In Chinese Medicine, living in harmony with nature and the seasons is a recipe for good health. Autumn, is a glorious time of harvest – when we can literally enjoy the fruits of our labour.
Farmer’s markets cheerfully display their bounty of seasonal offerings. Days are cooler and shorter. Trees are adorned with vibrant fall colours – deep reds, earthy oranges, and dazzling golds. This is the perfect time to complete projects, reflect on your achievements of the year, and give thanks for all the beauty and abundance that nourishes your world.
In the Fall, life begins to transition to a slower, more introspective pace as we prepare for the cold of Winter.
According to TCM, Autumn is the pivot, where Yang energy (expansive, active phase) begins to transition into its opposite, Yin energy (contractive, passive phase). We must follow suit by letting go of the long, active, playful days of summer, to a more quiet, slower pace – going inward, self-reflection, resting more, and embracing the comforts of home and family.
The Lung and Large Intestine are the internal organs related to Fall and the Metal element.
- Season: Autumn
- Organs: Lung and Large Intestine
- Element: Metal
- Colour: White
- Nature: Yin
- Taste: Pungent/Spicy
- Emotion: Grief, “Letting Go”
The Metal element governs the mind, organization, communication, setting limits, and protecting boundaries. It is connected to the emotions of sadness and grief.
The Lung and Large Intestine systems control respiration, elimination, and the health of our skin. Erratic weather can play havoc with our health this time of the year. Harsh winds, cold, and dryness can lead to colds/flu, shortness of breath, constipation and dry cracked skin.
Tips on how to stay healthy in Autumn
1) EAT ACCORDING TO THE SEASON.
Autumn is a time when we want to include more warming foods, such as hearty soups, stews, steamed seasonal vegetables, warming teas and pungent spices (such as garlic, onion, chilli, cinnamon, cardamom). Eat fewer cold, uncooked foods (salads, raw fruits and veggies).
Some examples of foods to include in your meals this Autumn:
- Cooked seasonal vegetables (dark leafy greens, root vegetables, winter squashes, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower)
- Horseradish, garlic, onions
- Vinegars, olives, fermented foods (including miso, sauerkraut, pickles, tempeh)
- Adzuki beans, navy beans
- Walnuts, chestnuts
- Apples, pears, figs, plums
- Whole grains, wild rice
- Spices: bay leaves, black pepper, chilli, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, rosemary, thyme, sage
Foods to minimize are those that create cold and damp:
- Dairy products
- Raw, uncooked foods
- Cold drinks
- Bread, Noodles
Check out this great blog post from Eight Branches, which includes a nourishing and moistening “Pear Tea With Ginger and Goji” recipe.
2) DRESS APPROPRIATELY.
Cover up to protect yourself from the unpredictable Fall weather, including cold, wind and dryness. These environmental pathogens can enter the body through the back of the neck, and upper back.
Wear layers, and keep your neck covered. (Luckily, cozy scarves are all the rage!)
Just as the leaves on the trees start to dry up and shed, our Skin and Hair can feel the effects of the Fall weather. Stay well hydrated, wear hats and gloves, and invest in a good moisturizer.
3) LET GO OF THINGS WHICH DO NOT SERVE YOU.
There is a time and a place for all things. There is also a time to “let go”.
Just as the Lungs take in air to oxygenate the blood, they must also exhale all that is not beneficial.
Similarly, food is consumed to nourish our bodies, and we count on our Large Intestine to eliminate all that is not needed.
The act of letting go serves us physically (eg. decluttering your space), spiritually (eg. releasing old, tired beliefs), and emotionally (eg. allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go, like gentle waves). During this season, give your Lungs and Large Intestine some love by make sure to eat well, exercise, and take time to reflect on your external and internal environment. Are there old, tired beliefs, behaviours or possessions which you can let go of?
The Lungs Control respiration. Many ancient wisdom traditions use breathing exercises to improve health and wellness. According to the Taoist art of Qi Gong, the healing sound associated with the Lung meridian is “SSSSSSSSSSS”. To nourish Lung Qi, and help process feelings of grief and sadness:
- Take a long deep breath in – envisioning a white light filling you with healing energy.
- Then, exhale slowly – using the sound “SSSSSSS”. Feel all of the stress and sadness leaving your body.
- Relax for a brief moment in the blissful stillness between your breaths.
5) SLEEP MORE.
As the days get shorter and the nights get longer… when all of nature prepares for Winter hibernation… we too should be slowing down, focussing inward, and sleeping more. In this way, we are restoring our vital energy, and nourishing our foundational roots (the Kidney system).
6) AUTUMN ACUPUNCTURE.
Regular Acupuncture Treatments are a great way to help your body adjust to seasonal changes, and keep you in tip top shape! Not only can Acupuncture boost your immune system and strengthen digestion/elimination to prevent illness, it can also nourish the Lung and Large Intestine to assist with the process of “letting go” of sadness and grief.
Wei Qi Is Way Cool!
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Wei Qi, or Defensive Qi, is similar to the concept of the Immune System.
Wei-Qi is an energy that circulates on the surface of the body, between the skin and muscles. It is like a shield, protecting you from exterior pathogen attacks (such as Wind, Cold, Damp, Heat and Summer Heat).
The activation and circulation of Wei Qi is controlled by the Lungs.
How does Wei Qi work?
This external defensive Qi controls the opening and the closing of the pores in our skin. Essentially, Wei qi is like an army guarding your castle. This army actively promotes the healthy free flow of materials in and out of the castle (your body) by opening the gates (your pores). When threat is perceived, the gates are locked shut, keeping dangerous intruders out.
In Chinese Medicine, these dangerous intruders are referred to as external pathogenic factors (wind, cold, damp, heat, summer-heat). Wind is the primary external pathogen, as it has the ability to transport the other pathogens into the body, causing illness (such as colds, flu, coughs, muscle aches and pains). The back of the head and neck is the most susceptible area for wind invasion. It is important to keep these areas covered and protected.
When a person becomes ill with cold or flu, the external pathogens (which are lodged in the muscle and skin layer) are purged from the body through sweating. Wei Qi opens the pores and pushes the pathogen out.
Feel like you’re coming down with something?
Check out this recipe for Secret Weapon Miso Soup – to boost your Wei Qi and Adios those pathogens!
To The Point
Lung 7 (Lie Que 列缺) is one of the most commonly used points on the Lung meridian. It is often massaged or needled to relieve cold and flu symptoms like sore throat and cough.
Lung 7 is considered to be the “command point” of the head and neck.
This makes it an excellent choice when treating headaches, migraines, stiff neck, facial paralysis, and toothache.
That’s not all…
Sadness and grief are the emotions of the Lung. These intense emotions can damage Lung function, making it difficult to take in a deep breath. Lung 7 promotes the regulation of Lung Qi, enabling freer breathing and the ability to let go of grief.
Lung 7 is located above the wrist on the inside of the arm.
Herbs For Health
You gotta love Cinnamon!
It is the epitome of cozy comfort – the perfect seasoning to prepare us for the oncoming cold weather.
Cinnamon is an ancient spice, adored worldwide for its delicious sweet flavour and uplifting aroma. Used generously in cooking, as an essential oil, and a potent warming medicine, cinnamon is a favourite addition to Autumn inspired meals and desserts!
In Chinese Medicine, cinnamon twig is called “Gui Zhi 桂枝“ and the inner bark “Rou Gui 肉桂“.
Cinnamon has many health benefits, including:
- warming the body and expelling cold
- increasing energy and vitality
- boosting the immune system
- antibacterial and anti fungal properties
- relieving pain (body aches, joints, menstrual)
- improving digestion
- lowering blood glucose
- improving circulation
- cinnamon bark (Rou Gui) warms Kidney Yang, to relieve symptoms such as aversion to cold, sore low back, urinary frequency, impotence.
Oh, and did I mention it tastes and smells heavenly?
T’is the season to begin warming the body to prepare for the transition to winter…
…so sip that chai tea; savour all things mulled and “pumpkin spiced”; cozy up with this divine herb and spice.
Who knew medicine could be so scrumptious!
You Are What You Eat
Harvest Squash and Pear Soup
This is the perfect soup for autumn, when dryness can lead to lingering coughs.
Squash and pears help moisten the Lungs, soothe the throat, and taste pretty darn delicious!
2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into small chunks
1 large onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, chopped finely
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (or grated)
4 ripened pears, peeled and chopped
1 piece wakame, crumbled
5 cups water
1 Tbsp. sea salt or Herbamare
¼ tsp. nutmeg (or more, to taste)
1 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
In a medium sized stock pot, sauté onions and garlic in oil until translucent. Add all of the other ingredients, except for the goat cheese and walnuts. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes, until squash is tender. Turn off heat. Puree with an immersion blender.
Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with crumbled goat cheese and toasted walnuts.
Makes 6 – 8 servings.
As always, it is a pleasure to be able to share the wonderful healing art of Traditional Chinese Medicine with you.
Autumn… a time when nature inspires us to master the art of letting go. Release the old and tired burden of ‘what was’, to make room for the freshness of ‘what will be’.
Yours in good health,