Transitioning to Autumn: The Metal Element in Traditional Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is the belief that good health results from the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) being in harmony. By focusing on each element and it’s corresponding season as they arrive we can live in harmony, while preventing disease and disorder.
The ancient Chinese believed that seasons have a profound cyclical effect on human growth and well-being, and that we are influenced by climatic changes and should live in harmony with them. If we can learn to prepare for and live in harmony with the seasons instead of rebelling against them, they can be a time of beauty and comfort instead of something to dread. We can do this through the foods we eat, the way we dress, and how we deal with our emotions.
As the leaves change and the cool crisp air rolls in it signals that it is time to leave the cooling and raw foods of the summer behind. Instead let’s reach for warming foods and spices, use longer cook times, and heartier ingredients, as these will nourish and support the immune system through the colder months. The perfect way to do this is through soups and stews. And since dryness is associated with autumn we also need to nourish with moisturizing foods. You can look for foods that are white in colour, inside and out, think apples, pears, and cauliflower, as they regenerate body fluids, and lubricate your lungs. During autumn it is important to choose pungent foods, this includes acrid, spicy, hot and aromatic flavours because they cleanse and protect the lungs and large intestines, as well as disperse any stuck mucous. As mentioned before we want to avoid cold, raw foods because in excess they create dampness and phlegm which gets stored in the lungs. In this case, we want to turn to foods like seaweeds, flaxseed and fenugreek for mucous membrane renewal and removal of mucous. And lets not forget about our dark greens and golden-orange vegetables, which are plentiful this time of year. Our golden-orange veggies are beneficial due to the protective effect of the beta-carotene (converted to Vitamin A) which protects the surfaces and mucous membranes of the body. Our dark greens on the other hand are full of chlorophyll which inhibits viruses and helps the lungs discharge residues from chemical fumes and cigarette fumes, while also improving the digestion of proteins and fats.
The Lung is considered a tender organ, it is the uppermost and susceptible to wind and cold invasion, leaving you vulnerable to coughs, colds and sore throats. While the lungs are responsible for a defensive energy call Wei Qi, that protects us from getting sick, if our lungs are weak, we are left vulnerable to an attack. So this time of year it is important to make sure we dress appropriately for the weather, scarfs are a particularly good idea as the neck is vulnerable to wind invasion.
Grief and sadness are the emotions associated with the lungs. Grief and sadness that is expressed and resolved, strengthens the lungs while repressed emotions cause functional issues in the lungs. If your lungs are healthy, one holds on to their
Physical Indication of Lung vitality
Lungs receive Vital Qi from the air we breath and mix it with Qi extracted from food
Autumn brings about more cold and damp weather and less sunlight. This can be a difficult transition for many but with a little extra awareness and some help from your local Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner or Register Acupuncturist they can give you the boost you need to transition smoothly into and get through the new season.
Shepherd’s Barley Soup Recipe
From Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford
Feel free to play around with the recipe, swap out for your favourite fall vegetables.
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