The amazing properties of water are well understood in scientific research. Its ability to change states from a liquid to a gas or a solid (depicted in the beautiful image of the lake with rising fog and clouds above), make it a unique constituent of all living systems. Water is also a solvent, capable of dissolving other substances in order to produce unique solutions vital to sustain our physiological processes and life on this planet. Let’s see how the Water Element relates to our body’s health.
The Water Element
Winter is the season of the Water Element in Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) Five Element Theory which depicts the generating cycle of life (Ko). The energetics of winter are yin which foster time for reflection, introspection, and quietude in order to to nurture one’s inner self. My favorite author on this topic is Eldon Haas, author of Staying Healthy With the Seasons. He asserts that giving the appropriate attention and support to the meridian and organ systems assigned to the Water Element during its dominant season will help us to move into spring with renewed vitality and purpose.
The Kidney/Bladder Meridian and Organ Systems
In the Ko cycle, the Kidney/Bladder meridian and organ systems are represented by the Water Element.
The Kidneys represent the deepest energies of the body because they are involved in the generation of vitality, the self, the brain, bones, and marrow. The Bladder meridian and organ system are responsible for separating the pure from the impure which aligns well with the western physiological model of filtering the blood, recycling substances, and eliminating waste.
Water is also associated with bodily fluids in TCM, such as blood, lymphatic fluid, saliva, urine, tears, cerebral spinal fluid, and perspiration. These fluids help the body function optimally by delivering nourishment and moisture and by carrying away waste products.
Salt is the flavor associated with the Water Element. Have you ever found yourself craving salty foods? This may signal an imbalance in your Kidney/Bladder system.
Fear and terror are the emotions expressed by the Kidney organ in TCM. If you find yourself feeling fearful, negative, anxious, or aching, think of an imbalance in this vital system. I’ve seen many patients who experience free-floating anxiety even when their life is going well. This is often due to the dominance of cold qi emanating from the Kidney which reduces the fire of the Kidney’s yang energies which must rise to the brain to support clear thinking.
Deficient Water energy can lead to hyperactivity, difficulty sleeping, and reduced understanding and compassion for others (an inability to listen) while an excess of Water can cause sluggishness, frustration, and a feeling of heaviness. The latter results from a breakdown in the body’s inability to transform water in the body.
When the organ and meridian systems assigned to the Water Element are functioning optimally, the skin is benefited through the release of toxins via perspiration. The color, tone, and clarity of your skin, the sparkle in your eyes or lack of it, and the texture and thickness of your hair also provide clues to a healthy or stressed Water Element.
Supporting The Water Element During Winter
Warm food, rest, warm clothing, and the warmth of friendship and companionship will help you to successfully navigate the winter season. Watch your calorie intake because we are usually less active during the winter. Cook with miso, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, onions, cayenne, and turmeric to warm you body and delight your senses! Seaweeds eaten toasted, raw, or in soups can also replenish the Kidneys. Elson Haas, recommends herbal teas concocted from the following western soft and hard roots, barks, seeds, leaves, and flowers: comfrey, burdock, fennel seed, ginger root, fenugreek, chamomile, and peppermint, to name just a few!
Stay healthy and well this season!