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Welcome an Early Winter

Wellness tips for Winter

Winter? In November? Yes, winter.

I first learned that the first week of November is the start of winter from Sean Fannin, practitioner of Chinese herbalism, during my apprenticeship at The Medicinal Chinese Herb Farm in Petaluma with Peg Schafer in 2014.

I learned then, that the Chinese calendar is composed of five seasons, as opposed to the four we know in the Gregorian calendar. And, the start, middle and end of each season is slightly different. What?! Right then and there I had a major reframe!

Sean taught us that in the Chinese calendar the seasons center around light and day length, which we regard as equinoxes or solstices in the Gregorian calendar. In the Chinese calendar, the equinox and solstice are the apex, not the start of a season. For example, the cross quarter time we are currently passing through in late October/early November of Samhain aka Halloween and Día de los Muertos, is the mid point between the Autumn equinox (when day and night are the same length in fall) and the winter solstice.

In the Chinese calendar, rather than having winter solstice be the start of winter, it's the middle. Which makes the first week of November, the start of winter. What a revelation to my twenty-something western mind! Since then, I've always honored this first week of winter as a time of transition.

As a gardener and herbalist, this really started to make sense. This time of year is when the plants and the earth "die" and go inward. This is a reminder for us to do the same. No plant is in bloom all year round, and no person should either. Take the time to do some well needed reflection, and see what comes up. Below are some of my most favorite winter practices.

Tips for Winter

- If winter were a time of day, it would be night. This means, we do less. We see less people, we stay home, we take naps, we go to be early. Just like a plant, it's wise to follow the direction of the light and let some of the extra stuff pause.

This makes me think of the Rumi quote, “And don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It’s quiet, but the roots are down there riotous.” Be like a plant - get quiet. Check in with your roots.

- Keeping track of dreams this time of year can be really powerful. Don't dream a lot? Keep your journal by your bed and ask for a dream about something in particular before bed. Then, write whatever you remember (colors, people, places, feelings, etc) immediately upon waking.

- Other journal prompts I recommend can be generative for sowing seeds for the spring to come. Some seeds require an over-winter frost. You might find a cozy place and a cup of tea to consider: What is so deeply wanting to arise in you? What do you want to grow and nurture when the light comes back? - Cook nourishing, warm foods like bone broth, and eat seasonal veggies like squash, roots like potatoes, rutabagas, celeriac, parsnips, turnips. - Nest and spend time with your inner circle.This one is tricky because the holidays are the times when there are a lot of group events, and sometimes this means we are spending a lot of time with people we who really, really get on our nerves.

Plus, at holiday gathers there are so many strange and delicious foods to eat, like pie AND cookies, meats and candied things. This can be rough on our body, especially the digestive and nervous systems.

Herbs for Winter

Especially in winter, I make a point to take bitter herbs before big meals. I don't take a lot, just five drops will do the trick to give your digestive system a kick-start! Some of my favorite are,

- Artichoke leaf

- Burdock root

- Chamomile flowers*

- Dandelion leaf or root*

- Mugwort leaf**

- Yarrow leaf and flowers**

People often use nervous system herbs daily for chronic conditions, or as needed for acute circumstances. Keep a tincture of one of the following in your overnight bag.

- California Poppy leaf and flower*

- Catnip leaf and flower

- Chamomile flower*

- Lemon Balm leaf and flower**

- Skullcap leaf and flower*

Interestingly, all of the above nervous system herbs can also act as bitters, to support digestion when taken before of after meals.

Safety rating

= no star, super safe

* = medium safe, not ideal for everyone (email me if you have questions)

** = do not use if pregnant or nursing.

Aren't herbs incredible?! Plant medicine can be used as preventative care and work in restorative ways. Check out Bulk Herbs for Fall on traditional ways to integrate herbs to support the immune system as tonics.

Are you curious about how local herbalism can support you leading a more embodied and authentic life? I invite you to join my newsletter with weekly tips for holistic wellbeing, event announcements and more. 🐋

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy winter!

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