FALL/AUTUMN FROM A CHINESE MEDICINE PERSPECTIVE
“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion” (Henry David Thoreau)
Fall is by far my most favorite season of the year. It brings us the best of both worlds – warm days, cool nights; and even here in Florida, we do get some color changes in the leaves. Big fat mums replace impatiens, marigolds and day lilies; apple cider, squashes & pumpkins take over for watermelon & strawberries; and for true Floridians (like I’ve now become) – we stay out of the water if it’s less than 80 degrees, while the Snowbirds (visiting northerners) find any excuse to frolic in the waves. As we move through the seasons, we migrate away from the burst of energy and forward movement of Spring (Liver/Gallbladder), the scorching heat & passion of summer (Heart/Small Intestine), to the somewhat more reflective, preparatory phase of Autumn (Lung/Large Intestine). Here is where we begin to get ready for the “harshness” of winter (we don’t have harsh winters in Florida; that’s why I moved here from New York a decade ago :-). Now we look forward to canning our excess summer produce, stock up on firewood (in the colder regions), and hanging out by the firepit with friends. In #ChineseMedicine, the representative Yin organ for the Fall season is Lung with its paired system and Yang counterpart, the Large Intestine.
Organ Pairing: Lung/Large Intestine
Large intestine is all about control and the process of letting go, or holding on to crap (literally & figuratively) that we have no control over. Patients who present to me with Large Intestine channel pathology usually complain of constipation or diarrhea, or label themselves with IBS (Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome). Those with Lung channel issues frequently have pulmonary symptoms such as allergies, asthma, sore throats or colds (hence the increase in sale of flu vaccines around this time of the year). Energetically, they often suffer from unexpressed sadness & grief that – having been bottled up over time – can lead to the physical symptomatology seen in the respiratory system. The sense organ for Fall is the nose (“Lungs open into the nose”) and the representative body part is the skin (“Lungs manifest on the skin”). During autumn we also tend to see a rash (no pun intended) of skin issues such as rashes, eczema, and psoriasis. Probiotics help boost immunity, so we can try adding this to our diet to help prevent infections by maintaining the integrity of the gut. A good healthy regime that is in sync with the nature of the seasons can do wonders to stave off seasonal disorders, and especially so in the Fall. Since Fall is about letting go (leaves know this when they carpet Earth’s floor for us in a blanket of golds, reds and browns), now is the perfect time to get rid of clutter around the house (ideal time for a yard sale!), deadhead old flower blooms, weed out the gardens (our grounds here in Florida are soft from all the Summer rain so weeds come up easily now), and clean out our colons from too much barbeque and margaritas
:-) Detox anyone? The representative element of Fall is Metal, color is white, direction is West, climate is Dryness, and the representative time is 3am-7am
(3-5am = Lung time; 5-7am = Large Intestine time). Metal constitution people tend to be organized and upright, precise and direct (think “sword”), while folks who wake up between 3-5am (not because of an alarm clock) probably have some loss, sadness or grief that needs to be processed.
Representative Flavor/Taste/Food: Spicy/Pungent
In keeping with the inward (and downward) nature of Fall, we now trade in our watermelon and strawberries for apples, figs, fat Concord grapes and root vegetables. Those beautiful Autumn squashes, carrots, beets and pumpkins are not just for decoration y’know? Roast them & sprinkle with a little olive oil and some warming spices, or warm them up in a stew with some beans. For a seasonal treat, bake up an apple “pie-let” or fig tart (skip the crust & just chop up the fruits with a smidge of brown sugar/molasses, jazz it up with a dash of cinnamon or ginger & warm up in the oven (there are so many quick & simple recipes out there on the Web). Or enjoy Nature’s sweetness by tossing back a handful of luscious Concord grapes while lounging around like the Emperor/Empress that you are (while reflecting of course). I can’t have enough of black Mission or brown Turkey figs this month; thank goodness they’re available and on sale everywhere I go. White mushrooms nourish Yin, and pears are perfect this time of year as they nourish Lung Yin and relieve Dryness, but you definitely want to limit cold temperature (& cold energy) foods like ice-cream, milk, yogurt etc. as they produce Phlegm (Lung is “the container for Phlegm” – you wouldn’t want to do that to Lung, would you?).
Representative Emotions: Grief/Sadness; Representative Sound: Crying
Now is the time for being introspective - turning inward & for reflection. Ask yourself: who or what do I need to let go of? What losses have I refused to mourn and release so I can move on? Many people have what’s been termed “Seasonal Affective Disorder” or SAD syndrome, and legitimately don’t like this time of year (and even further into the winter season) because the days are shorter so with less sunlight around, they tend to feel a little blue. Acknowledge this, take 15 minutes walking around in the fresh air (if you’re able to do this early in the morning, your Lungs will LOVE the crisp coolness of the clean Autumn air), and watch how Nature honors the Fall. Be sure to avoid too much wind though, especially on the back of your neck, so nice idea to carry a scarf with you (my daughter is a pro at wearing a scarf that she deftly tosses around her neck with the ease & expertise of a 5th Avenue Fashionista - *you go, Girl!)
As Fall begins (at time of writing, yesterday actually marked the first day of the Autumn season), we have a chance to reflect on all the wonderful, seasonal/celestial events going on this week: Pluto went direct (thank goodness!), Fall Equinox was 9/22/14, and today there’s a New Moon in Libra - official time was 2:13am this morning. See your local #Acupuncturist for a Fall tune-up to prepare you for the upcoming winter. In the meantime enjoy these last few days of September; October’s gonna be a doozy with 2 eclipses lined up to help move things along. Check back in October for more on THAT! For now, let’s reflect…….
Audrey Steele, L.Ac