tonic:
Spices & Herbs
Prepare foods with warming herbs & spices. For example, fruits with cinnamon, cardamom, coriander; summer veggies with garlic, onions, ginger, cumin, and basil. Basil is especially warming to the kidney.
The salty flavor moistens & detoxifies, and in small quantities improves the quality of the blood. In excess, it stresses the heart and kidneys. In appropriate quantity & quality, it has an inward energy. Sources of good quality saltiness are sea salt, kelp, sea vegetables, red or black/dark colored miso [vs. white or yellow miso]. Dark/red seafoods such as lobster, and mussels, which are very warming!
Chinese Herbs & Foods
Chinese ginseng, hu tao ren [walnuts], jiu cai zi [leek & leek seed], rou gui [cinnamon bark], fennel stalk & seeds are some chinese herbs that are also warming foods. They can be incorporated into a congee [porridge made of grains such as rice, wheat, and barley. Buckwheat which is a fruit seed vs. a grain is very warming. Walnuts strongly nourish yang. Winter Daikon radish can be added to meat broth to offset greasiness.
Kidney Failing to Grasp Lung Qi
This is a Chinese medicine diagnosis for asthma or HYPER-reactive airway due to kidney qi or yang deficiency. By tonifying the kidney [best in Autum] helps prevent cold-induced asthma attacks, COPD exacerbations, and wintertime reactive airways. Some herbs that specifically assist with this are geko, deer placenta, and cheng xiang. Cheng xiang [aloeswood/ Oud] is wonderful via fuming the herb or via aromatherapy with Oud essential oil.
The Lungs Hate Dryness
This is a Chinese medicine diagnostic principle. Obviously fall and winter dryness are hard on the lungs. There are food medicines to keep the lungs moist, and herbal formulas for wintertime dry coughs, and/or infections like bronchitis. Some of the foods and formulas can be purchased at the Asian Markets, or at the healthfood store:
These are by prescription only for severe upper respiratory infections such as influenza, bronchitis, pneumonia etc. or for recovery from them:
INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE TIP: When it is time to do a Liver cleanse in Spring, consider these two programs,
Arise & Shine Cleanse [previously called Cleanse & Purify Thyself]:
Dr. Hilga Clarke's Parasite Cleanses