We are entering the winter months, a time of hibernation, introversion and self-reflection. The short, gray days are reflected in our mood and motivation. Let's discuss the elements of this season and learn how we can work with our natural inclinations to set strong intentions for the coming spring.
The theme of winter is kindness - towards others, but most importantly, towards oneself. If you don't have the energy for a strict detox protocol, that is okay. Winter brings immune imbalances and holiday feasts; it is a time to nourish the body and build immunity, it is a time for maintenance.
In this article, we will paint the picture of winter transitions through the lens of global herbal customs, identifying key organs and body systems that are commonly out of balance and needing support this time of year. We'll review formulas in our Holistic Health collection that are useful for building and fortifying the body in times of health so that our cells are prepped for any imbalances that may come.
Be sure to reserve a seat in our upcoming webinar discussing this theme: REGISTER NOW!
Traditional Chinese Medicine, a 2000+ year old system of healing, identifies key themes and areas of focus to the changing seasons. Winter, according to TCM, is associated with the kidneys and bladder. Water is the element associated with winter, the taste is salty, the tissue is bone, the direction is north, the climate is cold, and the emotion is fear. We can use these themes as a guide this time of year.
The water element abounds in winter. Whether in the form of rain or snow, water blankets the earth. Staying warm and dry may seem like a basic concept, but it can be easy to push oneself – especially if you work outside and/or love the outdoors. Embrace the yin of winter; it is a time to conserve energy and resources. Too much cold/wet is felt in the bones. If you are feeling discomfort in the bones or kidneys, get yourself warm and dry (Hass, E. M. 1981. Staying Healthy with the Seasons).
Imbalances in the water element can manifest as rapid changes in the health of your hair, cravings or a distaste for salt, bone and kidney discomfort, and fertility imbalances. Introduce plenty of hydration and minerals to the body’s tissues.
"Within the kidneys, ‘essence’ is stored, and they govern all that is secluded and dormant and that is hoarded up. Their condition is disclosed in the bones and head hair (Wallnofer H. et al. 1972. Chinese Folk Medicine).”
The emotion associated with winter is fear, yet the kidneys are perceived by the Chinese as the seat of the will and will power. Supporting the kidneys this time of year can strengthen your willpower and willingness.
Consume plenty of water, cooked and raw vegetables, and fruits to maintain kidney function and keep minerals in the blood. This will promote proper kidney function and maintain homeostasis in the body.
Kidneys & Bladder Hydrate is a great formula for supporting the function of the urinary system organs. Marshmallow and chickweed are the primary herbs of this formula. These herbs both contain hydrating polysaccharides that are traditionally used to moisten the tissues of the body. Juniper, hydrangea and cleavers are natural diuretics that assist the removal of excess fluid buildup and support healthy functioning kidneys.*
As you focus on kidney and bladder health this winter, remember to look to the skin for signs of kidney imbalance. Doctor Morse refers to the skin as the 3rd kidney. It is believed that when the kidneys are overtaxed, sweat can serve to reduce pressure within the system and take some of the load off the kidneys.
There is also a connection made amongst many traditional healers that the skin is an eliminatory pathway. When the gut and kidneys are compromised, toxins will leave the body via the skin. Urea, which is defined as the chief nitrogenous end-product of the metabolic breakdown of proteins in all mammals, is found in both urine and sweat glands.
“Some studies report very high urea concentrations in sweat, up to 50x that of serum, and suggest that this is evidence for a selective transport mechanism across the sweat gland, especially in patients with kidney damage, to clear the blood of high urea concentrations.”
Doctor Morse’s Liver/Skin is wonderful for supporting the function and integrity of the liver to skin eliminatory pathway. It contains burdock root which is an alterative that has a special affinity for this pathway, supporting its integrity and function. Milk thistle, which is a hepatoprotective herb, supports the overall function and health of the liver.*
This formula is also our digestive bitters blend, as it contains one of the world’s most bitter herbs, gentian, as well as Oregon grape root and yellow dock root. When triggered by bitter foods, bitter receptors on the tongue send a message to the brain. The brain then signals secretory glands throughout the digestive tract (saliva, mucus, hydrochloric acid, enzymes and bile) to start secreting the digestive juices required to properly breakdown and absorb your food.
The cold, dry winter weather takes a toll on skin health. Remember, the skin not only functions as a pathway of elimination, but it is also the immune system’s first barrier of protection. It blocks many foreign particulates from entering the body, and also neutralizes many unwanted organisms due to its acidic nature. Besides taking our daily Liver/Skin formula, there is a lot you can do to maintain the strength and integrity of your skin in the winter.
Exfoliation is an important ritual to maintain skin health. The outermost layer of skin is comprised of layers of flat, dead skin cells called stratified squamous epithelial cells. As new skin cells are produced, they push old ones to the surface where they are removed from blood supply, oxidize, and slough (shed) from the skin’s surface naturally. The act of manual exfoliation helps this process because it allows the skin to breathe, keeping hair, sweat and oil follicles unclogged.
There are a few ways to manually exfoliate, and most aestheticians recommend exfoliating the skin and body once or twice a week, spending more time on areas of the body where the skin is thickest, like the feet and elbows. Dry brushing is a great way to slough off the top layer of skin while also supporting lymphatic flow.
It is also easy to whip up a homemade salt or sugar scrub and use it in the shower or bathtub. The abrasive granules of the sugar or salt help loosen dead skin cells and remove them from the skin’s surface. These types of scrubs also contain oil which hydrates the skin as you slough.
The easiest recipe for a sugar or salt scrub is to fill a 4 ounce Ball® jar with sugar or salt and then mix in some of your favorite carrier oils and herbal oils. Oils infused with calendula, comfrey and St John’s wort are all great options, and a few drops of essential oil will enhance the scrub’s scent and function.
Salt is more abrasive than sugar. Salt granules are more angular whereas sugar granules are rounder. Sugar is a good option for face scrubs and for folks (and babies) with more sensitive skin. Sugar is also a type of acid, and acts as a natural acid peel for removing dead skin. Salt is high in magnesium, so it is a good option for the adjunct therapy of being soothing to the muscles. Although there is a lack of scientific proof, many believe that magnesium is best absorbed through the skin.*
Respiratory and Eye Support
The connection between the eyes and the respiratory tract is intricate and sinus congestion can have a direct impact on eye health. The upper respiratory tract includes the nose and sinuses, which play a significant role in filtering and humidifying the air we breathe. When the sinuses become congested, they can block the drainage pathways for excess mucus. This congestion can result in increased pressure in the sinus cavities.
The proximity of the sinuses to the eyes means that increased pressure can sometimes lead to discomfort, eye strain, and even visual disturbances. Additionally, sinus congestion may trigger a release of histamines, which can contribute to red, itchy, or watery eyes. Therefore, maintaining optimal respiratory tract health and clear sinuses is essential not only for comfortable breathing but also for supporting the wellbeing of the eyes.
Eyebright is the primary ingredient in Doctor Morse’s Eye Health formula. Interestingly, eyebright supports eye health indirectly as an upper respiratory mucolytic and expectorant. Its favorable effect on the upper respiratory mucous membranes leads to the resulting healthy sheen on the conjunctiva of the eyes.*
Another wonderful formula for respiratory and eye health is Doctor Morse’s Voice Box Spray. When sprayed directly on the back of the throat the tissues of the upper respiratory tract benefit from goldenseal, mullein, slippery elm and thyme. With the back of the throat being an area dense with lymphatic nodes and immune cells, this spray directly supports our protective functions during immune imbalance.*
Good Oral Hygiene
The 3000-year-old traditional healing art known as Ayurveda was founded in India and is still practiced worldwide. In Ayurveda, oral hygiene is considered a fundamental aspect of overall wellbeing. The mouth is viewed as the gateway to the body, and maintaining its cleanliness is believed to have far-reaching effects on one's health.
Ayurvedic oral care practices are rooted in the belief that imbalances and health issues in the mouth can affect various systems throughout the body. Neglecting oral health is traditionally believed to give rise to imbalances in all other systems of the body including digestion, respiration, circulation, immunity, and joint, muscular and mental health.
According to the Washington State Department of Health “Many systemic...conditions manifest themselves initially in the mouth.” Each tooth has its own supply of blood and houses lymphatic vessels. Imbalances in tooth and gum health leave the mouth via these blood and lymph vessels and “gain access to the systemic circulation and adhere to...heart valves or heart surfaces.”
Incorporating daily practices such as tongue scraping, oil pulling (with coconut or sesame oil), and using herbal tooth powders or toothpaste are the most common ayurvedic practices for maintaining good oral hygiene. Additionally, a balanced diet that supports oral health and regular dental check-ups are recommended to maintain overall wellbeing.
There are many tried and true therapeutic practices that you can explore in the wintertime to stay healthy. As this time of year is typically more sedentary, be sure you are finding a way to promote blood flow and stimulate the nervous system.
It may sound crazy, but a great practice to wake up the body and mind in the cold months is a shock of cold water. Wim Hof was founded by the Dutch athlete of the same name and is a trifecta of breath, cold therapy and commitment, which he believes to be a “practical way to become happier, healthier and stronger.”
Don’t worry, we don’t expect you to take ice water baths all winter long, but it is true that cold water triggers improved circulation, immune activation, improved recovery and enhanced resilience. A quick hack for achieving these outcomes can be achieved in your own bathroom.*
After a hot shower, simply turn off the hot water and set the cold to full blast. Submerge your whole body – especially your head – in the cold water for a few minutes. Surprisingly, instead of stepping out of the shower freezing cold, you feel activated and alert. It's pretty cool! Hang fresh aromatic plants like eucalyptus, rosemary, oregano and lavender in your shower to support the opening of the bronchial passageways and promote respiratory health.
Look to immunomodulators to maintain immune health this winter. These are tonic herbs that are rich in vitamins, minerals, polysaccharides and antioxidants. They help to strengthen and build up your natural immunity over time, so that when your health is compromised, your immune system is strong and ready to react.
Doctor Morse’s offers 3 different supplement powders to support immune health. Let’s review them individually so you can determine which is right for you:
Superfood Explosion is Doctor Morse’s “OG” supplement powder. It is a tasty, all-around nutritional supplement for all ages. Ginkgo, gotu kola and hawthorn berry provide circulatory support, eleuthero provides endocrine support, it has an abundant mix of antioxidant rich berries including blueberry, bilberry and blackberry and supports a healthy vitamin and mineral complex with acerola cherry, royal jelly, kelp and orange juice extract.*
If your immune system has been compromised and/or depleted, High Energy by Nature is a good option to support the body's return to a state of energized vitality. Royal jelly, which is the queen bee’s honey is one of the primary ingredients in this formula and contributes its unique blend of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and proteins, to assist in replenishing the immune system.*
Muscles by Nature was designed to support the body post-workout. The combination of butcher’s broom and papaya supports digestion and the blood to move excess acids acquired during workout out of the body. This supplement powder also contains American ginseng which is an excellent herb to support the rebuilding of the immune system after it has been depleted.*
Our licorice tincture is a good adjunct herb to take along with Muscles by Nature to help with the normal recovery associated with exercise. If exercise gives you a lot of discomfort, licorice will help.*
Ashwagandha and our Ultimate Immune Tonic also contain herbs traditionally used to support the immune system long term. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that helps the body manage stress, strengthen physical and mental performance, and enhance overall wellbeing.*
The complex of herbs in the Ultimate Immune Tonic includes American ginseng, astragalus, gotu kola and schisandra berry which are immunomodulators for supporting the immune system's optimal function. This formula also includes sustainably harvested deer antler, a cellular tonic especially useful for those who are feeble, depleted, and/or broken down.*
With seasonal sadness on the rise in winter, be kind to yourself. Detoxifying the body can bring up deeply seated emotions and trauma. If you find yourself feeling mentally unwell, we suggest saving your ultimate detox efforts for spring, a time of year where cleansing is common practice among alternative healthcare systems worldwide.
Remember that you are not alone in your efforts towards more vibrant health. If you need support on your detox journey, please do not hesitate to reach out to someone on our support team at firstname.lastname@example.org. May your winter be a vibrant journey of self-love and discovery!
*FDA warning: This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.