Winter health care is timely, and traditional Chinese medicine shares the concept of “food and medicine having the same origin” to safeguard health and stay away from diseases.


“Food and Medicine Sharing the Same Origin” is an important concept in traditional Chinese medicine, indicating that food and medicine have a common source and can be mutually interchangeable or combined. During winter, the body’s metabolic rate increases in response to the cold environment. At this time, it is appropriate to choose ingredients with a warming effect, not only providing sufficient energy but also regulating bodily functions and enhancing resistance. Dr. Hu Shiyun, Director of the Cardiovascular Department at Guangdong Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, pointed out in an interview that utilizing the principle of “food and medicine sharing the same origin” for winter nourishment can more effectively prevent diseases, improve physical fitness, and meet people’s needs for preventive healthcare.

Director Hu Shiyun informed us that the national catalog of substances with the same source of food and medicine includes over 100 items, which is far from sufficient to meet the daily health needs of the general public. For example, commonly used items in daily life such as Wuzhi Maotao, Chenpi, Juhong, Bajitian, and Tufolong, are partially included in the catalog, while others are not. The focus of “food and medicine sharing the same origin” is to transition from the concept of preventing diseases, promoting overall health, and traditional Chinese medicine health preservation to the idea of finding medicinal value in food.

Winter health care: Early bedtime, late rising, and exposure to sunlight are essential

Dr. Hu Shiyun emphasized that winter is the season to nourish the kidneys. The principles of winter health care include “early to bed, late to rise, and exposure to sunlight.” Due to the cold outdoor environment in winter, the body’s yang energy is stored internally. It is recommended to engage in outdoor activities and sun exposure during warmer times to nurture yang energy, replenish essence, and adapt to seasonal changes. In terms of diet, winter eating should follow the principles of “nourishing yin, warming the kidneys, and not disturbing yang,” focusing on nourishing yin, tonifying yang, and increasing calorie intake. In winter, it is advisable to consume less salty foods to prevent excessive water in the kidneys. Foods such as oranges, pig liver, sheep liver, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, vinegar, and tea are recommended. Dr. Hu Shiyun suggests using lamb, horse hooves, sugarcane, etc., to make soup, which has the effects of clearing and nourishing. Dr. Hu Shiyun also emphasized that with the improvement of living standards, some erroneous dietary habits have emerged, such as eating out-of-season fruits. Such dietary habits are not conducive to human health, and one should adapt to seasonal changes in diet.

Food and medicine sharing the same origin requires differentiation of constitution and targeted nourishment

Chinese medicine employs the eight principles of yin and yang, exterior and interior, cold and heat, deficiency, and excess for diagnosis. Dr. Hu Shiyun provided examples of how to differentiate constitution and choose targeted nourishing foods. For individuals with qi deficiency constitution, characterized by shortness of breath and weakness without obvious cold intolerance, Wuling Shen can be chosen to tonify qi and solidify the kidneys. Blood deficiency constitution mainly affects the heart and liver, with symptoms such as palpitations, insomnia, and restlessness for heart blood deficiency, and dull complexion, dizziness, dry eyes, and unclear vision for liver blood deficiency. Ejiao is an excellent choice for blood supplementation. Yang deficiency individuals may exhibit cold intolerance, frequent urination, digestive issues, and loose stools. Lu Rong and Bajitian are effective in tonifying kidney yang. For yin deficiency constitution, symptoms include night sweats, restlessness, red cheeks, thinness, and a red tongue with little coating. Tremella is recommended for individuals with this constitution, providing nourishment and clearing heat. Dr. Hu Shiyun also emphasized that the concept of food and medicine sharing the same origin not only involves targeted treatment but also requires long-term adherence.

Food and medicine sharing the same origin: Uncovering medicinal value from food

Dr. Hu Shiyun emphasized that food comes before medicine in the concept of food and medicine sharing the same origin. This concept is about exploring the medicinal value of food from the perspective of preventive healthcare and traditional Chinese medicine health preservation. Dual-use substances with both nutritional and medicinal components can provide not only nutrition but also contribute to health maintenance and assist in treatment. These substances are suitable for individuals in suboptimal health and those with illnesses when consumed in limited amounts. Dr. Hu Shiyun mentioned the historical roots of the concept, from “Shennong tasting hundreds of herbs” to the emergence of “food as medicine” and “dietary treatment.” The concept of food and medicine sharing the same origin became more standardized with the release of the 2021 National Health Commission’s regulations on the management of substances traditionally used as both food and medicinal materials. However, Dr. Hu Shiyun pointed out that the catalog of over 100 ingredients cannot fully encompass all dual-use substances, and there is a lack of regional specificity. In the future, many Chinese medicine experts will popularize the medicinal value and usage of various dual-use substances, allowing the public to embrace the concept of food and medicine sharing the same origin in their daily lives.

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