Chinese Medicine for a Healthy Autumn
Updated: Oct 28
“Give me juicy autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the orchard." [Give me the splendid silent sun]”
― Walt Whitman
That bright yellow star, center of our solar system, crossed the celestial equator on September 22nd.
Outside my window, leaves are shimmering on a crisp breeze and the golden light of sunset promises an earlier dissolve to twilight. Cooler, cloud speckled mornings spread across an earth that is changing. The heavens too.
Autumn marks a time of reflection, ripening and harvest. The vibrant yang of summer will slowly pivot to the dark, quiet yin of winter. From the ancient text, Huang di Nei Jing, "in the three months of autumn all things in nature reach their full maturity,” and, “just as the weather in autumn turns harsh, so too does the emotional climate.” Some of you may already feel the shift. One friend described the return of Autumn as if being transported by time machine into a landscape of mild melancholy. Their description is apt. In Chinese Medicine, each season is associated with an emotion, and Fall is most resonant with sadness. More on that in a sec.
We mortals are intersections between heaven and earth. As such, we’re continuously, subtly and/or profoundly affected by cosmological and seasonal transits. To live in harmony and align to the evolution of cycles, there are a number of things we can do to support body, mind and spirit.
Of the five elements in Chinese Medicine, Metal peaks in the Fall. Metal governs the mind, reason, and organization. Autumn and metal are closely related to the organs of the Lung and Large Intestine. As such, the masters recommend that we “keep the lung energy free, full, clean, and quiet. This means practicing breathing exercises to enhance lung Qi.” If the lungs are not properly nourished, the Metal energy can be weakened, resulting in frequent colds, sinus congestion, respiratory problems, and allergies.
We’re also more vulnerable to wind and cold during the fall, which often appears as dryness, contributing to cough, sore throat, dry skin, dry scalp, dry mouth, cracked lips, and hard stools. A wonderful way to fortify the body is to keep hydrated, eat seasonal foods and keep cozy in warm layers. Opt for cooked, nourishing meals over cold and raw. Hot oatmeal or savory congee are a perfect way to start the day (vs. cereal or a smoothie).
Foods that are yin in nature, like earthy root vegetables, sweet potatoes, beets, pumpkin, wild rice, spinach, brussel sprouts, bell peppers, cabbage, apples, figs and pears nourish the lungs and large intestine and protect the body from dryness. If you eat meat, consider beef, lamb, and chicken – all warming and nutrient-dense. If you don’t have sensitivities or aversions, herbs like cinnamon, garlic, ginger, horseradish, rosemary, sage, and thyme can offer a nice balance to the ebbing temperatures outdoors.
As mentioned, with the climax of Metal, descending Qi and waning sunlight, Autumn can bring forth emotions of grief and sorrow. Past losses may surface and we may be more susceptible to sadness. If that's the case for you, please make time/space to acknowledge the different emotions, allowing passage and gentle observance of the feelings as they arise - they will pass.
Because of Lung Qi's sensitivity to the downward movement of Fall, we are also more susceptible to depression. Physiologically, falling heavenly qi draws the chest qi down. For this, ancient masters advise that we “retire with the sunset and arise with the dawn.” Essentially, follow the rhythms of nature. Other observances and practices that can prevent or ease depression:
- Remain aware of thoughts and feelings
- Express emotions to trusted listeners
- Stay in contact with loved ones
- Focus energy on clear goals and aspirations
- Volunteer or find ways to be of service
- Prepare healthy, seasonal meals
- Avoid or limit caffeine and other stimulants and depressants like alcohol
- Supplement vitamins C and D
- Be in nature
- Manage stress through ritualized rest and relaxation
- Keep a regular schedule & get adequate sleep (7-8 hours)
- Meditate and/or Pray
- Dance, move, exercise regularly
- Create an easily accessible list of your favorite activities and call upon as needed
Tending to our special needs in Autumn will not only keep us healthy during the next few months but will also ensure a harmonious transition into Winter.
A few bonus tips for a healthy Autumn
1. Wear a scarf on cold and/or windy days. The neck, upper chest and back are the most vulnerable areas of the body susceptible to invasions of wind and cold.
2. Cook your food and chew well (see above for specific food ideas)
3. Rock your neti pot (with a sterile saline solution)
4. Protect your lung Qi by stimulating LU7 on both wrists for about 30 seconds. This has the power to stop a cough! Stimulating LU7 also helps relieve a stiff neck, headaches, migraines, and sore throat, and, stimulates memory and brain circulation.
5. Wake between the Lung and Large Intestine’s peak hours around 5am and practice 15-30 minutes of deep breathing and/or meditation.
6. Walk through a saguaro forest or hike a mountain – let the majesty of nature inspire you.
7. Take hot showers on chilly days
8. Keep warm and dry
9. if you’re feeling a little cold and achy, rest your head and the back of your neck on a not-too-hot water bottle for 15-20 minutes
10. Make immune-boosting ginger-scallion tea at the first signs of a cold or flu. I've also recently found the homeopathic of Ferrum Phos 6x or 30x to be a great way of staving off a cold.
Seasonal tune-ups are encouraged in Chinese Medicine as they help in making it a smooth transition, especially from late summer to fall - and again in spring to summer.
If you'd like to schedule a Seasonal Acupuncture session or any other combo of Intuitive Coaching, CranioSacral, Reiki, and Distance Healing, please reach out. I'd love to see you and support you in any way that I can. To book an appointment or if you have any questions, please call or text +1.917.519.2432 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . As always, I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice.