The holidays are traditionally a time filled with family, friends, food, festive celebrations and… hidden health risks. The period stretching from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is one of the most anticipated parts of the year, but it can also be one of the hardest on your physical, mental and emotional well-being.
While many people who indulge during the holiday season are able to refocus in January, others struggle to recover the healthy habits they let slide in November and December. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you’re committed to sustaining your health and wellness goals, Traditional Chinese Medicine can keep you moving on a positive path through the holidays and beyond.
The following formulas — used under the guidance of your practitioner — may help you recover from some of the most common complaints of the holiday season.
For Countering Holiday Indulgences
Excessive Alcohol Consumption
For many people, it’s hard to imagine the holidays without a glass of eggnog or a toast of celebratory champagne. Alcohol is often used as a way to let loose and have fun at holiday gatherings, or as an unhealthy coping mechanism for the stress that comes with this busy season. You may find these formulas helpful if you indulged in one-too-many and need relief:
- Ge Hua Jie Chen Tang (Pueraria Flower Combination) — may help alleviate hangover symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, headaches, fever, irritability, thirst, vertigo and bloating
- Long Dan Xie Gan Tang (Gentiana Combination) — may be recommended for cleansing the liver and supporting liver health, as well as helping with headaches, irritability, dizziness and a bitter taste in the mouth
Overeating and Drinking
The holidays tend to be an extraordinary time for our taste buds, but it’s far from an ideal season for our health or our weight loss goals. Many celebrations revolve around food — often the sugary, calorically dense kind — and it’s hard to say no when faced with a special holiday meal. Try limiting treats to special occasions and taking an appropriate herbal formula to offset the unpleasant consequences of overindulgence:
- Bo He Wan (Citrus and Crataegus Formula) — may help to reduce indigestion, bloating, hiccups, burping, gas, acid reflux and nausea after a heavy meal
Overeating Cold Damp Foods
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, consuming too many cold, damp foods can increase dampness in the body. Dampness is thought to cause issues like unwanted weight gain, low energy, bloating and digestion problems. The following formulas may help restore your internal balance between dampness and dryness:
- Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San (Agastache Formula) — may be recommended if you have indigestion after eating something that has upset your stomach or to soothe a stomach flu or food poisoning
- Pin Wei San (Magnolia and Ginger Formula) — may help ease your digestion to calm distention and fullness in your abdomen after eating too much cold food
- Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang (Pinellia Combination) — may be helpful in reducing bloating, soothing the stomach and supporting gastrointestinal health.
Nausea From Eating
An extravagant holiday meal can leave you with an all-too-familiar queasiness deep in the pit of your stomach. Even if it doesn’t cause vomiting, nausea can leave you feeling disoriented, dizzy and down for the count until you address the root of the problem. Talk to your practitioner if this is a common issue for you. They may recommend a natural aid for nausea, such as:
- An Zhong San (Cardamom and Fennel Combination) — may help calm nausea and vomiting, ease a feeling of fullness and distention in the abdomen, and reduce sharp stomach pains
For Maintaining Physical Health
Holiday season is also cold and flu season. With the increased stress, unhealthy foods, fluctuating weather patterns and time spent around sick coworkers and family members, a strong immune system is critical during this time. Chinese herbal supplements that may help bolster your immune system include:
- Chai Hu Gui Zhi Tang (Bupleurum and Cinnamon Combination) — may help with fever, chills, headaches, mild nausea, the common cold and flu
- Yin Qiao San (Lonicera and Forsythia Formula) — used to treat early-stage wind-warm febrile diseases; may help with headaches, thirst, coughing and a sore throat
- Yu Ping Feng San (Jade Windscreen Formula) — may help fortify the body’s natural defenses against the common cold and other respiratory ailments
- Ren Sheng Bai Du San (Ginseng and Mint Formula) — originally used to treat wind cold dampness with underlying qi deficiency; currently used during early flu season
Studies have found that incidences of heart attacks and heart-related diseases escalate towards the end of the year. Cold temperatures, stress, rich foods and overindulgence in alcohol likely all play a role in increasing cardiovascular problems around the holidays. Focus on staying heart healthy with a combination of diet, exercise, stress relief and supplements, such as:
- Fu Fang Dan Sheng Pian (Salvia and Pseudoginseng Formula) — used by TCM practitioners to optimize blood flow and promote cardiovascular health
Low Energy Levels
It takes a lot of energy to hustle through the holiday season. From decorating to party planning to purchasing the perfect gifts for everyone on your list, it’s easy to take on more than you can handle. Give yourself time to rest and ask your practitioner about these energy-boosting supplements:
- Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (Ginseng and Astragalus Combination) — tonifies qi and raises yang; may help to increase energy and reduce fatigue
- Huang Qi (Astragalus Root) — single herb that may help the body cope with physical or psychological stress and strengthen immune resistance
Getting enough sleep can help you manage the stressors that are unavoidable during the holidays. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done — restless sleep can feel like the norm when you’re juggling gift shopping, holiday engagements, work deadlines and other year-end duties. For a better night’s rest, your TCM practitioner may recommend the following formulas:
- Suan Zao Ren Tang (Zizyphus Combination) — may help alleviate insomnia, restlessness, irritability and exhaustion due to liver blood deficiency with deficiency fire
- Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan (Ginseng and Zizyphus Formula) — treats yin and blood deficiency associated with insomnia, irritability, fatigue, forgetfulness and night sweats
Lots of holiday traditions can trigger or irritate allergies. Even if you manage your allergies well most of the year, indoor allergens like food, wood-burning fires, pets and seasonal greenery can spike your symptoms during the festive season. These formulas may be helpful in conjunction with any lifestyle changes and medications you’re already using to combat seasonal sneezing and congestion:
- Xin Yi San (Magnolia Flower Formula) — may be recommended for respiratory immune support to dispel wind-cold and relieve a stuffy or runny nose
- Cang Er San (Xanthium Formula) — may help unblock nasal passages, clear the head and eyes, and reduce profuse nasal discharge
For Maintaining Mental Health
Stress and Anxiety
We call it the most wonderful time of the year, but the reality is often different. There are a number of reasons to feel more overwhelmed than usual during the holidays. Between dealing with difficult family members, overscheduling social engagements, the financial burdens of travel and gift giving, and the pressure to make everything look perfect, the holidays are a potential minefield of stress and anxiety. Consult your practitioner about these formulas to help ease overwhelm:
- Chai Hu Shu Gan Tang (Bupleurum and Cyperus Combination) — may alleviate nervous tension, stress, depression, irritability and mood swings
- Chai Hu Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang (Bupleurum and Fossilized Mineral Combination) — may be recommended for agitation, irritability, depression and generalized anxiety
Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder
The holiday blues are real, and the stigma surrounding mental health can make addressing these issues difficult. Many people experience heightened feelings of depression and loneliness beginning around Thanksgiving and extending into the New Year. Others struggle with seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that occurs when seasons change, particularly during late fall and early winter. Seek help from a qualified mental health professional and ask your TCM practitioner about formulas that may complement your treatment:
- Gan Mai Da Zao Tang (Licorice and Jujube Combination) — may help ease anxiety, depression, manic behavior, mood swings, disorientation and restless sleep
- Gui Zhi Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang (Cinnamon and Fossilized Mineral Combination) — balances yin and yang, calms the spirit; may improve insomnia, anxiety and depression
- Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang (Ginseng Nutritive Combination) — may enhance the body’s ability to cope with anxiety, fatigue, apathy, stress, depression and insomnia
The holidays are over — now what? They say all good things must come to an end, and this is no exception. Whether your holidays were cheerful or challenging, it’s time to relax, recharge and reacclimate to your routine. You may find it beneficial to include Chinese herbs in your post-holidays self-care routine:
- Jia Wei Xiao Yao San (Bupleurum and Peony Formula) — popular formula recommended for stress and mood management and supporting emotional harmony
Consult Your Practitioner Before Taking Any Herb or Formula
The practice of TCM has been refined over thousands of years. Practitioners have developed numerous formulas in that time that may improve a range of health problems safely and effectively. Despite this long track record of success, it’s important to consult with a licensed TCM practitioner before taking any herbal supplements. Your practitioner will assess your health condition and identify the root causes of your symptoms, then tailor your prescription for maximum efficacy. This may involve modifying the formulas you’re currently taking or introducing new formulas into your routine.
By including your practitioner in your treatment decisions, you will receive recommendations that are personalized for your symptoms, body type and conditions so you can enjoy the full benefits of TCM.
KPC Herbs: Your Partner In Health, All Year Round
Balance is the key to a happy holiday season. You can enjoy the fun this festive time brings while indulging mindfully and prioritizing your well-being. Visit your TCM practitioner to learn more about how you can stay healthy during the holidays, guaranteeing a more joyful January. From everyone at KPC Herbs, we wish you a peaceful and safe holiday season and a happy new year.