The Element of Salt in Winter
In herbalism, we talk about the flavors of herbs and how they relate to organ systems; which herbs have affinities to particular body parts. The basis of these ideas is experiential data or observation of how the body seems to respond to certain substances through systems such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Eclectic School of Western Medicine, amongst many other traditions.
Today I'm starting a two part talk about salt and it's uses to support health in Winter.
(home made salt from seawater)
Salt is the flavor associated with the kidneys in TCM and it's also associated with winter, because the emotion held in the kidneys is fear and fear is greatest in Winter when historically survival was most threatened. We've all heard the expression, "so scared they peed their pants". The kidneys are considered yin organs because they receive from the rest of the body and salt is an important component in this equation.1 It really is an equation; the body uses the Sodium/Potassium pump process in the body to move stuff. Want to geek out some more on salt in the body? Check out this video .
While we all know that salt has been vilified in the context of health lately, you actually need a certain amount of the stuff to sustain life. In fact, there is a hypothesis that salt is part of what facilitated the start of biological life on our planet.2 The problem for most people comes down to too much highly processed food that's loaded with salt and too much highly processed salt, which contains additives, such as dextrose (that's sugars, y'all!) that isn't on the label because they claim it to be part of the manufacturing process. A moderate amount of a good natural salt with its' minerals intact is fine for most people, some people need less; high blood pressure for example, and some need more; cystic fibrosis, adrenal fatigue (see how that's related to the kidneys?). Another problem is people running around dehydrated, because it takes an adequate amount of fluids for the pumps to work properly. Think of it like a lock that has no water on both sides.... the boat won't be able to move down the canal.
Chemical symbol for table salt with valence electrons
So, a reasonable amount of natural salts can help us stay healthy in the winter. One way I incorporate salt into my diet along with herbs is by making a variation of the Japanese recipe, Gomasio.
To the usual mix of toasted Sesame seeds and salt I added two salt flavor herbs, Seaweed and Stinging Nettle. I used a little trick to get more flavor; I spritzed a bit of tamari on the Sesame seeds while toasting them. The emphasis is on the salty flavor, but actual salt only makes up about 1/4 of the recipe. The added herbs help support the body; Sesame seeds have Calcium, seaweed has minerals and so does the Stinging Nettle (this is a good way to use up your dried nettles to get ready for the foraging season which is coming up!)
As always, this article is for educational purposes. It's not meant to diagnose or treat any medical condition. If you have questions about the subject matter, consult your doctor.
1 Chinese Traditional Medicine Volume 1 ~ Michael and Lesley Tierra