One of the most beautiful aspects of traditional Chinese medicine is that it gives us a tool to live harmoniously with the seasons. Ancient Chinese physicians observed the natural cycles of the seasons and recorded the best everyday practices for staying healthy and harmonizing our own energy with that of our environment.
According to Oriental medicine, the season of autumn is associated with the element of Metal, which governs organization, order, communication, the mind, setting limits, and protecting boundaries. It’s a good time to finish projects that you began in spring and summer – harvesting the bounty of your hard work. Of course, it’s also the perfect time to begin more introspective, indoor projects.
During the summer, which is ruled by the Fire element, we deal more with the external – traveling and playing outdoors. Fall, on the other hand, is a time of organizing your life for the winter season ahead and coming more inside your body and mind to reflect on your life.
The lung and large intestine are the internal organs related to autumn or fall and the Metal element. Lung is associated with the emotion of “letting go.” This process is difficult for those who love the summer. They find it hard to give up the long days of sunlight, warm temperatures, and open windows. Others feel differently and love autumn, from the crisper air to the vivid red, orange, and yellow leaves on the trees. If letting go of summer is hard for you, extra support from your licensed acupuncturist may be in order to help you make the transition. That’s right, acupuncture works on releasing emotional issues as well as physical ones. Fall is the season associated with the metal element. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the metal element governs the mind, organization, order, and stability. We tend to be more reflective, turning inward to our work, our families and our homes during this time. It is a time to organize and prepare for the winter season ahead and a time to reflect on our lives.
Emotionally, this is the season associated with grief and sadness. It is important to keep the mind clear and “let go” of negative emotions, which can impact health more strongly during the fall
Tips for Autumn Health:
- Be willing to let go and look forward to the changes ahead rather than lament loss or changes.
- Protect your neck, nose and mouth from strong winds by wearing a scarf
The body is particularly susceptible to wind and cold during the fall. Dryness can cause symptoms of coughing, dry nose, sore throat, dry skin, dry hair and scalp, dry mouth and cracked lips, and hard and dry stools. Adding more nourishing yin foods to your diet can promote body fluid, soothe the lungs and protect you from dryness.
- Retire early and wake early
Sleep is another important aspect of staying healthy in the Fall. The ancients advised that people should retire early at night and rise with the crowing of the rooster during the autumn. “Soul and spirit should be tranquil and to keep their lung pure they should not give vent to their desires.”
- Consider using a netti pot
The nose is the opening to the lungs, and you can prevent colds by keeping your nose and sinuses clean and clear. Using a netti pot with some sea salt and water helps rid the nose of excess mucus. If you suffer from a runny nose or sinus infections, acupuncture and Chinese herbs are wonderful for alleviating that problem.
- Eat more warm and cooked foods
Eating with the season
Fall is the beginning of the yin cycle when the daylight lasts less than twelve hours. It’s a time of harvest when we gather the colorful fruits and vegetables for winter storage. Pumpkins and squashes are our symbols of bounty. We also store wood for the fire and get out our warm clothes for the colder, darker days of winter.
In the fall, eat fewer cold, uncooked foods – such as salads, and eat more warm and cooked foods. Switch from salads to soups and steamed vegetables such as winter squash, winter peas, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and yams. Incorporate yellow and red foods into your meals. Perhaps start your day with hot oatmeal or eggs.
Here are some more warm and nourishing foods and herbs to add to your fall diet: Apple, Banana, Beets, Bell pepper, Bok choy, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Carrot, Cauliflower, Cinnamon, Cranberry, Figs, Garlic, Ginger, Grapes, Horseradish, Leeks, Pears, Persimmons, Plums, Pomegranate, Pumpkin, Red cabbage, Rosemary, Sage, Spinach, Thyme, Wild rice, Winter squash, Yam
Supporting the Lung & Large Intestine with Acupuncture:
Lung 7 is one of the most powerful points on the lung meridian points. It is a popular acupuncture point to use for stopping a persistent cough and relieving a sore throat. Besides treating those symptoms, LU 7 is often used to treat conditions related to the head and neck, such as headaches, migraines, stiff neck, facial paralysis, and toothache. LU 7 is considered to be the “command point” of the head and neck and is also used to improve circulation in the brain and stimulate memory.
Autumn is the season associated with the Metal element. It is a time of inhalation and exhalation. We take in the pure, crisp air and eliminate that which is not pure. It is a time of letting go and making room for what is to come, just as the trees let go of their leaves in preparation for the following year’s growth and harvest. The decaying leaves put minerals and richness back into the soil. The air becomes clearer and purer as it becomes colder. We can breathe in more deeply than we can in summer’s heat. As Nature strips down to her roots and branches, so do we. We begin to reflect on the year as it shows its age, determining what is of value to us and what no longer serves.
The transition from Summer to Fall is a time when the Qi is instable. The Qi from healthy lungs should descend. If the Lung Qi goes upward, it is “rebellious,” and the person experiences a cough. The Lungs inhale the Heavenly Qi (air) and exhale the “dirty “Qi (carbon dioxide). Now is the time to strengthen your Qi to prepare for winter and get a “tune-up” from your licensed acupuncturist to strengthen your immune system.