Unseasonably Hot Winter and Our Health

Climate change is difficult to grasp or believe in if you are not a climate scientist….unless you are a gardener. Having a garden tunes you in to nature’s cycles. Even a small yard has microclimates. The sun, humidity, and wind are different. Even small fluctuations in sunlight, rain, and temperature triggers a response from plants, and this is magnified if you grow orchids.

Most of us are far removed from these observations. We tune into our devices now. However, even if our minds have grown obvious to these subtle changes, our bodies still respond, just as the plants and all other living things do.

This year we had a cold spell, by Florida standards, for about a week in late November. After this the weather warmed to spring-like temperatures, though it remained dry like the winters are here. One and half months of warm weather and the plants are furiously putting out flowers and new growth.

We skipped winter, the time we hibernate, turn inward, and contemplate. It is the time wisdom is cultivated and our bodies concentrate deep reserves. These reserves will be the fuel for the explosion of growth in the spring. This is easy to see in the orchids. The deciduous dendrobiums (shí  hú, 石斛) fill their thick pseudobulbs (stems) with the bountiful rain, sunlight, and food offered them during the spring and summer monsoons of their native habitats. Then they turn inward during the autumn and winter when the land becomes dry and cold. They shed their leaves and look lifeless. As the weather warms they come back to life with a profusion of flowers. Any disruption of temperature, light, or humidity and they cease to bloom and develop.

I looked in my backyard and the dendrobiums and phalaenopsis are in full bud, something that should not be happening until at least February.


Phalaenopsis in bud in early January.


Nobile dendrobium in bud in early January.


New spring-like growth in nobile dendrobium.


What is happening to my orchids is also happening to us. I predict that our wood element will lack fuel for full expansion in the spring and we will need to supplement. In the meantime our water metabolism is being interrupted.

Earth Overacting on Water (土乘水)

“When late summer overacts in winter, the spleen/Earth element will overact on the kidneys/Water element.” – Huangdi Neijing Chapter 4

When earth overacts on water, water does not flow and gets backed up. (Think stagnant swamp.) Fungi and bacteria thrive. We call this spleen dampness in Chinese medicine where the spleens function to transform and transport our food and drink into useful fuel is impaired. We become lethargic, retain water, and don’t digest our food and drink. Pathogens that thrive in warm, sticky environments such as parasites can take root. The urinary tract (water element organs) will be particularly vulnerable to infection and dysfunction. Florida is a swamp and there is already a year-round tendency to dampness, it will just be more pronounced this season. To counteract this you can do the following:

Diet: Eat easy to digest, simple foods without a lot of spice or complexity. Favor cooked foods with small portions of raw pungent foods at every meal like daikon radish, arugula, and mustard greens. Bitter-tasting food and drink are highly effective to combat dampness, such as lettuce, endives, watercress, bitter melon, ginger tea, and green tea. Avoid fried foods, sugar, salt, and alcohol.

Feng Shui: To control excessive earth, add wood element to control it. Display objects made out of wood in your home and plants, and wear greens. You can also drain earth by increasing your metal. Keep your space organized, minimize clutter, and wear simple, light-colored clothing. Avoid yellows and earth tones.

Your animals will be likewise affected and will benefit from similar changes in diet and lifestyle. You will want to step up fungus prevention in your plants, particularly your orchids, with neem oil or other anti-fungals.

For more on how to stay healthy year-round see my book 7 Times a Woman.



By | 2017-12-03T23:54:38+00:00 January 2nd, 2017|Nurturing Life Project, Traditional Chinese Medicine|Comments Off on Unseasonably Hot Winter and Our Health

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