In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the winter season is the most yin, with the most darkness, beginning at Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Wisdom from Chinese Medicine can be a helpful guide on how best to cleanse your whole being, attuned to the seasonal cycles. In TCM, winter corresponds with the bladder and kidneys, recommending this as the best time to tune-up these organs. It’s also a good time to detoxify the mind and body’s toxic residue from fears, as fear-based emotional patterns correspond with the water element and winter season.
I. Five Elements
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) rests on a foundation of 5 Element Theory, involving Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. These elements are a 5-phase theory of interrelated, organic energies expressed in our body and nature. This pentagram within hosts a flow of energies that depict our personalities, emotions and health imbalances. Everyone has their unique energetic blueprint of 5 elements expressed through health patterns, and this can be a key factor in diagnosing for a TCM Practitioner. While some of this can be deep and complicated, the aim of this blog is to simplify and make information accessible for everyone. This article is part of a 5-element series, focusing on the water element for winter. Here’s a table that sums up all elements and their correspondences:
Element Season Organs Emotions Color Tone Sounds
Wood Spring Liver/Gallbladder Anger/ Green E SHHH
Fire Summer Heart/ Joy/Hatred Red G HAWW
Earth Late Summer Spleen/Stomach Worry Yellow C HOOO
Metal Autumn Lung/ Grief/Sadness White D SSSSS Large Intestine
Water Winter Kidney/Bladder Fear Blue/Black A WOOO
The interrelationships follow a flow in which each element feeds the next element and controls the second from it as depicted below. For example, Water engenders Wood and controls Fire and so on. And Water is engendered by Metal controlled by Earth. We embody all five elements, however, many individuals express certain elements more strongly. For example, a water type when in balance will face their fears, staying determined with willpower to overcome obstacles and follow through on their intentions. If the water type is out of balance s/he be fearful and lack courage or overwork leaving the body out of balance with symptoms like arthritis, edema, dark circles under the eyes or hearing problems.
II. Water Archetype of Bladder/Kidney
The water archetype of TCM is one of the 5 used in TCM diagnosis, embodying the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the constitution. Being human, we are always out of balance with our own individual blueprints toward our highest nature. Working with and understanding the baseline can give guidance for objective assessments, helping to eliminate judgement and encouraging personal evolution. The water element in Chinese Astrology is yin energy, as the last zodiac sign of the year in winter: Pig and rat. Water’s symbol is the Black Tortoise and its direction is North. Water types often have round faces and roundish body types with dark hair and soft eyes. These people represent the adage: still waters run deep and they can be more contemplative and go with the flow in life, needing to rejuvenate through solitude and tranquility. If they overwork and try to force their work, they feel fatigued, showing dark circles under eyes or develop arthritis or water retention.
Each element is associated with paired yin-yang organs and other emotions. The paired yin-yang organs for the Water Element are the Kidneys (Yin) and Bladder (Yang). TCM’s cultural perspective is different than the Western world regarding emotions. With the exception of joy, from the western perspective, the other 4 TCM emotions of anger, worry, grief and fear would be considered ‘negative’ to most individuals. In TCM, the emotions are a source of disharmony with neutral connotations. All emotions have their place in healthy individuals and should be expressed in a balanced way to maintain health. Even too much joy can be a source of disharmony. In TCM, the emotion fear is associated with Water and these personality types are learning to face their fears and develop courage to overcome obstacles.
III. Taoist Healing Sounds and Tones/Releasing Fears
In TCM, there is an ancient Taoist concept of the Six Healing Sounds or Liu Zi Jue. Each of the 5 elements and paired organs have a healing sound and tone. Triple Burner is the sixth sound and integrates the other 5 sounds and is explained in Fire Element blog. The tone for fWater element is A and the healing sound is WOOOO. There is a Taoist Qi Gong exercise where you lean forward, with hands over the Kidney area, inhaling deeply into these organs then exhaling while saying the healing sound, WOOOO. The Six Healing Sounds are thought to transform the stagnant energy stored in the organs and meridian pathways into a vital life force. This also includes an exercise, similar to the western modality, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprogramming). In the Kidney exercise, you imagine a person or situation that has given you fear (If it involves a person, separate the person from the fear). Next, imagine both eyes moving down, to your Kidneys. While focusing on the fear, move your eyes back and forth, and imagine the eyes in your Kidneys moving back and forth, eliminating the fear. This exercise can be practiced with all organs and their corresponding emotion and vocal healing sounds. In addition, you can use color therapy and imagine vibrant blue/black light penetrating the Kidneys during this meditation.
IV. Bladder/Kidney Meridian Therapy
In TCM there are 12 principle meridians that correspond with 6 paired organs, 1 yang/hollow and 1 yin (solid) pairs for each element, with an exception of the fire element having 2 pairs. Meridians are channels, where the qi (life force) flows, transforming energy to material and vice versa. The acupuncture points used for needling are along these channels. However, there are many ways to stimulate the points without acupuncture needles, using essential oils, acupressure, massage, Reiki or tuning forks. Plus, anyone can support the flow of the qi in the meridians by stretching or doing yoga. When we are stiff, our meridians kink like a garden hose, obstructing our free flow of qi. Obstructions can lead to pain or disease from this imbalance. Here is an overview of the locations and benefits of the 2 water meridians and selected power points emphasized along the channels: (The cun measurement is equal to a thumbs width)
2-“Collecting Bamboo,” medial extremity of eyebrow-conjunctivitis, sinus allergies, tearing
10-“Heaven Pillar,” on neck, the lateral aspect of trapezius-common cold, neck and back pain
11-“Great Shuttle Bones,” 1.5 cun from spine, level with T1-nourishes bones, common cold
13-“Lung Shu,” cough, asthma, chest pain, spitting blood 15-Heart Shu-1.5 cun from spine, level with T5-cardiac pain, palpitation, memory loss, calm mind Diaphragm Shu,” 1.5 cun from spine, level with T7-diaphragm spasms, hiccups, hepatitis, vomiting 18-“Liver Shu,” 1.5 cun from spine, level with T9-hepatitis, jaundice, gastritis, bitter taste 19-“Galbladder Shu,” 1.5 cun from spine, level with T10-jaundice, hypochondriac pain, bitter taste 20-“Spleen Shu,” 1.5 cun from spine, level with T11-nervous vomiting, gastritis, prolapsed stomach
21-“Stomach Shu,” 1.5 cun from spine, level with T12-gastric distention, anorexia, diarrhea, nausea 23-“Kidney Shu,” 1.5 cun from spine, level with L2-Low back pain, impotence, menstrual issues, diarrhea, deafness, weak knees, edema 25-“Large Intestine Shu,” 1.5 cun from spine, level with L4-low back pain, constipation, diarrhea, borborygmus, abdominal distention, sciatica 27-“Small Intestine Shu,” 1.5 cun from spine, level with first sacral foramen-lower abdominal pain/distention 28-“Bladder Shu,” 1.5 cun from spine, level with second sacral foramen-incontinence, UTI’s, prostate problems, lower back pain 40-“Supporting Middle,” midpoint of transverse crease of popliteal fossa-lower back pain, skin problems from heat, heat exhaustion, 43-“Vital Region Shu,” 3 cun from spine, level with T4-esoteric for clearing past life karma, any chronic disease, especially pulmonary 62-“Extending Vessel,” directly below external malleolus-insomnia, back pain, mania, 67-“Reaching Yin,” Lateral side of small toe, posterior to nail corner-blurred vision, eye pain, breeched fetus (heat with moxa cones month 8 bilaterally)
1-“Bubbling Spring,” on sole of foot between second and third toes, anterior one third-shock, heat exhaustion, hypertension, vertex headache, restore consciousness
3-“Greater Stream,” posterior and at level of medial malleolus-irregular menses, nephritis, impotence, low back pain, asthma, insomnia
7-“Returning Current,” 2 cun above Kidney 3-leukorrhea, any urinary problems, edema, low back pain
10-“Yin Valley,” medial side of popliteal fossa-dysuria, knee arthritis, urinary difficulty
16-“Vitals Transporting Points,” .5 cun lateral to umbilicus-dry constipation, hiccups, vomiting
27-“Transporting Point Mansion,” lower border clavicle, 2 cun lateral to center-cough, asthma, chest pain
V. Herbal Medicine for the Bladder and Kidneys
Winter time is the best time to cleanse the bladder and kidneys. Before even mentioning the herbal medicine, one must remember first that these are water element organs and getting enough clean water is enough to prevent common health issues with these organs, like Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s) and Kidney Stones, with dehydration causing both of these issues. For UTI’s, popular home remedies are unsweetened cranberry juice and D-mannose (a sugar supplement) that both coat the bacteria, preventing it form sticking to the uterine wall, thus flushing the pathogens out of the body. Vitamin C also helps prevent UTI’s by making the urine more acidic, helping to kill off the bacteria. Corn silk and Uva ursi or bearberry with dandelion root has shown to help prevent or overcome UTI’s. As always, consult your physician with a UTI to keep it from spreading to the kidneys which can be life-threatening. Helpful herbs for an overactive bladder are bladderwrack (seaweed), horsetail or saw palmetto.
A kidney cleanse can easily be done with accessible herbal medicines, like parsley and dandelion root. Astragalus has been extensively studied and used in China for chronic kidney disease. Kidney stones can be flushed out with basil juice or apple cider vinegar, with both having acetic acid that helps to break down the stones. Kidney stones can be very painful, and it’s always advised to notify your physician about these symptoms.
In Chinese Medicine the adrenals are associated with the Kidneys. In western anatomy, the adrenal glands are directly on top of the kidneys. Adrenal fatigue is a common affect from long-term stress on the body, raising cortisol levels that can cause weight gain around the abdomen. By taking adaptogen herbal medicine the cortisol levels can be optimized for overall health. Examples of adaptogens are the Ayurvedic herb, Ashwagandha, Holy Basil and Rhodiola rosea. Rhodiola rosea usage has the best research supporting weight loss and energy gain, while adapting cortisol levels.
VI. Spirit of the Kidneys: Zhi
The Zhi or Will is the Spirit of the Water Element. It is our True North, aligning us with divine will, directing us to go with the flow. This flow in TCM is called Wu Wei and guides us to follow through with our intentions in an effortless flow, aligning with the Tao toward wisdom and intuition. Zhi helps us to overcome our fears and develop courage, setting intentions that fulfill a personal destiny, that is best for the collective good.
Conclusion/Guided Healing Meditation CD's
In conclusion, this article is intended to simplify and provide an overview of TCM and principles on the 5 elements. This system is interrelated into a cohesive whole, with this article on the water element of winter, being part of a East Asian Medicine 5 element blog/CD series. (See my other Blogs/CD's on Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal). As a TCM Practitioner, I offer seasonal healing services with Acupuncture, herbal cleanses, healing sounds and qi gong exercises. In addition, I have written and co-produced guided healing meditations with Eileen Dey, Wurst and Michael Mercker on the 5 Element East Asian Series for each season and its corresponding organs/emotions. In October 2019, we will release the Water Element for purchase as a CD or download as a Bladder/Kidney Guided Healing Meditations to let go fears and develop will.
Disclaimer: This article or CD is not intended to diagnose, cure or treat any disease. Consult a health practitioner for any illness. Do not listen to CD while driving or lifting heavy items.
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