Are Iced Drinks Really that Bad? - Root + Bones

Are Iced Drinks Really that Bad?

Most people are extremely familiar with the TCM advice to minimize cold and raw foods; however, the deeper wisdom of this concept pertains to the importance of promoting balance. A wider perspective on this advice accounts for seasonal appropriateness, while a bioindividual perspective acknowledges that those who are Yang-dominant need not worry themselves too much about enjoying cold foods and beverages. Which brings us to another important pillar of TCM: joy.


One of our TCM teachers enthusiastically shared that joy is one of the pillars of health in TCM – which stands in direct opposition to both rigidity and excess. Moderation helps promote balance, which is the goal that all of the different teachings of TCM seek to cultivate, as it is truly the foundation for vibrant health. Indeed, the Great Principle of Chinese Medicine is that of Yin and Yang – opposing but deeply complementary forces that are constantly interacting with one another to form each dynamic and balanced whole. Iced drinks are characterized as Yin, but they can contribute to balance, including through the promotion of joy – a powerfully healing emotional state. Perhaps more importantly, when honoring the wisdom of moderation and balance, iced drinks will not necessarily disrupt our inner harmony. 


There are ways to enjoy iced beverages even in the Yin phase of the year, allowing us to honor joy, balance, and moderation to boot. Here are some TCM-informed tips for indulging in that ice, ice baby!


  1. Connect to your body’s changing needs. Few of us would reach for an iced beverage while shivering, which is a great example of the instinctual intelligence that lives within us all. If, however, you’ve been sitting in front of the fireplace for a while and feel your body craving some icy refreshment to help you feel regulated, follow that. 
  2. Cultivate balance in your concoctions. Adding warming herbs, like ginger or rose, to iced beverages can create a sense of harmony between Yin and Yang in your concoction and body alike. When we ingest energetically balanced provisions, we are less susceptible to potential bodily disharmonies. 
  3. Keep that Qi flowing. One of the reasons that cold drinks have such a bad reputation in TCM is because of the potential to disrupt the smooth flow of Qi. Enjoying an iced beverage in between activities that requires physical exertion, or adding Yang-dominant Qi tonics (like Cordyceps or Deer Antler Velvet) to a smoothie, are two ways to help mitigate stagnation.
  4. Don’t overdo it. Driving this point all the way home because we can often tend toward excessiveness, especially when we feel we have permission. Enjoying an iced beverage here and there is completely fine, but be sure to balance it out with warm beverages and foods for most of the day, especially during the colder months.
  5. Follow joy with your whole heart. If an iced elixir makes you happy, cheers! Savor it, appreciate it, and allow yourself to revel in that pleasure. The world is too crazy to deny ourselves such a small and generally harmless joy. Release all shame and live your best lives, friends.